Along with exercise and adequate sleep, eating right has a big impact on your health. A good diet will keep your body strong and your energy levels at an optimum. It can also significantly lower your risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, hypertension and diabetes -- all life-altering and life-threatening conditions. You might not be worried about these right now, but they have a habit of catching up to people in the long-run.
Eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to go on a diet -- you don’t have to give up rice or meat. Of course, eating healthy is not easy. It's a conscious decision you need to make consistently, and what can help is having a clear picture of just how much food you should be eating. And thanks to Food and Nutrition Research Institute’s Pinggang Pinoy, we now have a visual guide on how much food to pile on your plate.
Pinggang Pinoy, launched in 2014, is an easy-to-understand food guide created for Filipino adults ages 19 to 59 years old. Here’s what you need to know about it:
1. You only need a small portion of meat. Labeled as “grow foods” on the guide, meat should take up less than 1/4 of what you eat per meal. That might sound surprising for most given that a lot of us are used to piling our plates with generous servings of ulam.
The protein in meat is important for our body’s immunity, bone repair and brain function but our bodies don’t need a lot of it. Too much meat actually builds up excess fat (not muscle) in our body. It can also lead to health problems like liver cancer, diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
Any of the following is a good serving of meat:
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2 pieces of small-sized chicken leg
2 pieces of small-sized medium variety fish (ex. galunggong)
2 slices of large variety of fish (ex. bangus)
2 matchbox-sized (or 30g each) serving of lean meat (ex. chicken, pork or beef)
1 small chicken egg together with 1 piece of any of the above
2. Vegetables and fruit should take up half of the food on your plate. Otherwise known as “glow foods,” vegetables and fruits contain the vitamins, minerals and fiber our bodies need to function well. In the guide, they take up half of the plate, which unfortunately, is what’s lacking in a lot of our meals. All too often are our lunches are only composed of rice and meat.
Big servings of vegetables are actually a lot healthier than big servings of meat. The nutrients in vegetables and fruits are better absorbed and converted faster by the body compared to meat. So if you’re worried you’ll go hungry with the meat portions above, pile on the vegetables! It’s a good example of how you don’t have to eat less to eat right.
Per meal, you need: Vegetables
3/4 to 1 cup of cooked or raw vegetables (ex. chopsuey, adobong kangkong, sayote and malunggay in tinola)
1 medium-sized single-serve fruit (ex. banana, dalanghita)
1 slice of big fruit (ex. papaya, watermelon, pineapple)
3. Don’t skip the rice. Carbohydrates are not the enemy, it’s what actually gives us the energy we crave so much of – energy we use to keep up with the kids! In fact, we need a good serving of carbohydrates for every meal. The trick is to pick the right kind: complex carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates can be either simple or complex. Simple carbohydrates have little to no nutritional value. They provide energy and not much else. Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, are higher in fiber and digest more slowly. They pack more nutrition and keep you feeling fuller for longer (a.k.a. ‘di kagad gutom). Plus, they aid digestion, keeping you away from constipation. Whole grains are complex carbohydrates, examples of which are: brown rice, corn, whole wheat bread and oatmeal. Rootcrops like kamote and gabi are also complex carbs.
Any of the following is a good serving of carbs:
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1 to 1 1/2 cups of rice
4 slices of small pandesal
4 slices of bread
1 cup of pasta or noodles (ex. pansit)
1 piece medium-sized root crop (ex. kamote, gabi)
4. Drink water. You need eight glasses of it a day. As much as possible, stay away from sugary drinks like powdered juices, powdered teas and soft drinks. They increase the risk of obesity and tooth decay.
So, when all the dishes are on the table, eating healthier can be as simple as getting the right amount of each on your plate: 2 pieces of bistek meat, a heap of kangkong, 1 cup rice, and, for later, 1 banana. Shall you start your Pinggang Pinoy later at dinner?