After the excess, back to basics

2013-01-31 00:00

BUSINESS tycoon Warren Buffet said: “It takes 20 years to build a good reputation, but minutes to destroy it.”

I think the same can often be said of our habits. We can develop healthy eating habits all year, and then break them as soon as the festive season arrives. With Christmas well and truly behind us now, I find myself still being drawn into some bad habits that were allowed to creep in over the holiday season.

Before too many more months fly past, let’s take stock of what healthy habits we may have let slide and what changes we can make to ensure that each day builds towards the best health and vitality possible.

Shop wisely

This is arguably the simplest and most important first step to a healthy lifestyle.

Shop with the understanding that whatever goes into your shopping trolley is going to be available in your grocery cupboard. When all resistance crumbles, the treats in the cupboard, which were intended for special occasions or the children’s lunchboxes, become easily accessible snacks.

Always aim for at least half of your trolley or basket to be various vegetables and fruits. Frozen vegetables are a lifesaver when you haven’t managed to stock up on fresh, and dried fruit can be a welcome alternative to sweets and chocolates.

Finally, don’t shop when you (or your children) are hungry. Make a decision beforehand that no chocolates or other treats will be bought. One of my clients used to put the money she would spend buying a chocolate into a money box, and spoil herself with a massage or facial at the end of the month.

C ook carefully

Sometimes, it’s not the food choices that need to change, but rather the cooking method.

Aim to reduce the amount of oil, margarine, butter and cream used in preparing dishes. As a guideline, try to restrict these fats to a mere one teaspoon per person per meal. In other words, when making a stew for a family of four, use no more than four teaspoons of oil to brown the meat.

When pan-frying meat or making a stir fry, use Spray and Cook instead of any fat.

To limit the amount of oil needed on roasted vegetables, rather use an oil spray to cover lightly all the vegetables or some stock for extra fluid.

When a recipe calls for cream, rather use low-fat plain yogurt or low-fat evaporated milk.

S nack sa fely

Snacking is not necessarily a habit to be kicked, but it definitely has the potential to become dangerous.

Snacking between meals helps to keep your metabolism active. It also prevents you from being ravenous at the next meal, which should theoretically help you to eat more moderately and not over-indulge. However, the type of snack that is chosen needs careful consideration.

Fruit is almost always the best option for a snack between meals. Keeping some dried fruit in your car, handbag or briefcase is a good idea as a back-up plan when you’re on the run.

Avoid filling the gap with chocolate bars, cakes, biscuits, crisps and other high-fat temptations. For those days when a more substantial snack is needed, try popcorn or crackers with a low-fat cheese wedge or vegetable sticks dipped in hummus. Mixing nuts — cashews, pecans and almonds — and raisins or sultanas with pumpkin seeds makes a tasty portable snack.

As the first month of the year draws to a close, let’s take a good look at our eating habits going forward. Making a few adjustments now can reap numerous benefits as the year marches on.


• Sharon Hultzer is a consulting dietitian. She can be reached at eats


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