What can be so wrong about enjoying a snack whiles watching a movie all cuddled up in the sofa. Munching on a few bars of chocolate or chips cannot be so bad, after all it is not as heavy as a bowl of rice or a typical fufu with soup.
It would surprise you to know that at a sitting, one can consume more calories just by snacking than having a main meal. With that being said, let’s consider other 5 basic information about food worth noting.
1. Best before and expiry dates are not the same
It is usually easy in identifying wholesome fruits and vegetables when shopping however, processed foods require additional effort in determining their shelf life. As part of the food labeling requirements, food industries are required to include on their packaging the best before or expiry date of each product.
Milk products and nutritional supplements are some examples of foods with an expiry date. Expiry date is the last date a food should be eaten or use. They are usually given to products whose nutritional composition may significantly change after the specified date. Consuming a product after its expiry date can trigger mild to adverse consequences such as food poisoning.
Products such as chocolates bars, packaged snacks usually bear Best Before (BB) dates. The best before dates indicate the time period within which a product maintains its sensory attributes (appearance, aroma, taste, texture, etc). A typical characteristic of a product which has elapsed its best before date is pack of biscuit which tastes flat with its packaging integrity intact.
2. Cooking time can affect nutrient content in vegetables
Most fruits and vegetables are eaten raw and usually pose a high risk of contamination. These foods must therefore be thoroughly washed before consumption. Cooking is one aspect of processing used in eliminating microbes in some vegetables. It also improves nutrient composition, enhances taste and texture amongst others. Cabbage, mushrooms and asparagus supply more antioxidants when cooked than raw.
Vegetables contains numerous vitamins and minerals which are essential for maintaining optimum health. Vitamins can be water soluble or fat soluble. Examples of water soluble vitamins are vitamin C and B.
Tomatoes, spinach, cabbage and green pepper are foods with appreciable content of vitamin C (an example of water soluble vitamin). Most vegetables when cooked in large amount of water or exposed to extensive cooking may have their vitamins depleted.
3. Most ‘junk’ foods provide empty calories
Lifestyle over the years has changed for many individuals. Gone are the days when women were bound to the kitchen being housewives and solely taking care of the home. In recent years, civilization has propelled many to take up and advance their career.
Today, one can clearly confirm that convenient foods have become the most sought after, foods requiring less to no cooking time has become the most preferred in many urban homes.
Supermarkets and malls are filled with convenient foods giving the customer so many options to choose from. With foods ranging from drinks, snacks, cereals, pastries, fruits and vegetables, the onus lies with the customer in making a healthy food choice.
Food when consumed is expected to provide the body with nutrients and energy. Energy in the food industry is usually referred to as calorie. The caloric content of every packaged food is found in their nutritional information.
In a day, one is expected to consume 2000 calories from food. These calories are expected to come from carbohydrate, protein and fat content in the food. These nutrients in addition to vitamins and minerals make up a balanced diet.
Some foods like sodas and sugary carbonated drinks often provide the consumer with energy but no nutrients. These foods can contain only carbohydrates or unhealthy fats. Carbohydrate is the main constituent of refined sugar and sweeteners. The body easily absorbs glucose (refined sugar) into the bloodstream and these drinks provide you with energy in a short time. Energy gained however gets depleted easily, hence one may find themselves consuming more than necessary.
4. Nuts are energy dense foods
Nuts contain high amount of fats which contributes to ones caloric intake. When compared with other energy dense snacks such as ice cream, potato chips, biscuits, etc, nuts are able to provide one with high energy without adversely affecting body weight.
Energy dense foods are foods which provide high amount of calories in a serving. Aside the fat content in nuts, appreciable amount of fiber and proteins are also found in nuts. Consuming nuts therefore improves one’s diet quality.
Nuts are able to make one feel full for a long period. They are usually included in the diet of people managing or working to maintain body weight.
It is also worth noting that nutrient dense foods are equally as important as energy dense foods. Nutrient dense foods contain high amounts of vitamins and minerals with little to no added sugars or fats which increase calories. Examples of nutrient dense foods are fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and nuts.
5. Fruits and Vegetables should make up half of your plate
Modifying a habit can be challenging especially when it conflicts with indigenous diets and food preferences.
In Ghana, carbohydrate dominates the diet of many locals. With special delicacies such as banku with stew, fufu with soup or kenkey with fish, our diets consist high percentage of starchy foods.
According to the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA), one’s diet should consist of vegetables, fruits, grains, proteins and dairy. The USDA designed an easy to follow symbol called MyPlate. MyPlate gives a graphical representation of what foods must be present in ones diet and their quantity to promote a balanced and healthy diet.
One’s diet must consist largely of vegetables. This is due to their high amount of vitamins and minerals. It is recommended to choose variety in consuming vegetables. This is to maximize nutrients gained from the diet and reduce toxicity.
Portion of fruits on the plate is slightly smaller than that of vegetables however both must make up half of the plate. Other foods such as whole grains, healthy proteins and dairy must be included in the diet but in appreciable quantities. Some school of thought recommends replacement of dairy with a glass of water and including essential oils in the diet.
We eat to live therefore we must eat right. Making efforts in knowing what you consume is a step towards a healthy eating lifestyle.