Christina A. Gonzales’s Top Nutrition Tips

What are the biggest challenges with food in Filipino culture? 

A challenge I hear a lot about is the difficulty of eating well at work. Unfortunately, many workplaces in the Philippines are surrounded by fast food chains, which leaves few options for healthy eating. When you don’t bring your own meals to work, or when there aren’t healthy options nearby, it’s easy to see why so many people default to fast food.

Another challenge of Filipino food culture is the limited variety in vegetables. Many Filipinos eat one or two kinds of vegetables, but with nutrition, variety is key. Variety is how you ingest more diverse nutrients and support your cognitive health. I would recommend switching up the vegetables and fruits that you consume so you can have a more well-balanced diet.

What small steps do you recommend for Filipinos to nourish themselves with food?

Review your basic nutrition. Your meals should always be composed of three basic food groups: Go, Grow and Glow. Go foods are fats and carbohydrates that provide energy. Grow foods are high in protein and help you remain physically strong. Glow foods are plentiful in vitamins, which help you feel good, promote proper brain functioning, and protect you from illness. If you can get these three food groups down, you’ll be starting off on a great note.

Filipinos should also be familiar with Pinggang Pinoy. Pinggang Pinoy serves as visual tool to help Filipinos adopt healthy eating habits at meal times by delivering effective dietary and healthy lifestyle messages. Pinggang Pinoy, literally translated as Filipino Plate, is a visual representation of what a person should consume on a per meal basis. It is a plate-based food guide that features the right proportion of food that contains the right nutrients needed by the body of an average adult.

What do you recommend for someone who has fallen off with their healthy habits?

  1. Eat breakfast. There’s no better way to start your morning than with a healthy breakfast.
  2. Have five meals per day: three major meals and two snacks.
  3. Have an active lifestyle. Nutrition, while important, is just one pillar of your health. Try to incorporate movement into your day — even a little bit at a time makes a difference.
  4. Cut down on sweets and sugary beverages. Consuming a lot of sugar results in high calorie intake and inflammation. When you can, have one less serving of sweets than you normally would.

What are your favorite food swaps?

Swaps are a great way to make small changes to your diet without doing a massive nutrition overhaul. These are some of my favorite swaps:

  1. Try wheat bread instead of white bread.
  2. Get your calcium through yogurt if you’re not fond of drinking milk.
  3. Nonfat or low-fat milk instead of whole milk.
  4. Oatmeal with fruit for breakfast instead of rice.
  5. Chicken breast instead of chicken thigh.
  6. Use an air fryer instead of deep fat frying.

Remember, your nutrition habits won’t change overnight. Commit to a few small, achievable goals that will help you get closer to your desired outcome. And tell people about them! Tell your family and your friends — they’ll hold you accountable, and it may even encourage others in your life to rethink their own eating habits.