How to stay healthy over the holidays

Quinoa and fig salad
Quinoa and fig salad
Supplied image

The summer holiday gives us a host of ‘good’ reasons to fall by the wayside when it comes to looking after our health. But we pay for overeating, too much alcohol, lack of sleep and abandoning exercise in more than one way. It’s not just the dread of gaining those extra kilos or the guilt over punishing our bodies. 

Over-indulging in rich foods and flowing alcohol also causes anxiety and stress, guilt and shame - just at the time when we are meant to relax and enjoy our lives more.

Finding balance in the whirl of coffee shop breakfasts, lunchtime braais, sundowner picnics and late night parties might seem really difficult, or even impossible. But it’s actually not. We asked the team at ADSA (Association for Dietetics in South Africa) to each give us their one simple strategy for helping to stay healthy during the holidays.

This is what they said (tips to stay healthy in the holidays):

1. Kelly Schreuder, a registered dietitian based in Cape Town says, “If you are used to a healthy routine but you have a tendency to drop that when you are not at home, consider adding a few different healthy rituals to your holiday routine. Try a green juice or a big salad every day, a cup of warm water with lemon first thing every morning, a small handful of raw nuts before you go out for dinner to keep the temptations in perspective when you arrive, and a glass of sparkling water as your first drink instead of an alcoholic one.”

Read: 7 proven benefits of drinking lemon water

2. Mpho Tshukudu, a registered Dietitian based in Rustenburg says, “Be deliberate and get back on track if you have had two or three days of over-indulgence.  Drink water instead of sugary drinks.  Do not skip meals - especially breakfast. Have something light such as a portion of fruit with yoghurt or a slice of seeded bread with a nut butter or cheese. Starving yourself will cause you to overeat later in the day. Get some exercise - walk, swim or play soccer with your children - exercise will boost your mood and release endorphins.”

Read: 12 mental benefits of exercise

3. Nathalie Mat, a Johannesburg based dietitian says, “I love Brian Wansink’s saying: "In sight, in stomach". If you can see food, you're far more likely to eat it. So pass the potato chips over to the next person, dish up food in the kitchen and leave only the salad on the table. At braais, make sure there is an abundance of healthy veggies so that you can fill your stomach with a rainbow of vegetables instead of eating only garlic bread, potato salad and braaivleis.”

Read: Are you eating enough 'powerhouse' vegetables?

4. Alex Royal, another Cape Town based ietitian says, “Step away from the party snack table.  One of the worst thing you can do is stand around the table dipping into the bowl.  Put your choices on a plate, so that you know how much you are really eating.  Keep your portions small and make only one visit to the table. Choose the smallest plate possible. Pile greens and other tasty veggies on your plate first, leaving just a little room for those high-calorie treats like sweets and cheeses. Eat small, lower-calorie meals during the day so you can enjoy a special treat later – just make sure you do not starve yourself for the party and overeat later.”

Read: A healthy way of snacking

The ADSA Nutrition Confidence series of recipes is perfect for keeping your health on track this holiday. ‘Quinoa &Fig Salad’ provides a tasty combination of sweet, salty and sour; vegan main meal containing a good combination of protein, carbohydrate and healthy mono-unsaturated fats.

Quinoa is a good source of fibre, folate, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and B vitamins.

Quinoa & Fig Salad Recipe (Serves 4)

- 1 cup white quinoa
- 2 cups water
- 8 purple figs, cut into quarters
- 100 g walnuts, raw & unsalted
- 200 g mixed salad greens (rocket, baby spinach, watercress)
- 1/2 cucumber
- 120 ml extra virgin olive oil
- 50 ml white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon smooth Dijon mustard

- preheat the oven to 150 deg C.
- put the quinoa & water into a medium saucepan on a medium heat. Cook the quinoa for about 20 minutes until it expands and opens slightly. Cook with the lid on.Remove from the heat and strain the excess water from the quinoa. Season with a pinch of salt and leave the quinoa to cool.
- roast the walnuts on an oven proof tray for about 10 minutes,check on the walnuts now and then to make sure they don't burn. Remove the nuts from the oven and leave to cool.
- using a peeler, peel the cucumber to make long thin ribbons. Peel around the cucumber using only the firm outside parts. Discard the middle part of the cucumber with the seeds or eat as a snack.
- To make the dressing: whisk the vinegar, honey & mustard in a mixing bowl. Slowly drizzle the olive oil into the bowl, while continuously whisking to combine.
- assemble the salad greens on a large plate or platter. Sprinkle the cooled quinoa over the salad leaves. Arrange the figs and cucumber ribbons on top of the salad. Sprinkle the roasted walnuts over the salad and drizzle with the dressing.
- Serve as a light main course or as a healthy side salad to your favourite dish.

The Nutritional Value:
(serves 4)     
Energy: 2689 kJ
Protein: 11.3 g
Carbohydrate: 51.3 g
Total fat: 44 g
Dietary Fibre: 41 g
Sodium: 8 mg

Read more:

Is quinoa a miracle food?

Holiday diet: survive the silly season

Holiday overindulgence risky for type 2 diabetics

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