By Mbali Tlhapi

Humans are social in nature and one thing that always brings us together is food. We celebrate and mourn with food. We have conferences or meetings, and meet up with friends with food. 

Our human drive to gather together around food is really not the problem. No matter what is available, what’s on offer and even what might be pressed upon us, we still remain absolutely in charge of everything that we choose to eat or drink over the upcoming festive season. What’s critically important is how you think and how you decide to act in the moment. 

For some, the legendary lavishness of the holidays is an excuse to let go despite the stated aspirations to achieve that bikini body this summer. It’s easy to take an “it’s the festive season, everyone is doing it” approach, and lose your balance and your focus on your personal goals.

The next few weeks will be about family and friends, year-end functions and vacations. We have to consider the types and quantities of the snacks you consume. 

Although selecting healthier snacks, enjoy small portions and don’t refill the bowl. Healthy snacks you can also offer your guests a fruit and vegetable platter consisting of cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, pineapple and red apple to be served with a low fat dip. This not only looks colourful and appetising but is packed with fibre, anti-oxidants and vitamins and minerals. 

Around this time of year, a lot of the foods that are offered at social occasions are higher in fat and sugar, as everyone is having an extra little Christmas treat. If you can’t resist the mince pies, Christmas biscuits, chocolates, sweets and Christmas trifle being offered to you, then at least watch your portions sizes. Eat smaller portions than what you usually would, and then savour every mouthful. 

We should eat slowly which helps significantly in ensuring maximum satisfaction from the food eaten as it takes 20 minutes for your brain to sense the feeling of satisfaction. Be aware when large portions are served – there is no need to finish everything on your plate. Accept that the quantity and variety of foods served will be more then you can consume – try to be selective on what you choose to eat. Enjoy two course meals instead of three course meals.  Leave the excess food on your plate or ask for a container or takeaway if you wish to consume the dish for another time. 

The thing is, your stomach is basically close to the size of a fist and it just expands as you put food into it. If you consume small amounts, you’ll feel lighter. You can spread those meals over a longer period. I prefer eating like that as opposed to eating one big meal and making it so heavy. It’s just going to drag you around all the time.

One of the things about protein which a lot of people don’t realise is that the body is only capable of processing and absorbing a certain amount. That’s generally between 20-30g per serving, net protein we’re obviously talking about. If you over-consume protein, your body is just going to go and process what it can; the rest will eventually be converted into glucose. If your glycogen stores are topped up, it’s just going to be stored as fat. People think that eating meat doesn’t cause weight gain. But it causes and excessive amount of weight gain.

If you really want to monitor your food intake and see how you’re doing, why don’t you actually record a food journal? To me that’s amazing. Recording a food journal is the best way that you can get an accurate measure of what you’ve been consuming. A lot of people think that they’re eating healthily until they actually write down what they’ve been eating in a day, two or three days and over a weekly period. After an entire week when you go and review what you have eaten, that you think has been healthy. You’ll actually see that probably it could be landing up to be 60-70% of un-healthiness.

It’s not the holiday season that is the pitfall but rather our mindless reactions. Step away from the snack table. When you eat; choose well, chew slowly and be aware of what you are eating. Bring your favourite healthy dish to the family braai. Don’t hesitate to eat well and share that. Keep your eye on portion size and trade the treats you don’t want to miss out on with increased exercise and a more balanced meal before or after.


There are many wonderful recipes you can find on www.nutritionconfidence.wordpress.com, a blog site of registered dietitians. Below is a recipe that uses sugar alternatives and no flour (for those with gluten intolerance). Hope you enjoy


200 g raw cocoa paste (solid)

375 g ground almonds

6 whole free-range eggs

250 g xylitol

300 g cocoa butter

50 g desiccated coconut

3 tablespoons cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking powder

How to make it

Preheat the oven to 160 C. Grind together the cocoa paste, ground almonds, coconut, cocoa powder and baking powder. Whisk together the eggs and xylitol until light and fluffy and the xylitol is dissolved. Melt the cocoa butter. In a large bowl, fold together the ground cocoa mixture and the egg mixture until combined. Fold in the warm cocoa butter into the mixture until all combined. Pour the batter into a greased baking dish and bake for 30-40min until set. Leave to cool a pond then slice into squares 

The nutritional value (serves 48): Energy: 572 kJ Protein: 2 g Carbohydrate: 6 g Total fat: 12 g Fibre: 1.7 g Sodium: 13.5 mg

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