With school holidays and the festive season just around the corner, fun food and holiday treats are becoming more of a focus. Mince pies have been available for some time now and with Black Friday done and dusted, some of you might already be stocked up on all the treats you associate with Christmas and summer fun. Over indulging during the holidays can be a real set back when it comes to health maintenance. Without the structure that the school day provides and perhaps a reduction in physical activity, overeating is easy.
While we associate Christmas and school holiday outings with treats it is more important to associate the summer season with the lovely fresh produce that is in season. With a far greater variety of fruit available, we are spoiled for choice in meeting our fruit intake for the day.
It is very important to keep up a daily intake of 5 fruits and vegetables during the holiday season. The nutrients fruits and vegetables supply together with fibre and water must not be overlooked because we cannot take a break from good nutrition. It is not enough to meet energy requirements alone. Energy must be accompanied by nutrients. A daily intake of fruit and vegetables goes a long way in contributing towards daily nutrient intake. While micronutrients, vitamins, minerals and trace elements, are only required in small quantities by comparison to protein, carbohydrate and fat, this makes them no less important.
Fibre is essential for digestive health, appetite control and immune support. Holidays bakes, chocolates and crisps are very low in fibre and therefore should not replace healthy meals and snacks.
Fruits and vegetables are rich in potassium which supports muscle health. Remembering that the heart is a muscle and that muscle mass, potassium plays a vital role health. The role of potassium in the contraction of the smooth muscle also makes it an important nutrient in normal digestive functioning.
Fruits such as bananas, citrus fruits, guavas, grapes, peaches, mango and watermelon are good sources of potassium while vegetables rich in potassium include butternut, gem squash, mushrooms, baby spinach, beetroot, cauliflower and green beans.
Also known as Vitamin B9, folate is essential to the manufacturing process of new blood cells and our DNA. Folate’s important role in preventing changes in the DNA is a cancer protecting function. Folate is especially important during pregnancy and other periods of rapid growth such as adolescence.
This important nutrient is available in dark green leafy vegetables in addition to legumes which are also an excellent inclusion for a healthy diet. Oranges, berries, pineapple, beetroot, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, corn and parsley also offer folate in high quantities.
Vitamin C is often valued for its immune boosting properties when the cold and flu season arrives. The truth is that a regular and consistent intake of vitamin C is more protective than taking mega doses when you are already sick. Vitamin C has a major role to play in the synthesis and maintenance of blood vessels, cartilage and scar tissue, all important structural features in the body.
Vitamin C improves the absorption of iron, especially from plant sources. Iron deficiency anaemia has a negative impact on brain development in young school going children.
Oranges, while a good and economical source of vitamin C in winter, are not the only source of vitamin C. Other sources include bell peppers, guavas, kiwis, strawberries, tomatoes, broccoli and kale.
Orange fruits and vegetables, such as mangoes, paw paw, butternut, pumpkin and carrots are rich in vitamin A which is essential for eye health and the maintenance of good eye sight. Successful learning and the reduction of classroom fatigue requires good eyesight.
Green leafy vegetables are excellent sources of vitamin K which has a significant role to play in healthy blood clotting for wound healing and tissue repair.
Eat the rainbow
The variety in the natural colours of fruits and vegetables is incredible! This makes them an attractive addition to any festive table. Making all meals colourful is the key to achieving an adequate vegetable and fruit intake!
Tips to include vegetables and fruit during the holidays
- Swap crisps or biscuits for chopped vegetables or fruit
- Carry fruit on outings and road trips
- Eat fruit with breakfast
- Eat fruit instead of dessert (think stewed apples and yoghurt)
- Serve vegetables and hummus as snacks
- Braai vegetable kebabs
- Add salads to any meal, even a sandwich
- Include vegetables in fruit smoothies
- Grate carrots into oats with cinnamon
- Fruit kebabs for breakfast, snacks or dessert
- Chocolate dipped fruit for dessert
- Fruit smoothies for breakfast
- Frozen smoothie pops for snacks
- Fruit salad and plain yoghurt
- Frozen dates for a sweet caramel-like treat
- Christmas Muesli (dried fruit, nuts and toasted rolled oats)
- Fruit juice ice cubes to give water a hint of flavour
When it comes to fruit juice however, a glass is typically more than a single fruit portion and lacks the all-important fibre that whole fruit offers. The occasional fruit juice drink is best diluted with up 40 – 50 % water. Fruit juice is however a better choice than the fizzy sugar beverages.
Holiday eating can be less detrimental if we keep up with a daily intake of vegetables and fruits for optimal nutrient intake.
Have a great festive season!