What you need to know:
- Everything that exceeds the bounds of moderation has an unstable foundation.
- For those travelling upcountry, take advantage of what the village has to offer.
- You can include some meat, but only a little.
It is that time of the year again, where if it feels like food, tastes like food, looks like food, then it is food and must be eaten. We cannot beat ourselves up for getting caught up in the food frenzy, can we?
Everything is largely food-oriented; take for instance, that shopping voucher (I know 80 per cent of it will be on buying food), gift hampers and even the ‘goat eating’ promotions that run in our local radios. Not to mention, hotels and restaurants are usually fully booked at this time of the year. Food is valued in the African culture, eating is a social event.
The festive seasons are usually a time to relax, interact with friends and spend time with family. Most people take a break from their daily routines, some travel upcountry and for others, it is time for a holiday trip. No matter how you plan on spending your holiday, the common denominator is, you guessed right, food. Most people try eating healthy for the better part of the year.
But when Christmas comes knocking, everything changes. Our social pressures, broken routines, and emotional associations drive us into eating everything in sight during the holidays. As your 'Food Doctor', I agree that once in a while indulging in food is not a bad idea, but overindulging carries substantial health risks.
Ann Wigmore once said: "The food you eat can either be the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison." So, how do we make merry and share the love with our friends and families without overindulging? The answer is moderation.
Everything that exceeds the bounds of moderation has an unstable foundation. The same applies to our feeding habits during the holiday. By making healthy food choices, we are set to reap maximum health benefits that will go beyond this season. For instance, cutting down on those processed foods and going for whole fibre-rich foods such as vegetables and legumes, or even ditching the fried fatty meat chunks for that lean boiled meat delicacy.
How do you make this work? In the spirit of Christmas, allow me to walk you through a typical one-day menu plan with the most healthy food choices.
Blend fruit juices instead of making tea or coffee. Now that mangoes are in season, take advantage of this and give yourself that dose of Vitamin A that you need so much especially in this Covid-19 period. Try natural yogurt instead of the sugar-enriched types. Not only is yogurt rich in proteins, calcium, and Vitamin B12, but it also contains beneficial bacteria called probiotics that do wonders to your immune system.
For the accompaniment, choose the starchy roots and tubers instead of the commonly consumed processed cereals even though it is Christmas. Forget about bread and grab those sweet potatoes, arrowroots, pumpkin and cassava.
For those travelling upcountry, take advantage of what the village has to offer. For the bread diehards, wholemeal bread, if available, is a better choice due to the fibre content. But, if you cannot get these options, take what is available and make some adjustments.
For example, my all-time favourite combo is using the previous night’s cooked vegetables (spinach, kales, among others) and some slices of tomatoes as fillings for my vegetable sandwich. You should try it; you won't regret it. Additionally, you can opt for natural peanut butter with zero additives (homemade is the best) as opposed to margarine. Or, now that you will have more free time, try avocados for your spread, yes avocados!
Nuts and avocados are rich in ‘good fats’ (mono-unsaturated fatty acids) that are very beneficial for normal heart functioning.
Finally, you can slice and dice some fruits such as pineapples, bananas, watermelon, and mangoes, and add them to your breakfast plate. There is no hurry to work, you have the time to prepare food. Remember, it is a holiday.
I value lunch, you can as well say it's my main meal of the day. Since you now have time, I am sure you can cancel that fast food order – the pizza, chips, among others and fix yourself and your loved ones a nice nutritious meal.
For most people chapati will be on the menu. Therefore, remember the key is in moderation. In addition to this, try chapati made with Atta (whole wheat flour), which is rich in fibre and essential B vitamins. Also, prepare some vegetables using minimal vegetable oil (or sunflower, canola, soybean and olive oils) such as pan-frying or even stir-frying. You can also try steaming.
You can include some meat, but only a little. Choose non-fat methods of cooking meat. These include grilling, roasting and boiling instead of stewing or frying. Alternatively, you can stew the meat without using oil. This is done by first boiling the meat and once the water is all dried up, add onions, tomatoes, and other condiments and let it simmer in low heat. Tantalising, right?
You can also interchange the starch with mashed black beans, green bananas or potatoes.
If you are not a fan of boiled or mashed foods, try stewed potatoes and arrow roots, yam stew, curried peanut butter matoke (with added precooked green peas) or simply matoke (stewed green bananas with meat).
Your dinner must be light. Why? Most of your nutrient requirements are already met and there is that feeling of satiety. So, an example would be a bowl of vegetable rice – diced carrots and green pepper and fry them with rice or boil the rice with peas. This increases your intake of vegetables. You can also try coconut rice – coconut is rich in manganese which is very essential for your bone health, iron, and antioxidants such as Selenium.
Instead of meat, you can choose legumes such as beans, and lentils as your source of protein. Legumes are nutrient-packed – rich sources of plant protein, fibre B-vitamins, iron, folate, calcium, potassium, phosphorus and zinc.
Spices such as turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, coriander, and garlic are very ideal in not only improving the taste and food appearance but also, rich sources of antioxidants – protective effect against cancer. Use spices in their plant forms as opposed to the ground form since drying results in loss of nutrients.
For your dinner, you can also try mashed sweet potatoes and dehulled black beans. Those upcountry can try mashed smoked green bananas and kidney beans.
The menu above is not exhaustive. It is just an illustration of how we can make better food choices this holiday season.
For people who like snacking, it is also advisable to snack on healthy foods. In place of that sugar-filled milkshake, order a smoothie. Instead of that sausage, snack on a fruit salad.
On top of this, remember to include physical activities in your holiday routine. Instead of sitting on the couch watching TV, go for a hike, take a walk, ride a bike, or go swimming. It is all about making healthy choices.