Joyce Mwasuma, 34, works in the city as a cleaner but says it is difficult to find time to prepare a balanced meal at home. She lives with her 12 year old son at Ubungo in Dar es Salaam. "More often than not I don't have time to prepare a proper meal as I work long hours to make ends meet," she said.
She and her son eat French fries with eggs better known as 'chipsi mayai' or zegge, and other times they eat fried bananas with fried chicken as a meal. "We rarely eat vegetables except for the salad that comes along with chips and eggs," she confesses, adding that "I'm a single parent I get home late but on Sundays when I'm not working I try to cook for my son, I try out rice with beef or beans and vegetables.
Traditional eating habits for many city dwellers have changed radically over the years, due to economic hardships, the high cost of living and busy life styles. Health experts attribute the contemporary eating habits to the lack of knowledge about what is healthy to eat, busy schedules and the lack of interest in eating healthily.
More advice on healthy living comes from the Tanzania Food and Drug Association, food director, Raymond Wigenge, who believes in two factors that lead to a healthier life style; a balanced diet and regular body exercises. The 55 year old man has followed up on the two rules religiously for five years and it has paid off quite well.
It all started with him reading several articles on the web on how to live healthily and it was through the knowledge he had gained, he introduced a new method of cooking in the kitchen at home. "One day I went home and advised my wife that instead of frying beef before making stew, why not just add the onions, tomatoes and a little oil and let them all boil together with the beef," he recalls.
He admits that at the beginning the idea did not sink very well with his family, but after insisting countless times and telling
them the benefits of boiling food, the family eventually accepted the new cooking method. Apart from eating boiled food, Wigenge says each morning he exercises for 15 minutes.
"Each morning I exercise vigorously for 15 minutes and I make sure I sweat. Through sweating I remove toxins in my body. My wife has also takes part in the morning exercises," he reveals. Research indicates that the foods you eat influence how you feel and how you look, and they affect your health. Healthy food contains vitamins your body requires to function normally, and these vitamins include Vitamins A, D, E, K, C and the B vitamins. Necessary minerals are also found in healthy foods.
The foods you eat now can result in good or bad health in the future. As a food director, Wigenge says how food is prepared contributes to how healthy a meal is. "Most people prefer eating fried food because it tastes better than boiled food, but people tend to forget the effects of fried food," he said. The director says oil from plants is better than animal fat when it comes to eating healthily.
Fat from plants is said to be unsaturated and is associated with low cholesterol content, while animal fat is said to be saturated and with higher cholesterol content. Foods that contain saturated fat and rather high cholesterol may lead to the narrowing of the arteries due to plaque formation on artery walls, he said. He also said that foods that contain saturated fat include meats with a high fat content and whole milk products, meat and egg yolks.
Fat from plants are mostly vegetable oils such as sunflower, corn, olive sesame oils. "Our bodies need both fat from plants and animal fat however a high intake of animal fat is much more harmful than a high consumption of vegetable oils," he added. Commenting on eating healthily Doctor Kassim Mtalusito of Lugalo Hospital says fat is required by our bodies but too much of it is harmful; one increases the chances of getting heart related diseases.
"Obesity is common these days. People walk around the city with pot bellies that are caused by unhealthy eating habits. There is an urgent need for intervention," he states. Dr Mtalusito adds that eating food high in sugar not only makes you fat but also increases the risk of type 2 diabetes.