The festive season is usually characterised by many of the employed indulging in excesses over a short period of time.
The unfortunate part, however, is that this kind of indulgence leads to financial difficulty in January when they are hit by reality – transport costs for the first month of the new year and books, school fees and uniforms for their offspring.
Even more damaging is the impact of this indulgence on people’s health. This can be traced back to what people normally place on their Christmas shopping trolleys.
We spoke to a dietician to advise consumers about what to put in their trolleys this festive season as some will be distributing groceries that they spent the entire year saving for in groups.
For example, Lindiwe Mashinini of Mabunda Women Grocery Scheme in Ekurhuleni says they deposit their monthly contributions with a local wholesaler in exchange for a shopping voucher.
According to Mashinini, the scheme’s shopping basket contains: maize meal, rice, samp, flour, baking powder, vanilla essence, sugar, tea bags, coffee, fresh and powder milk, sunflower oil, vinegar, beef and chicken stock, curry powder and other spices, butter, toilet rolls and soaps, dish washing liquid and other detergents used for cleaning.
Some of the above, according to the dietician, can pose serious health hazards if consumed excessively.
Nokuthula Vilakazi of Dieticians at Work says diabetes alerts, constipation, gout and abdominal pains are very common this time of the year, but can be prevented.
“There is no better way to do this than to stick to foodstuff that lasts longer and retain nutritious element at the same time,” says Vilakazi, adding: “Cereals should top the list of items as they are not only rich in protein but form the base of any meal and can be stored for longer periods.” Dried beans are also a cheaper source of proteins and can be stored for longer periods.
Vilakazi says canned fruits, vegetables and the different types of fish products can provide a convenient meal but warns that overindulgence may pose health hazards. This is because many canned products are overprocessed and contain high sodium.
Also important to be included on the shopping basket list is frozen fish and chicken because they are leaner and healthier than red meat. They can be kept in a freezer for longer periods.
Vilakazi advises on using salt in moderation. Dried spices and herbs could be used for seasoning. “These are highly concentrated and good for your health.”
She adds: “Buying quality fruit and vegetables which are in season is also a good idea.”
These products should be washed, cut, blanched, dried and frozen to ensure they last longer.
Coming to desserts, ice cream can be replaced by healthier alternatives such as frozen yoghurt served with fruit salad. And when using canned products, Vilakazi advises, you serve them in smaller portions to enjoy less highly processed products.
Fizzy drinks are less healthy than fruit juices or punch drinks.
She says large meals may be substituted with small portions of vegetables like baked potatoes, stuffed cabbages and other forms of wraps.
For braai options, kebabs, leaner portions of beef, chicken or fish are the best.
“You can also do with fewer bottles of salad dressings. Too much use of salad dressing should be avoided at all costs.
“Vegetables prepared in less oil are much healthier. Steaming food has also proven to be a healthier option in preventing common diseases,” says Vilakazi.