Eating a balanced diet means eating many different types of foods and eating enough foods every day. No one food or group of foods can give us all the nutrients that we need to stay healthy. We need to eat a variety of foods to help us get the energy we need to “go”, to “grow” and to keep our immune system strong, or to “glow.” It is always best to eat foods that are grown at home or produced locally instead of imported or processed foods, which do not have as many nutrients.
The basic food groups:
“GO” foods give us energy and make us GO. These include rice, bread, pasta and other grains. These foods should make up the biggest part of the meal.
“GROW” foods provide protein and help build our bodies and keep muscles strong. These include meat, fish, eggs, beans, nuts and dairy. Note that PLHIV should try to eat legumes every day (such as beans, lentils, peas and nuts). These are usually cheaper than meat and provide a good source of protein.
“GLOW” foods provide vitamins and minerals to help the immune system stay strong and fight off infections. These include all kinds of fruits and vegetables.
Fats and sugars can help give energy, help us gain weight and can make foods taste better, but they should be eaten with other healthy foods and in moderation. “Good fats” include things like avocados, nuts and palm oil.
“Junk food”: Sometimes when we are very busy or do not have time to prepare food, we eat pre-prepared foods and “junk foods” that have no nutritional value and can even be harmful to our health. “Junk foods” include soda, candy and potato chips – they cost a lot of money and do not give us any good nutrition. Fresh, natural foods are always the best, and they are usually cheaper than packaged and pre-prepared foods.
Some examples of GO, GROW and GLOW foods:
GO foods (starches)
Safely preparing foods:
The way we store and prepare food is just as important to our health as the kinds of foods we eat. Most foods naturally have germs in them that can make people sick if the food is not prepared correctly. Foods also come in contact with germs when they are transported and handled.
Tips to safely prepare and store food
- Always wash and dry hands before and after touching food.
- Wash and dry all cooking and eating utensils well.
- Wash and dry all raw vegetables and fruits with clean water before cooking or serving.
- If possible, peel the skin off before cooking or serving fruits and vegetables.
- Wash and cook all meats and animal products until there is no blood or pink and red areas.
- Do not prepare raw and cooked foods on the same surface because germs will be spread from the raw food to the cooked food.
- Hard boil or cook eggs well – they should not be runny.
- Try not to overcook vegetables because this takes away their nutrients. You can steam, fry or boil them for about 5 minutes. If you boil vegetables, the leftover water can be used for cooking, such as making a soup.
- Always keep food covered and away from flies and insects.
- Serve food right away after it is cooked – do not let it cool too much.
- Do not eat leftover food unless it has been kept cold, such as in a refrigerator. If you do eat leftover food, be sure to reheat it to kill any germs that may have grown.
- Always filter or boil water used for cooking and drinking.