It’s no doubt that the dietary lifestyles of Indonesians have undergone a change throughout the years.
With the ever-growing fast food industry, the day-to-day diets of Indonesians now, like in other modern nations, include more fast, processed and instant foods in contrast to the more natural and traditional diet of years ago.
My Jakarta spoke with Doctor Saptawati Bardosono, a lecturer in the Department of Nutrition in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Indonesia, about the basics of keeping a healthy diet in today’s Indonesia.
Tell us about yourself and your daily life.
I am a 60-year-old mother of two daughters and a son. I am still actively employed as an academic staff member in the Faculty of Medicine, University of Indonesia, as a lecturer, researcher and community-service activist related to the promotion of healthy living. On weekends I accompany my husband, who owns an indoor soccer stadium rental business, while enjoying our family time.
How did you start a career as an expert in nutrition?
When I served as a physician in a clinic in Papua in the early ’80s, I developed an interest in nutrition counseling, because I was routinely involved in the provision and delivery of locally-harvested nutritious meals to a family there.
When I moved to Alor island, East Nusa Tenggara, as director of the regional hospital there, I was challenged to provide healthy meals for patients using very limited funding. Every morning I took the time to discuss the daily menu with the hospital’s cook. Interest grew when, as a health official, I faced the problem of malnutrition among mothers and children commonly found in East Timor in the early ’90s when it was still a part of Indonesia. Those experiences made me go back to school and focus on nutritional science in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Indonesia.
We’re curious about your own personal diet as a nutritionist.
First, I get my family used to drinking milk and eating a healthy breakfast together before our daily activities. If I can, I bring a meal from home.
The morning snack at the office or school should consist of water and eating nuts and fruits, while the afternoon snack at home should be yogurt plus fresh fruit.
Dinner is provided at about 8 p.m., at the latest, after the daily activities are finished. This is the ideal time for an evening meal in order to fully prepare your digestion system for the next day.
In addition to rice in every meal, there should be green vegetables and meat dishes. And finish with two kinds of fruit. Also, drinking milk before bed can help us sleep more soundly. The key is balance.
What do we need to determine the proper kind of diet?
The right amount of required nutrients differs from one person to another because of many factors. Before I recommend a certain kind of diet, it is necessary to determine the person’s health and nutritional status beforehand
Also the sociocultural and economic influence including individual habit also need to be taken into account.
What are the differences in eating habits of our society from 10-20 years ago? Were the life expectancies for Indonesians longer in the past?
Life expectancy depends not only on diet, but also the country’s quality of health care. Life expectancy actually increases, but ironically the prevalence of degenerative diseases increase and tend to affect more younger people than in the past.
Has the government done enough in its efforts of repairing our unhealthy diet?
Academics, the government and the media must always work to promote a healthy lifestyle with balanced nutrition for all ages. Nutrition is especially important for infants and children to decrease the risk of developing degenerative diseases in later years.
Any signs of Jakartans moving to a healthier lifestyle, as opposed to the modern lifestyle with all of the processed food?
That looks kind of hard.
The traditional lifestyle can only be found in the countryside, and people in the city always blame their busy schedules for this. And I’m concerned that the technological advancements will someday ‘contaminate’ these rural areas and the healthy lifestyle. I try to educate people in choosing a healthy diet regardless of their schedules.
It would be ironic if we worked hard to pursue financial success but don’t prosper physically now wouldn’t it ?
Dr. Saptawati was talking to Irvan Tisnabudi