Healthy Population for a Better Nation
Health is wealth. That is why way back in 1974, a Presidential Decree was created for us, Filipinos, to celebrate the importance of good nutrition and overall well-being, also known as the “Nutrition Month”. This year we are celebrating its 43rd year. The National Nutrition Council (NNC) dubbed this year’s theme as “Healthy Diet, Gawing Habit – For Life!” so as to increase awareness on the importance of healthy diet which protects people against malnutrition. After all, prevention is still way better than cure.
The campaign aims to spread awareness on the significance of healthy diet in relation to the prevention of malnutrition (both under and over-nutrition), and reduction of the prevalence of non-communicable diseases (e.g hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and certain types of cancer). Also, this year’s theme helps us in making better food choices by being able to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy food.
So what is a healthy diet? According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, a diet is considered healthy if it is comprised of the following1:
- Includes a variety of foods from different food groups (e.g Go, Grow, Glow);
- Meets the individual requirements for calories and nutrients;
- Is safe, with no risk from biological, chemical, and physical contamination;
- Is enjoyable and acceptable; and
- Is available and sufficient each day and all year round
The World Health Organization (WHO) also emphasizes that a healthy diet must be composed of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, root crops, low-fat milk, lean meats, poultry, fish, egg, beans and nuts. Also, it should be low in saturated fat, trans-fat, cholesterol, sodium, and added sugars.1
On the contrary, unhealthy diet is composed of food items that are high in calories but do not contain enough nutrients and are low in fiber, high in saturated fats, trans-fats, sugar, and sodium. Adherence to this kind of diet for a lengthy period of time is said to be one of the culprits for poor nutrition leading to a range of chronic sickness such as heart diseases, diabetes, certain cancers, and other conditions related to obesity.
But why is it important to be healthy? More than the obvious benefits and positive impacts on a personal level, we should also note that it has an effect to our economy as a nation. A healthy population is a better nation. For instance, better health enables children to learn and adults to earn2. Malnutrition could trap the nation in the vicious cycle of poverty, which will eventually manifest in the country’s economic losses due to decreased productivity, low educational attainment, and increased health care cost1.
Eating healthy has become quite a struggle for most of us. Studies conducted by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI-DOST) show that there has been a shift in dietary pattern of Filipinos in terms of quality and quantity1. The consumption of cereals, meat, and egg has increased, and this is not entirely bad. However, there is a continuous decline in the consumption of fruits and vegetables. The WHO recommends the consumption of 400 grams of fruits and vegetables per day. As of the latest data collected (2013) by the FNRI, the Filipino’s average intake of fruits and veggies is only at 155 grams per day.
It is a big challenge to make healthy food choices with all the unhealthy food options readily available around us. The Nielsen Shopper Trends Report in 2014 showed that there was a decline in the monthly grocery spending of the Filipinos compared to 20121. This decline in grocery spending may be attributed to the increase of Filipinos eating out at fast food restaurants. Moreover, convenience stores encourage people to dine away from home by offering ready to eat meals.
As we live in this fast-paced world, we have to figure out a way to make healthy food choices and make a conscious effort about it. Increase your intake of whole grains, fruits, and veggies by creating a healthy mix and match of food. There are available products in the market that can both satisfy your palate as well as your nutritional needs. For instance, Gardenia offers a wide variety of breads that everyone will love. It is sure to be nutrient-dense and packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Try our Gardenia High Fiber Wheat Raisin Loaf. In just a slice, you’ll get 29% of your daily fiber requirement! What a way to treat your tummy. Also, it is packed with fruity goodness of California raisin that is filled with anti-oxidants to give you that glow. You may try this very healthy and yummy recipe that is high in fiber, and low in saturated fat and calories: Gardenia Tuna, Zucchini, and Mushroom Sandwich.
(Carbohydrates: 49grams Protein: 18grams Fat: 3grams Fiber: 19grams Calories: 295 kcal)
Being healthy need not be complicated. Let’s be intentional in making the right food choices. It may take some time to stop and think about healthy food options but this is actually a form of investment for our long-term wellness. Let’s be part of the healthy population for the betterment of our nation. Happy Nutrition Month!
143rd Nutrition Month Talking Points