By Chioma Nnagbo
Enjoy a variety of foods
Eating well means eating a variety of foods. No single food contains all the nutrients that our bodies need, except for breastmilk for babies up to the age of six months. Eating a variety of different foods will supply the nutrients that are essential for our bodies. By taking care to choose foods that are in season and locally available, eating can be enjoyable, healthy and affordable.
Eat staple foods with every meal
Staple foods should make up the largest part of a meal. These foods are relatively cheap and supply a good amount of energy and some protein. Staples include cereals (such as rice, maize, millet, sorghum, wheat and barley), starchy roots (such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava and yams) and starchy fruit (such as plantains).
However, staple foods are not enough to provide all the nutrients the body needs. Other foods must be eaten to provide additional energy, proteins and micronutrients.
Eat legumes if possible every day
These foods provide a person with the proteins needed to develop and repair the body and also to build up strong muscles. They are good sources of vitamins, minerals and fibre and help to keep the immune system active.
Legumes include beans, peas, lentils, groundnuts (including peanut butter) and soybeans. When eaten with staple foods the quality of protein is increased. Legumes are a cheaper protein source than animal foods, such as beef and chicken, and should be eaten every day, if possible.
Eat animal and milk products regularly
Foods from animals and fish should also be eaten as often as you can afford them. They supply good-quality proteins, vitamins and minerals and extra energy. They will help to strengthen muscles and the immune system.
These foods include all forms of meat, poultry (birds), fish, eggs and dairy products such as milk, sour milk, buttermilk, yoghurt and cheese. If insects, such as caterpillars or grasshoppers, are part of your diet, they also provide good nutrients.
Drink plenty of clean and safe water
Water is important for life and is necessary every day. A person needs about eight cups of fluid per day. When it is very hot, while working, sweating or suffering from diarrhoea, vomiting or fever, a person needs to drink even more to replace the water that has been lost.
If drinking-water is collected from a protected well or borehole it is important to store it in a clean container. If the water is from an unprotected well or river the water should be boiled for at least ten minutes and stored in a clean container (see advice on food hygiene). In addition to drinking clean water, fluid can also come from juices, soups, vegetables and fruit as well as meals that have gravy or sauces. However, avoid drinking tea or coffee with a meal, as this can reduce the absorption of iron from the food.
Alcoholic drinks remove water from the body and should therefore be consumed only in limited amounts. They can also interfere with the action of medicines.