Understanding and practicing a healthy diet is one of the biggest challenges to people from all walks of life. Many of us actually have varying degrees of diet-related problems ranging from under-nutrition to over-nutrition. Coupled with a lack of correct physical exercise and inherited traits, these diet-related problems can impact negatively on our state of wellness and quality of life in the long run.
“Simply put, diet is everything that we eat, and its composition is shaped by the habitual food choices that we make. In this context, there are no good or bad foods, only good diets and bad diets. There are no shortcuts to achieving and maintaining a healthy diet,” says Cora Sager, a professional nutritionist and Corporate Wellness Head of Nestlé Philippines, which launched a long-term advocacy on nutrition, health and wellness in 2005 that is embedded in its business activities nationwide.
A major initiative of the advocacy is the propagation of basic principles of healthy eating dubbed MOVABA, a copyrighted acronym for moderation, variety and balance. “People can be overwhelmed by information on food and dietary practices. So we have put together MOVABA as a doable, practical framework for choosing and eating food, based on sound nutrition principles,” Cora adds.
Moderation. According to Aleli Magtibay, another professional nutritionist with the Nestlé Corporate Wellness group, moderation in a practical context is portion control. “We can enjoy different kinds of food, in the right amounts,” she stresses. Strictly speaking, nutritional parameters are technical to the extent that a weighing scale would be needed to measure correct food amounts. Therefore, says Aleli, MOVABA incorporates visualization as a guide to portion control.
For example, based on current data from the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI), a useful gauge for the correct amount of rice in a meal would be a serving the size of a tennis ball; for meat, a portion the size of a deck of cards (no more than half a kilo of meat a week per person); or if fish is served, a serving the size of one’s palm.
“Another way to practice moderation is to use a dining plate with a 10-inch diameter for meals,” Cora notes. Also, since it takes 20 minutes for the brain’s satiety center to signal the stomach that it is full, we should adjust our pace of eating and enjoy the meal.
Variety. “There is no super food that contains all the nutrients we require,” Aleli says, “That’s why we need food variety, which at the same time keeps meals from becoming boring.” Another aspect of variety is the different ways in which food can be prepared. Research reveals that the most common way of cooking food in the country is to fry it, because it is convenient.
However, Aleli says, while fried food is tasty, it is fat-laden. We need some fat in our diet, but if we eat fried food more than once or twice a week, that is excessive, she says.
Cora suggests coloring one’s plate with food representative of each group in the food pyramid: carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals. The darker the coloration of fruits and vegetables, the more antioxidants they contain. “Variety also means making meals fun for all the taste buds with different sensations of taste, temperatures, colors, textures and for kids, shapes,” she says.
Balance. “The correct proportions, or the right amounts from the food pyramid which the body needs, is what balance means,” Cora explains. For visualization purposes, a balanced plate would be half-full with vegetables and / or fruits, one-fourth full with a carbohydrate source, and one-fourth full with a protein source.
Diet fads are not balanced, she says, because these do not contain the fuel -- food groups in the amounts that the body needs -- to stay healthy. We may lose weight from a fad diet in the short run, but it is not sustainable and there is eventually a rebound, Cora says.
MOVABA is incorporated into the nutritional counseling that Nestlé provides for free in its wellness programs for supermarket customers, employees of interested corporations, and participants in weekly community fitness in different parts of the country. For more information about MOVABA, visit www.choosewellness.com.ph