Jamaicans Urged to Eat Healthy During Yuletide Season

Photo: Donald De La Haye - Director of Nutrition Services in the Ministry of Health, Sharmaine Edwards

Story Highlights

  • A balanced meal should include items from the six food groups in the Caribbean region, including staples, vegetables, fruits, legumes and nuts, food from animals, and fats and oils.
  • Mrs. Edwards also recommends staying away from free sugars, advising that all sugar intake should be less than 10 per cent of a person’s total calories.
  • Portion control is vital to controlling not just diseases, but contents of salt, sugar and fats.

With the Christmas and New Year’s festivities fast approaching, Jamaicans are being encouraged to eat healthy during the season.

Persons, especially those living with non-communicable diseases such as hypertension and diabetes, are being urged to watch what they consume, in order to maintain a balanced meal.

A balanced meal should include items from the six food groups in the Caribbean region, including staples, vegetables, fruits, legumes and nuts, food from animals, and fats and oils.

In an interview with JIS News, Director of Nutrition Services in the Ministry of Health, Sharmaine Edwards, says persons living with diabetes and hypertension should observe the season as a normal day.

She notes that while there is going to be a lot of get-togethers and social events, persons should try to maintain the same control they had throughout the year.

“By now you should be aware of what you need to do for your condition. You are going to limit the intake of fats just the same for the rest of the year,” Mrs. Edwards encourages.

“So, you’re removing the visible fats, you’re reducing the intake of the saturated fat or the solid fat that we mostly get from animal-type food, and we are sticking to more of the unsaturated ones that we get from the plant sources. The more natural it is, the better,” she adds.

Mrs. Edwards also recommends staying away from free sugars, advising that all sugar intake should be less than 10 per cent of a person’s total calories.

“Free sugar is what we add to the cooking or the manufacturing and preparation of foods. So, it is also going to include those that are naturally present in honey, syrup, fruit juices and in fruit-juice concentrate,” she notes.

She informs that less than a teaspoon of salt per day is the recommendation for persons living with high blood pressure.

Meanwhile, portion control is vital to controlling not just diseases, but contents of salt, sugar and fats.

“I know we have a lot of cured meats, ham in particular at Christmas time. So, we are still going to stick to our servings. We are not going to have six and eight slices of ham. We are going to have our two to three ounces as we normally do for the rest of the year at one sitting,” Mrs. Edwards recommends.

The Nutritionist notes that the consumption of alcohol is another area that persons tend to overdo during the festive season.

Mrs. Edwards explains that specifications for men and women are different and alcoholic beverages have high sugar content.

She says the allowable limit for women is one drink per day, while men can have two per day.

“We need to also remember that for the one drink or the two drinks, the amount varies for the type of alcoholic beverages that we are going to consume. So, for table wines and so on… we need just a little over a half cup or about five ounces,”  the Director of Nutrition Services says.

Mrs. Edwards tells JIS News that for beers and other drinks with less alcohol content, up to 12 ounces or a cup and a half is suitable.

For stronger drinks, such as spirits and distilled beverages, the recommendation is an ounce and a half.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Edwards recommends that persons have a snack before heading out to a party or family dinner, to prevent overeating.

“I think when you are going to these parties you need to make a conscious effort to plan before you actually go there. So, you set aside what it is you can have, based on your meal plan and your condition,” she says.

Mrs. Edwards is also encouraging persons to be aware of the menu, or at least have an idea based on health restrictions and goals.

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