(PNA file photo) 

MANILA – As the holiday season approaches, a food security advocacy group on Tuesday urged Filipinos to watch their diet and to consume fresh, high quality, and healthy local produce to ensure their safety and well-being.

Due to the pandemic, the group said Filipinos should carefully choose what they eat to boost immunity.

“The surest way to protect our health is to ensure that the meat and other ingredients we use to prepare our meals are safe. We should also check that perishable goods we purchase like fish, chicken, and pork are properly handled, packaged, and stored,” said Tugon Kabuhayan in a statement.

Nutritionist-dietitian Aleli Catalina Jimenez of the Nutritionist-Dietitians’ Association of the Philippines (NDAP) also reminded Filipinos to eat in moderation and a balanced variety of food in times of festivities and celebrations.

She also emphasized the importance of water as a nutrient in the daily diet. “During the holiday season, most of the food is composed of fats, sugar, and salt. We should moderate this to avoid complications especially if one has an existing illness. If we have physical distancing because of Covid (coronavirus disease 2019), we also need distance from the buffet table,” she furthered.

Norbert Chingcuanco, vice president for Corporate Planning of Feedmix Specialist Inc., said that seafood should find its way on the table this coming holiday as fishermen, fish farmers, and processors have been preparing in anticipation of the holidays season.

Such seafood includes the all-time favorite "relyenong bangus" (milkfish), "sugpo" (shrimp), and other seafood.

For his part, Executive Chef Francis Christian Ocoma, food and beverage consultant and owner of Café Linang in Lucbac, Quezon, recommended simple, less complicated food this holiday season.

“There are a lot of considerations in preparing healthier dishes: the choice of ingredients and the cooking method we are going to apply. We can also consider alternatives. For example, rabbit meat has lower calories, high protein content, and lesser fats. Also, the taste orientation of rabbit meat is almost the same as that of a chicken. We can also consider utilizing organic meat in our dishes as we can be assured that these are healthier alternatives. We can also consider brown rice and other naturally grown organic rice as these have lesser calories and are easier to digest,” he said.

For the cooking method, he suggested using roasting, broiling, grilling and steaming "as these methods can also be applied to a variety of dishes as well. These methods do not need a lot of oil and excess fats from the meat can be eliminated.”

Meanwhile, Alice Valdoria, organic farmer and owner of Yumis Farm, TESDA Farm School Accredited Certified Learning Site-Agricultural Training Institute, said it is a major factor to know where the food that we eat comes from.

“Many organic foods can be easily prepared and cooked, the important thing to consider is how and where these products are raised or grown," she said.

She also encouraged the growing of native food in the backyard as these are healthier and chemical-free. “These are simple practices and food that will help us reminisce our ancestor’s way of life. We are also assured that what we feed to our family is nutritious and healthier as we know how we grow and process them in our own backyard,” she said.

The group also urged consumers to prioritize healthy local food products for the upcoming holiday season. Filipinos should focus on indulging and eating locally produced food, be it pork, chicken, fish, seafood, vegetables, and fruits. Locally produced foods are proven to be a lot fresher, safer, and heather than imported ones.

They also urge the Filipino people to include the farmers and fishers in their holiday plans. “The last two years of Covid restriction has a tremendous impact on the lives of everyone including the farmers, fishers, and aquaculturists, yet their effort tide us through in those difficult times. This holiday season, let us indulge in locally produced food products. Let us enjoy, be fit and healthy, while happily patronizing the produce of our farmers and fisher,” the group said. (PR)