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Plans for the festive season are beginning to be penned down. Large parts of our festive plans revolve around food. Food is an essential ingredient at all festive events.

Another important role that food plays that we don’t particularly think about during the festive season, is the effect it has on our health. 

Do yourself a favour — before you finalise any of your holiday menus , peruse through this Q&A we had with Dietitian and Nutrition Expert Lerato Radebe about how you can enjoy your festive season in a healthy nutritious way. 

Q. What are some of the most common food habits that people fall into over the festive season and how can we avoid such? 

Lerato: Overindulging. People buy and consume so much, and often all the unhealthy options. I like to remind people that while Christmas comes once a year, you still have the rest of the year to live. So, select one or two days, with one meal on that day where you can go crazy. Otherwise try to maintain the rest of the holidays similar to your normal routine as possible. Also regardless of the meal, never compromise on portion control.

Q. The idea of nutritious meals is often associated with being boring and bland. How can we make it fun or exciting for our kids to eat healthy, when all kinds of foods, snacks and drinks are readily available during the festive season?

Lerato: The possibilities are endless. Maybe let’s run a series with Olwethu starting mid-November where her followers can select 3 boring ingredients and we can turn them into fun festive meal ideas. 

Q. What are some fun ways to incorporate fruit and vegetables into our meals during the holiday? 

South African holidays are summer holidays, so this is the opportunity to toss the heavy meals and bring in the salads. Toss the heavy starches and make salads the foundation of your meals. Toss hours and hours of slaving over the stove and incorporate as much raw fruit and vegetables into your diet as possible. 

Q. Nutrition is key in having a balanced healthy life, as well as regular exercise. What foods are high in energy that can keep you healthily fuelled throughout the day or when exercising? 

Lerato: Trick to exercise is not really adding more food to diet, but about timing your meals around your exercise:

  • One needs to have a portion of carbohydrates preferably plant-based, carbs (potatoes, sweet potato, maize or banana) at least 30min before you exercise. 
  • Make sure to keep well hydrated during exercise (depending on duration and intensity of exercise you may need to speak to your dietician about added energy during exercise).
  • A post exercise recovering snack – this needs to be calculated based on individual needs.
  • Then make sure you have a balanced meal within 2hrs of exercise.  

Q. We consume a lot of different-sugary drinks during the festive season, including cocktails, and other alcoholic beverages too. Could you give us 5 healthy tips or beverages to consider when enjoying drinks this holiday?

Lerato: Water, water, water, water, water – did I say that five times? (laughs)

  • Try to avoid drinking your calories, so that you have more room to eat good food. A serving (250ml) or your average portion of alcohol or sugary drink is the equivalent of almost 2-3slices of bread.
  • Flavour your water with fresh fruit and herbs like chopped lemon, berries, cucumber, mint, basil, etc.
  • Start your dates and functions by drinking at least 500ml-1l of water, this will enable you to take your time in sipping the sugary/alcohol drinks.
  • Use lots of ice as this helps to dilute the calories, but also increase the volume of your drinks. 

We hope those festive plans will be filled with nutritious healthy meals, and you will be more mindful of what you put into your body during the holiday season. Remember, you are what you eat, and you’d want to start 2022 with a healthy body.