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Make eating whole foods a way of life

By Eunice Mpehlo | Registered Dietitian (MSc Dietetics)


This week is National Nutrition Week where the theme for the week is “Make eating whole foods a way of life”. A pertinent theme as recent national statistics indicated that over two-thirds of women and a third of men are either overweight or obese1,2. See the figure below for statistic percentages.

With an increasing intake of fats and sugars, and diets that are low in fruit and vegetables; poor diets coupled with unhealthy lifestyles have been associated as the biggest contributors of an increase in unhealthy weights (high BMI’S), diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and some cancers3,4.

Good nutrition, is a key component of a healthy lifestyle. With the knowledge of our poor nutritional state, it is important to emphasise the health benefits of good nutrition, in other words eating healthily, and making healthy whole food choices . 

Leading health organisations and experts recommend “increased consumption of plant-based food, such as vegetables and fruit, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains and locally-produced, home-prepared foods. Consumption of meat and processed meat, ultra-processed food that is high in fat, sugar and salt should be limited and sugary drinks should be avoided” 5-9.  

Whole foods are foods that: 

• have not been refined
• have been processed as little as possible (i.e. minimally processed)
• are eaten in its natural state

Whole foods are low in added sugar, fat and salt and because only the inedible or unwanted parts of the food are removed through processing, these foods are naturally higher in vitamins, minerals and fibre. 

Here are four easy tips to help you ensure that you can achieve this and sustain it! 
• Enjoy a variety of unprocessed/minimally processed food choices
• Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit every day
• Eat dry beans, peas, lentils and soya regularly
• Plan and prepare healthy home meals rather than buying ready-to-eat meals/snacks or eating out frequently.
• Read and understand food nutrition labels

Good nutrition promotes overall health. See the the information sheet below for more ways to achieve this.


Should you have any questions feel free to contact Eunice Mpehlo | Registered Dietitian on


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 1. Demographic and Health Survey 2016: Report, national Department of Health (NDoH), Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), and ICF, 2019.  

 2. Shisana O, Labadarios D, Rehle T, et al. The South African National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey SANHANES-1. Cape Town: HSRC Press; 2013.  

 3. Department of Health. Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Obesity in South Africa. 2015 – 2020. Department of Health, South Africa. September 2016.  

 4. World Health Organization. Global status report on non-communicable diseases 2010.  

 5. Willett W, Röckstrom J, Loken B. Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems. Lancet. 2019. 393: 447–92.  

 6. World Health Organization. A healthy diet sustainably produced. Information sheet. November 2018.  

 7. International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC); WHO. IARC Monographs evaluate consumption of red meat and processed meat. Press Release No. 240. 26 October 2015.  

 8. de Oliveira Otto MC, Anderson CAM, Dearborn JL et al. Dietary diversity: implications for obesity prevention in adult populations: a science advisory from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2018; 138: 11. e160–e168.  

 9. Hall KD, Ayuketah A & Brychta R et al. Ultra-processed diets cause excess calorie intake and weight gain: An inpatient randomised controlled trial of ad libitum food intake. Cell Metabolism. 2019. 30: 1 - 11.  

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