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By Zenoyise Madikwa | Oct 22, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

THE festive season is starting to get into swing.

THE festive season is starting to get into swing.

Holidays are occasions for feasts and celebrations - from family weddings to initiation ceremonies to office parties - with temptations ranging from junk food to alcohol.

A lot of these foods, like mogodu and pap, are hard to resist. But excessive indulgence brings with it tons of guilt and to pacify the guilt, you tell yourself it's the festive season after all and everyone indulges!

This makes you eat even more and you postpone eating healthily to the first of January.

But this doesn't mean you should lose the fight for good health and a balanced weight.

South Africa is near the top of the list of countries with the highest percentages of obesity, according to Mookgo Maine, a dietician at one of the Clinix Health Group's Private Hospitals.

Maine says many South Africans make unhealthy food choices every day and don't understand the effect these choices may have on their bodies.

"Many diseases, including obesity, osteoporosis, diabetes, cancer, strokes, heart attacks and Alzheimer's, can be prevented or delayed by including the correct foods in one's diet," Maine says.

"Eating excessive fat will result in children and adults becoming overweight.

"Saturated fats lead to high cholesterol levels, which can result in coronary disease, heart attacks or strokes.

"It is time that we combat this growing phenomenon by adopting healthier eating habits and educating our children on healthy living," she said.

She said a lack of fruit and vegetables causes vitamin shortages, leaving the immune system weak - and an insufficient fibre intake due to barely eating whole-grain products disturbs the digestive system, negatively affecting the absorption of nutrients.

She said t eating correctly ensures that the body receives the right amounts of energy, proteins, vitamins and minerals to function properly and remain healthy.

To promote healthy eating to prevent illness and obesity she offers these simple tips:

l Add more vitamins, especially vitamin C to your diet to strengthen the immune system. Good sources of vitamins are fresh fruit and vegetables but taking a multi-vitamin supplement is recommended.

l Add more fibre to your diet. Eat whole-grain cereals and up your fruit and vegetable intake to keep your digestive system healthy.

l Eat less fat! Stay away from fried foods. These may be quick to buy at your local fast-food store but they are bad for your body.

l Choose lean meat and low-fat dairy products. Foods like milk, meat and avocados that do contain fat but also contain nutrients are still much healthier than cookies or chips.

l Stay away from sugar. The days of having heaped teaspoons of sugar in tea or coffee are over. Excess sugar is stored as fat. Opt for fruit when a sugar craving hits and rather use honey as a sweetener.

l Have four to six small meals instead of three big meals. This helps to control cravings; for example, breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, supper, snack. Snacks can be fruit.

l Go for complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates (found in products like white bread, rice, pasta) cause a similar reaction as sugar. Eating whole grain products instead (brown rice, whole-grain bread or pasta) helps prevent diabetes. Complex carbohydrates keep your blood-sugar levels more constant.

l Drink at least two litres of water a day.

l Exercise at least three times a week. This can even be a 30-minute walk

l Avoid preservatives

"Studies are under way to ascertain the actual effects that preservatives have on the body and though conclusive evidence has not yet surfaced, most agree that foods high in preservatives is not healthy.

"Get more proactive about reading labels on foods and knowing exactly what you are putting into your body.

"Make an effort to cook your own meals and use fresh ingredients as often as possible.

"Instant meals often contain high amounts of preservatives, so avoid the temptation and live healthier."


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