Are you over weight?? Being overweight or obese puts you at high risk for many chronic diseases. Aiming to have a healthy weight is key to preventing cancer and other chronic diseases such as diabetes and coronary heart disease.  A healthy weight can be achieved by addressing what we eat and having regular physical activity.

What changes may be needed on what you eat?

It is good to get an idea of the amount of energy you get from the foods that you eat.

  • Reduce the amount of energy-dense foods you eat
  • Reduce the portion size

How do we know the level of energy in the food?

You actually do not need to know the exact amount of energy in the foods you eat, but rather it is good to have a broad understanding. See the examples below to help you make an informed decision on how you choose the foods you eat to maintain a healthy weight.

  • Very low energy-dense foods: This includes most vegetables such as green leafy vegetables, carrots, okra, egg-plant, broccoli, etc.  It also includes most fruits, skimmed milk, and broth-based soups
  • Low energy-dense foods: Cooked grains especially whole grains like whole maize, “dona”, and whole wheat. It also includes low fat milk (1%fat milk), beans and other legumes such as cow peas, dried peas and mang peas.
  • Medium energy-dense foods: Examples of these are meats, cheese, high fat foods, and salad dressings.
  • High energy-dense foods: These include chips/crisps, oils, fats, butter, margarine, mayonnaise, sausages, sugary drinks, energy drinks, bacon, chocolates, sugar, cakes, deep-fried foods (such as chips/fries), candies, etc.

Just remember that foods of less energy-density have fewer calories and therefore contribute less to weight gain. (The energy density is measured by the amount of calories per 100 gm. For example, 100gm of cooked spinach can be compared to 100 gm of chips/fries). Given the above information it is clear that eating 100gm of spinach is much better than eating 100 gm of chips/fries.  Usually foods which are less energy-dense have more water and/or fiber, and it is often more difficult to eat a larger amount of these foods because they fill you up quickly.

A good place to start with changing eating habits is to work on proportion and portion size.  With proportion, make sure you choose more of the low energy-dense foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes, while you minimize meats and other foods of animal origin. On the portion size, just look at what you have on your plate.  Usually you can tell if the amount is more than what you need.  Try to decrease the portions gradually every day until you achieve a desirable amount. Be patient as it may take you weeks or even months to adjust.  Here are some tips to help you reduce the amount of food you eat:

  • Use a smaller plate
  • Use a smaller cup or glass for your drinks
  • Do not eat while doing other things eg. Do not eat while watching TV, driving or reading.
  • Do not eat from a package or pot
  • Stay conscious of the type and amount of food you are eating
  • Limit snacks to low energy-dense foods such as fruits or vegetables
  • Don’t stay hungry for too long
  • Take your time to complete your meal.  (It usually takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to report to the brain that you are full.  So if you eat too fast, you may not feel full until this time has passed, regardless of the quantity you eat.)


Remember to have regular physical activity such as brisk walk for 30 minutes to one hour every day. Read more about physical activities in the  following link  (mazoezi ya mwili).

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