Category Archives: Healthy Eating

National Nutrition and Obesity Week – Breakfast: The best way to start your day!

alarm clockMorning rush

Of course, our mornings are more urgent than our evenings. It is harder to relax and enjoy a meal when you’re anticipating everything that needs to be done in the day ahead and you have time pressures. However, it just takes a bit of planning and preparation to fit breakfast in. It helps to do as much breakfast preparation as you can the night before. Before you go to bed, set up your kitchen for breakfast. Soak the oats and slice the fruit so you don’t have to do it in the morning. Cook extra maize meal porridge for the next day’s breakfast when making supper, or boil some eggs the night before. Planning can make breakfast quick and easy.

health food

I don’t like typical breakfast foods!

Most people do find something they like amongst the range of foods we generally eat for breakfast, but it is important to remember there are no hard and fast rules. It doesn’t matter whether you eat the same things as others for breakfast – it just matters that you have a healthy start to the day. This means having a minimally processed starchy food, fruit or vegetable and combining it with at least one other food group. For example, maize meal porridge with maas, brown bread with pilchards, fruit and unsweetened low-fat yoghurt. Last night’s leftover beans can be used as a sandwich filling on brown bread for a great breakfast.

happy family

yawnIt takes my system a while to wake up, I don’t feel like eating in the early morning

Although breakfast is ‘breaking the fast’ between our longest sleep and lunch, there are many people who question the advice to eat when they don’t feel hunger. What’s important to consider is that breakfast can take place within 3 hours after waking.

avo & egg breakfast

Breakfast is easiest to ignore and I’m skipping meals to lose weight

It is important for those who are overweight and obese to follow a sensible, results-driven weight loss programme guided by registered dietitians and nutritionists. There are an abundance of studies that show that children, adolescents and adults who eat breakfast have better weight outcomes and lower risk of overweight and obesity.

making breakfast


As parents and caregivers, we are role models for the healthy lifestyles we hope our children will adopt for their lifetimes. Studies have shown that children who eat breakfast perform better at school than those who skip it. Eating breakfast has an immediate, positive impact on cognitive function, especially memory and concentration. Parents are the major influence on whether children make eating breakfast a habit, and studies have shown that 1 in 5 of South African children skip breakfast. It helps to make breakfast a family activity and involve children in preparing breakfast and eating together. Parents also need to ensure that healthy breakfast options that their children like to eat are available in the house.

Surviving the Christmas Spread

The intentional use of the word ‘spread’ as a pun for the title of this note is inspired by the fact that the average person gains about 2 kilograms over the Christmas period. For some this may come as a shock while for others, only 2 seems like a relief, but the point is we cannot afford it either way.

Preventing or managing obesity or chronic diseases has to be a full time effort with consistency as a key to success. “But, it is Christmas?” is not a feasible excuse to ditch your healthy eating habits and indulge excessively when it comes to high energy, nutrient empty festive foods. A weight loss of just 10 % achieved by an overweight person contributes significantly to management and prevention of chronic diseases of lifestyle such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. It stands to reason then that a weight gain of 2 kilograms over Christmas is somewhat detrimental to the management and prevention of chronic disease.

Starting a new year heavier than the last is unlikely to be inspiring or motivating and for this reason alone, combating the Christmas Spread will be a worthwhile effort. The good news is that healthy eating need not be boring or bland. I have been gathering ideas over the last few weeks and below is a round up of my favourite healthy festive eating tips and recipes.

Wishing you a wonderful, healthy, happy and safe Christmas to see you well into 2017!

5 tips to manage your weight during Christmas:

  1. Do not over indulge on your own, save the treats for the social events
  2. When eating from a buffet, first scan and select before serving to avoid a pile of tasters. Rather create an enjoyable meal with a few foods that compliment each other
  3. Make your bakes healthier by substituting ingredients, making mini varieties or simply reducing the sugar content by 1/3
  4. Keep eating vegetables every day – roasted, steamed or simply tossed together in a salad
  5. Stay hydrated with water and keep moving

5 ways to reduce the intake of sugary beverages:

  • Flavour your own water with fruit and vegetable slices
  • Dilute 100% berry juice with soda water and sugar free lemonade
  • Make your own iced tea with Rooibos tea, ice, frozen berries and mint
  • Alternate alcoholic beverages with soda water or dilute wine with soda water and ice
  • Use a splash of cordial in soda water rather than drinking fizzy drinks

5 links to great ideas for healthy but novel festive foods:

Roasted Chickpeas

Whole-wheat Ginger Biscuit Shapes (can use canola oil)

Gluten Free Christmas Cake (for those with allergies or intolerance)

Gingerbread Crumpets

Rainbow Chicken Salad

My Healthy Holidays Pinterest Board

Christmas spread

How much sugar are you drinking?

As Diabetes month draws to a close and the festive season approaches, taking stock of how much sugar you are drinking is an exercise worth doing. Sugar is hidden in many products and beverages are no exception. The reason for highlighting beverages is the fact that they are consumed in addition to our meals. They do not contribute to our daily nutrient intake and nor do they satisfy our hunger.

The use of 2-3 teaspoons of sugar in your beverages per day is not likely to be detrimental to your health or waist line but most beverages have in excess of this and if you consume more than one sugar containing beverage with any amount of regularity, you will be far exceeding the recommended intake of sugar by the World Health Organisation which currently sits at 5% total energy intake. This translates to an intake of 1/2 a teaspoon per 1000 kJ energy consumed.

Use this diagram to calculate your liquid sugar intake. Remember to add on the number of teaspoons of sugar you add to your tea or coffee. And most importantly, remember that the value you end up with is only reflective of sugar consumed as a beverage and not that of any sugar eaten in sweets, chocolates, cakes or biscuits or added to cereals.

sugar drinking


Dietary Prevention and Management of Type 2 Diabetes


The scary truth about diabetes is that half the number of people living with diabetes are currently unaware of their diabetes. November is diabetes awareness month and today, the 14th of November, is World Diabetes Day. The theme for Diabetes Day is “Eyes on Diabetes” with the intention of promoting more screening for diabetes as well as encouraging those living with diabetes to monitor their blood glucose levels regularly. Both of these efforts will result in a reduced incidence of the long term complication of diabetes, namely blindness, kidney failure and nerve damage. Screening for diabetes is a simple finger prick test and is an important check to do at least annually. We will be doing free screening the centre this week so have a look at our Facebook page for the details.

Dietary intake plays a big role in both the prevention and management of diabetes. A person’s diet is simply their habitual food intake with foods eaten either offering nutrient benefit or not. Optimal nutrient intake, and therefore an habitual intake of nutrient rich foods, is essential for health promotion. Health promotion should be a priority goal for every person, living with or without diabetes.

Living a healthy lifestyle and eating a nutritionally complete diet is important for achieving and maintaining optimal blood glucose control and ultimately quality of life. As excess abdominal weight is a major contributing factor to the development of type 2 diabetes, the same eating guidelines will apply to both the management and prevention of type 2 diabetes. Simply put, preventing diabetes requires us to eat and live as though we have diabetes. A conscious decision to apply health management rules or practice health management choices is therefore the key to consistent success.

10 health management rules to adopt this World Diabetes Day:

  1. Include a source of fibre in every meal or snack
  2. Eat colourful vegetables daily
  3. Do not eat fast food or sugar containing foods by yourself
  4. Eat as many meals together as a family as possible
  5. Trim the visible fat off meat and chicken, before cooking
  6. Avoid deep fried foods
  7. Snack on fruit rather than crisps or biscuits
  8. Drink water rather than juice
  9. Aim to do 150 minutes of exercise per week
  10. Do not substitute a meal with dessert, rather eat both

Recipes by Kelly Francis, Registered Dietitian

Post School Toasties

Hummus Made Easy

Homemade Pasta Sauces

Childhood Obesity and Diabetes

childhood obesity diabetes

Childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions across the globe with latest statistics revealing that if nothing is done to prevent or manage childhood obesity, as many as 268 million school-aged children around the world will be overweight or obese by 2025.

This is scary, especially when we attach childhood obesity to the likelihood of adulthood obesity and the resulting risk factors thereof.  Overweight and obese children or teens are more likely than to develop high blood pressure, type two diabetes, sleep apnoea and joint problems than their peers of a healthy weight. This means chronic management of disease from a young age. Each of these conditions has further complications associated with them such as the risk for stroke, heart attacks, kidney failure and blindness. The longer you live with a chronic disease, the more likely you are to suffer its complications, resulting in a severely reduced quality of life.

There is a strong likelihood that obesity will follow a child into adulthood so while these disease conditions may not manifest during childhood, the same risk remains for the obese adult. A child’s health therefore is directly related to adulthood health and risk for the development of chronic diseases such as diabetes. November is diabetes month and there is no better time than now to address the issue of obesity many young children are facing.

While diabetes is a chronic disease, the good news is that childhood obesity is something we can prevent and treat. Research as revealed the first 1000 days of life to be the most important for establishing healthy eating behaviour and achieving optimal nutrition intake as a result. It is therefore never too early to start with healthy eating practices. That said, it is also never too late to make a change. The most important key to managing childhood obesity is family involvement.

5 ways to prevent or manage diabetes when planning family meals:

  1. Prepare vegetables every day
  2. Include legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, split lentils, dry beans often
  3. Choose high fibre starches rather than those refined of their fibre
  4. Avoid frying and the use of large quantities of oil or other fat sources
  5. Limit sugar containing beverages

Find healthy family recipes at


Baby Led Weaning

Baby Led Weaning

With Baby Led Weaning (BLW) increasing in popularity as a method of complementary feeding, a nutrition review is essential. Infant feeding has been linked to the risk for childhood obesity which has in turn been linked to the development of chronic diseases in adulthood. This makes infant feeding a window for success when it comes to long term health.

While traditional complementary feeding (introduction to solids) is simply described as the feeding of pureed food with a spoon, BLW is an entirely different approach, seeing infants self-feeding from age 6 months. As BLW gains momentum as a more convenient option that enhances the development of fine motor skills, it is easy to see the attraction. Nutritionally speaking however, there are some differences between the two methods and with nutrition during the first 1000 days of life greatly impacting a child’s health later in life, BLW is definitely worth a nutritional investigation.

There are very few studies on BLW available and as a result, BLW is not recommended as the gold standard by the World Health Organisation, nor by any government nutrition departments around the world. A small study (51 infants) comparing BLW with the traditional spoon feeding (TSF) method was however recently published in the British Medical Journal and confirms an obvious concern with pure BLW, namely the deficiency in iron.

Iron is a vital nutrient for optimal brain development and cognitive function during infancy and as a result an iron deficiency can negatively impact on learning ability at school and ultimately adulthood potential. Infants are vulnerable to developing an iron deficiency or iron deficiency anaemia as they transition from an all milk diet to family foods. Rapid growth and development during infancy and toddler years results in a high iron requirement for this age group. In spite of this requirement, 2014 saw a global estimate of 25 % of preschool children presenting with iron deficiency anaemia.

While the study found the BWL group and the TSF group to be consuming the same amount of energy (kilojoules / calories), the following interesting differences were found:

  • The BLW group of infants were breastfed for a longer duration than the TSF group of infants
  • On average the BLW infants were introduced to solids 3 weeks later than the TSF group of infants
  • There was no difference in the number of infants offered sweet foods (46%) and high sodium foods (73%) between the groups
  • There was no difference in the amount of fruits and vegetables consumed
  • There was no difference in the amount of commercially prepared food consumed
  • If introduced to iron-fortified cereal, BLW were introduce on average 5 weeks later than TSP infants
  • BLW had a 1 in 5 chance of being introduced to iron-fortified cereals
  • There was no difference in the age of infants introduced to red meat or the number infants not yet introduced to red meat
  • More BLW infants were breastfeeding, with no use of formula milk, at the time of the study while more TSF infants were found to be having both breast milk and formula milk
  • Foods with the potential to cause choking were found in both groups but were significantly different. Choking hazards in the BLW group presented as raw apples, dried fruit and raw vegetables while the TSF group of infants consumed rusks, small pieces of meat, corn kernels and crackers as potential choking hazards.
  • The BLW group consumed more saturated fat and total fat than the TSF group
  • The BLW group consumed less iron, zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin C and calcium than the TSF group

These findings are very interesting and motivate for a careful combination of the two methods. BLW appears to promote healthy eating behaviours such as eating more family meals with prolonged breastfeeding while TSF enhances nutrient intake, with a particular emphasis on iron, essential during this window of complementary feeding. The best source of iron when it comes to first foods is iron-fortified infant cereal, with an early introduction of pureed meat. Neither of these are the finger foods encouraged for pure BLW.

This transition, from 6 months to 2 years is a critical window period for establishing acceptance of healthy family foods and healthy eating behaviour. While this time includes exploration, feeding behaviour and motor skill development, nutritional intake, especially iron, must not be overlooked.

Read more:

Serving Potential on a Plate is an Ebook available here on sale for R90.00.


CMAJ January 7, 2003 vol. 168 no. 1 :  The role of nutrition in the prevention of iron deficiency anemia in infants, children and adolescents, Stanley Zlotkin

J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2014 Jan;58(1):119-29. Iron requirements of infants and toddlers, Domellöf M1, Braegger C, Campoy C, Colomb V, Decsi T, Fewtrell M, Hojsak I, Mihatsch W, Molgaard C, Shamir R, Turck D, van Goudoever J; ESPGHAN Committee on Nutrition.

British Medical Journal: How different are baby-led weaning and conventional complementary feeding? A cross-sectional study of infants aged 6–8 months Brittany J Morison,1 Rachael W Taylor,2 Jillian J Haszard,1 Claire J Schramm, Liz Williams Erickson, Louise J Fangupo, Elizabeth A Fleming, Ashley Luciano, Anne-Louise M Heath1

How to add legumes to your menu

pulsesChronic diseases are both preventable and manageable with good nutrition. While ensuring that 80 – 90 % of food we eat supplies the nutrients required for optimal health can be a challenge for some, planning ahead and adding nutritious ingredients to family favourites makes it easier.

In celebration of the National Nutrition Week theme, “Love Beans… eat dried beans, peas and lentils!”, dietitians from around the country took part in a twitter chat yesterday to share recipes and tips for including these nutrient gems, praised for their low fat protein, fibre and low sodium content.  Here is a summary …

Cooking pulses

  1. Cooking dried legumes is the most cost effective way to include them in your diet. The important key is to soak them overnight and rinse them well before boiling in clean water.
  2. Leaving the lid on the pot yields softer, creamier beans while cooking pulses without a lid will yield a firmer end result.
  3. Use firmer beans for salads and softer beans for pastes, dips and sauces
  4. As dried varieties take time to cook it is advisable to cook up a whole bag at one time. Once cooked, they freeze well. As many recipes using lentils or beans call for a can or two, place a freezer bag in an empty can, fill with the cooked lentils or beans, remove and seal for freezing. This will give you perfect cooking portions for future use.
  5. When using canned varieties for convenience, be sure to rinse them well as this removes some of the difficult to digest carbohydrates.

Using pulses

Legumes are versatile ingredients which can be used as meat substitutes, meat dish extenders, sauces, in salads or soups or as thickening agents.

Getting kids to eat pulses

The key here is to introduce them as young as possible, starting with split varieties and pureed lentils. It is important to continue encouraging kids to eat pulses as they are well known for their role is disease prevention. This tips may help:

  • Serve vegetable sticks with hummus as a snack
  • Mix hummus with cottage cheese, avocado or plain yoghurt if need be
  • Roast chickpeas for a crunchy snack alternative to crisps
  • Let the kids open the cans and rinse the beans
  • Add lentils or dried beans to familiar dishes such as meat balls, mince and pastas
  • When baking, substitute half the flour for white beans
  • Be a good example, eat your beans

Reducing bloating experienced with pulses

Some people complain of bloating after eating dried legumes. These tips may help:

  • Introduce dried beans or peas slowly, starting with small portions as additions to soups, stews and salads
  • Use blended versions such as hummus, butter bean dip or lentil puree
  • Add split varieties to dishes that require thickening (the hard outer husk is absent)
  • Soak lentils overnight, rinse well and cook in clean water

I hope you are inspired!

“Love beans – eat dry beans, peas and lentils!”

love beans

In light of the United Nations declaring 2016 the International Year of Pulses, this years National Nutrition Week theme is …

“Love your beans – eat dry beans, peas and lentils!”

These foods are known as pulses form part of the legume family which includes alfalfa, clover, lupin, green beans, peas, peanuts, soya beans, dry beans, broad beans, chickpeas and lentils. Dried beans, lentils and peas are among the most commonly known and consumed types of pulses.

While pulses have had a place in the human diet for many a centuries, the nutritional value that they offer is large;y overlooked.  Most people can identify them as an economical source of protein but beyond that they are either included as a necessity or simply excluded as gassy foods that take a long time to cook.

Out if interest and the reason for putting the spotlight on pulses this year, pulses are a sustainable food source that can improve food security the world over. According to the UN:

  • Pulses contribute to food security at all levels. They can be stored for long periods without losing their nutritional value and the proportion food waste at the consumption stage due to spoilage is very low.
  • Pulses have a high nutritional value. They are a critical source of plant-based proteins, fibre, folic acid, slowly digested starch and other essential nutrients.
  • Eating pulses regularly has important health benefits. Their consumption is recommended for preventing and managing non-communicable diseases and obesity.
  • Pulses foster sustainable agriculture and contribute to climate change mitigation. Their nitrogen-fixing qualities can improve soil fertility, produce a smaller carbon footprint, and they are a water-efficient source of protein.

Cooking dried pulse does require soaking them overnight in water before boiling them. Cooking large quantities and freezing them in meal sized portions can reduce this added preparation time. Alternatively, canned varieties offer convenience. Split red lentil and split peas are quicker cooking and can simply be added to mince, soups, stews and soups. They dissolve to thicken sauces. The fibre gained by the simple addition of pulses is well worth the effort to include them.

If you find that dried beans, lentils or chickpeas cause bloating, increase them more slowly into the diet. For instance, start with one meal a week. Most people should manage to eat at least 1/4 cup without digestive discomfort. This portion could be added to salads, stews, curries, rice. Even a small portion would be worthwhile.

10 ways to love beans, peas and lentils:

  1. Add lentils and mustard seeds to rice
  2. Add chickpeas to roasted vegetables
  3. Extend mince meat with lentils
  4. Add a mixture of beans to a vegetable soup
  5. Swap sandwich spreads for hummus
  6. Fill gems with lentils
  7. Add hummus to tomatoes for pasta sauces
  8. Mash baby potatoes with butter beans
  9. Add frozen lentils to a chocolate smoothie
  10. Roast chickpeas for a  healthy snack

Recipes using pulses:

Other resources:


Love beans