Health: What do you know about poor eating habits?

To avoid unhealthy weight gain, total fat should not exceed 30 per cent of total energy intake, experts say. / Net photo

Doctors and nutrition experts warn against poor eating habits, such as, under or over-eating, not eating enough healthy foods that the body needs every day, or consuming too many types of food and drinks which are low in fibre or high in fat, salt and sugar.

Dr Private Kamanzi, a nutritionist at Amazon Wellness Center Ltd, Gasabo Remera, says poor eating habits are ones where practices towards food are not right, and if this is done more often, it may lead to health disorders.

He says that due to desperation of some people wanting to lose weight fast, they force themselves to vomit after eating, a thing he says stimulates the gastric acid to rise, thus damaging the stomach walls which can result in stomach ulceration.

“A healthy diet is essential for good health and nutrition. It protects you against many chronic non-communicable diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Eating a variety of foods and consuming less salt, sugars and saturated and industrially-produced trans-fats, are essential for healthy diet.

“A healthy diet comprises a combination of different foods, which include; staples like cereals (wheat, barley, rye, maize or rice) or starchy tubers or roots (potato, yam, taro or cassava), legumes (lentils and beans), fruit and vegetables and foods from animal sources (meat, fish, eggs and milk),” notes World Health Organization (WHO).

Kamanzi also says that there is need to consult specialists, like nutritionists, if one wants to lose weight, so that they are guided on a proper diet in order to manage weight and be aware of the calories the body needs.

WHO recommendations breastfeeding for babies and young children, since breastfeeding fosters healthy growth, and may have longer-term health benefits, like reducing the risk of becoming overweight or obese and developing non-communicable diseases later in life.

According to WHO, feeding babies exclusively with breast milk from birth to six months of life is important for a healthy diet. It is also important to introduce a variety of safe and nutritious complementary foods at six months of age, while continuing to breastfeed until the child is two years old and beyond.

Kamanzi says unhealthy eating habits can keep one from losing weight, expose one to disorders, like bulimia (an eating disorder characterised by binge eating. Binge eating refers to eating a large amount of food in a short amount of time) and anorexia (a serious illness where people are of low weight due to limiting their energy intake). It can affect anyone of any age, gender or background. It can restrict the amount of food eaten, however, one may do lots of exercise to get rid of the food eaten.

WHO states, energy intake (calories) should be in balance with energy expenditure. To avoid unhealthy weight gain, total fat should not exceed 30 per cent of total energy intake. Consumption of saturated fats should be less than 10 per of total energy intake, and taking of trans-fats less than 1 per cent of total energy intake, with a shift in fat consumption away from saturated fats and trans-fats to unsaturated fats.

Kamanzi urges people to chew food appropriately, because if you don’t, digestion might be hard as some food particles are swollen without being chewed, also leading to ulcers.

He advises people not to eat hot food because it is not easy to chew, but to feed on warm food which is reheated but not warmed.

According to Dieudonné Bukaba, a Kigali based nutritionist, half of one’s plate should contain vegetables while the remaining half should be for energetic food, but not forgetting to consume protein as well.

Kamanzi notes, eating while drinking is not healthy as it mixes up solid and liquid food which can lead to metabolic disorders like low gastric peristalsis.

He adds, replace unhealthy foods with healthier ones. Eat portion-controlled amounts of nutritious foods at night, reduce watching television as you will have less time for food temptations and more time to be physically active.

Bukaba explains to set achievable goals, change the behaviours that cause you to overeat, avoid eating while watching TV, playing games, or even using the phone because you might end up eating more than excess since your mind is not concentrated on what you are eating.

Fitness and nutrition experts associate eating late at night with weight gain, they advise people not to eat anything two to three hours before bedtime. They also say, certain foods can have a negative effect on the body and sleeping pattern, especially when consumed before going to bed. Fatty or spicy foods, caffeine, or consuming a lot of food before bedtime can hinder one’s natural rhythm, leading to insufficient sleep and rest.