Thursday, March 26, 2015


Fruits and vegetables not only add colour to your meals but will also help you to consume the necessary vitamins, minerals and fiber needed to keep you healthy. With our busy lifestyles we often forget to include this very important food items into our shopping trolley

Follow these easy tips to make sure you are eating your five a day.....

     Add small amounts of fresh fruit to oats, high-fiber cereal or even in your low fat plain yoghurt
     Make sure your omelette contains colourful vegetables such as mushrooms, peppers and tomatoes
     Add spinach, beetroot or zucchini to low GI bran muffins, baby quiches or frittatas

Lunch and Dinner:
     Aim to fill half your plate with vegetables or salads to ensure that you decrease your calories while still filling you up
     Fill a wrap or small pita with carrots, peppers, brinjals, cucumber and tomatoes before adding your protein and a small amount of hummus/pesto
     Prepare a salad in a glass for a picnic  or party by packing it in colourful layers

     Think salads are a bit of a snooze? Then wake them up by tossing in almonds, walnuts, pine nuts, apples, pears, oranges or even some dried cranberries into your salads.
     Add some crunch to your sandwiches with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber or grated carrots.
     Cook vegetables into your meals e.g. adding carrots to mince dishes or adding peas to cottage pie.


Instead of hitting the vending machine add vegetables and fruit to your snacks!!

     Choose a piece of fruit or a handful of dried fruit as a snack.
     Prepare a smoothie : blend one to two fruits and a low fat liquid (low fat milk, water, fat free yoghurt) together and add cinnamon for taste
     Pack vegetables sticks (e.g. celery, snap peas, baby carrots, baby corn, cucumber, baby tomato, etc.) into small containers for the week and enjoy it with hummus, fat-free cottage cheese, guacamole or salsa.

     For an easy dessert try tinned fruit in fruit juice (with no sugar added) with low fat custard
     Serve a cup of yoghurt with fresh berries or sliced fruit.

     Prepare a fruit lolly for you and your kids by blending together  fruit  and  liquid (water, fat-free milk, ice, fruit juice or low fat yoghurt) and popping it into the freezer

     Add sweetness to your fruit by dipping strawberries  in dark chocolate

     Combine seasonal fruit together in a bowl and enjoy your fruit salad.

The Dietitian's Life xxx (Suzelle Viljoen) 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The low down on Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a substance  found in the fats (lipids) in your blood. The body needs some cholesterol in order to function properly. The body, however, requires only a limited amount of cholesterol to meet its needs. When too much is present health problems such as heart disease may develop. 
Cholesterol is carried through the blood, attached to proteins. Cholesterol cannot dissolve in the blood but
 has to be transported to and from the cells by carriers called lipoproteins.   You may have heard of different types of cholesterol, based on what type of cholesterol the lipoprotein carries. 
The two main types of lipoproteins are:
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) carries cholesterol from the liver to the cells of the body. Together with other substances, it can form plaque, a thick, hard deposit that can narrow the arteries and make them less flexible. This condition is known as atherosclerosis and is the reason why LDL has been dubbed the "bad" cholesterol. The target values for LDL cholsterol: <3.0mmol/l; 70-130 mg/dl.
High-density lipoprotein (HDL), on the other hand, helps lower your risk of heart disease, so it’s known as the “good” cholesterol. HDL scours the cholesterol from blood vessel walls and carries it back to the liver. The liver then either uses the excess cholesterol to make bile acids, which are essential to digestion, or eliminates it from the body. The target values for HDL cholesterol: >1.2 mmol/l; more than 40-60 mg/dl.
The target values for total cholesterol: <5.0 mmol/l; Total cholesterol: less than 200 mg/dl. A low level of HDL cholesterol and a high level of LDL cholesterol in the blood will place you at risk of heart disease. A blood test known as a lipoprotein profile can measure your LDL, HDL and tryglycerides.
The great news is that factors within your control, such as how active you are and what you eat, contribute to low LDL cholesterol and high HDL cholesterol.

Risk factors for heart disease and most likely high cholesterol include:
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Lack of exercise
  • Poor diet
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Family history of heart disease (genetic factors)
How can cholesterol levels be lowered? 
The main goal in lowering cholesterol is to lower LDL and raise your HDL. There are two key ways to lower cholesterol: consume a heart-healthy diet and take cholesterol-lowering medication. The first step should always be dietary intervention.
Use the following tips to help lower your cholesterol levels...
1. Eat more unsaturated fats (such as olive and canola oils) and fewer saturated and trans fats (such as butter, margarine, and shortening found in many processed and commercial baked goods).
It was once thought that eating too many cholesterol-containing foods (such as eggs) was the major dietary cause of high blood cholesterol level. But we now know that eating large amounts of foods containing saturated fats is a bigger problem and has a much greater influence on blood cholesterol levels.
Make sure you know what foods contain hidden fats for example muffins, croissants, rusks, biscuits, crisps, chocolates, health bars, instant soups, creamed soups, salad dressings, mayonnaise, pies, gravy, coffee creamers, nougat, ice cream, milkshakes, biltong, croutons, quiches, sausage, popcorn, nuts, etc.
2. Eat more colourful, nutrient-loaded fruits and vegetables. The main characteristic of any heart friendly diet is an abundance of plant food (fruits, vegetables, whole-grain cereals and legumes).

Legumes include dry, cooked or canned beans, lentils, peas and all the soya products (cooked or canned soya beans, soya mince, cubes, milk, tofu and tempeh). Legumes have a high fibre content, are naturally low in fat and they don’t contain any cholesterol

3. Eat more fibre-filled whole grains, and fewer refined carbohydrates (white starches). Insoluble fibre is found in the skin, peels, and husks of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It passes through your digestive tract without breaking down and helps prevent constipation and other digestive disorders. Eating more fibre aids to fill you up without filling you out!

Soluble fibre is chiefly in oats, legumes (beans and peas) and fruit flesh.  Soluble fibre decreases the level of LDL cholesterol in the blood, reducing the risk of heart disease.
Add oatbran to your breakfast or when baking and have a bowl of oats (not instant) every day to keep your cholesterol in check.
Increase the amount of fibre in your diet by making at least half of your servings of grain products, each day, whole grains such as whole grain breads, high fibre cereals, brown rice and whole wheat pasta.
4. Reduce the amount of red meat you consume and rather substitute it with fish or poultry. Researchers have discovered that people who eat fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids three or more times a week are less likely to suffer from heart disease and high blood pressure. Replace some of the meat in your meals with legumes or soy protein meat substitutes. They are low in saturated fat and legumes are high in fibre.
5. Plant Sterols have been shown to decrease LDL cholesterol levels as they compete with cholesterol for absorption in the gut. Plant sterols naturally occur in seeds, nuts, legumes and some breads and cereals. It is important to consume the recommended quantities of these products to achieve a decrease in cholesterol, so always remember to check the food labels. A popular product in South Africa includes Flora pro-activ.

6. Choose fat free or low-fat dairy products such as fat free cottage cheese or mozzarella instead of cheddar or Gouda  Replace the full cream milk in your diet with low fat or fat free milk.

7. Keeping active is also an important part of keeping cholesterol levels healthy. Try to be physically active  for 30-60 minutes each day.

8. Use care when cooking- For lower-fat cooking methods choose grilling, baking or boiling, steaming or poaching instead of frying. Also trim any visible fat before cooking and drain fat from the pan after cooking.

9. When eating out, ask questions about how the food is prepared before ordering.

10. Limit your intake of high fat take out and restaurant foods. Prepare healthy meals at home.

11. Read labels while shopping. Look at the fat content. Choose mostly products with less than 3 g fat per 100g. 

The Dietitan's Life Xx

Sunday, May 12, 2013

How much salt are you eating??

Too Salty ???

Eating too much salt increases the risk of developing high blood pressure (hypertension)....this is also a major risk factor for heart disease, kidney disease and stroke. By reducing the salt intake it is possible to reduce one's blood pressure and the health problems caused.

Salt is a dietary mineral primarily composed of 40 percent sodium and 60 percent chloride. As a universal food seasoning and an excellent food preservative, salt is found in almost all foods. 

Try to take less than 2,4 milligrams of sodium a day which is the same as 6 grams of salt per day (approx 1 teaspoon). This includes ALL sodium and salt intake.

Typically high Sodium Foods include:
  • Convenience and canned foods. For example: frozen dinners, pizza, packet and tinned soups plus canned vegetables
  • Processed meats such as viennas, russians, polony, ham, bacon or tinned, smoked meats and fish
  • Take-aways
  • Cheese and cheese spreads
  • Snack foods including crackers, chips and dips, salty biscuits, pretzels, biltong, nuts as well as commercially prepared popcorn
  • Condiments such as stock cubes and powder, pickles, olives, chicken spice, barbeque spice, celery salt, garlic salt, onion salt, lemon salt, Aromat, Marmite or Bovril
  • Sauces – Worchester, barbecue, tomato, teriyaki and soy sauces, mayonnaise, salad dressings and salsa
  • Bakery items including breads, biscuits and pastries

Tips to help reduce your salt intake...
Surrender the salt shaker- Refrain from having the salt shaker at the table where it is easily accessible. Taste your food before automatically adding salt. Pay attention to the amount of salt added whilst cooking food since it often is unnecessary.  

Experiment with herbs and spices- these add great flavour and can replace salt to a large extent. 
  • Herbs and Spices add flavour and zest to meals
  • Basil leaves, garlic, onions, citrus juices and vinegar can be mixed and matched to satisfy your taste buds. 
  • Make use of fresh and dried herbs. Good examples to use are: coriander, rosemary, parsley and thyme.
  • Black pepper, paprika, ginger, curry, cinnamon and mustard powder are great alternatives too. 

Read food labels - Compare different varieties of your favourite foods and choose those with the lowest amounts of sodium. Select unsalted nuts or seeds, dried beans, peas and lentils. 

Make homemade meals more often - Foods served at traditional and fast food restaurants are mostly high in sodium. Preferably enjoy home-cooked, where you can control the amount of salt added to food. 
  • Avoid adding salt and canned vegetables to homemade meals.
  • Make your own sauces, stocks and gravies. 

Remove the salt - Try to remove the sodium from canned foods, such as tuna, tinned fish and beans, by rinsing.  
It is preferable to use fresh veggies! 
Another tip is to select fat-free or low-fat milk, low-sodium and low-fat cheeses and low-fat yogurt.
Snack wise - Limit salty snacks. Select unsalted nuts and popcorn instead.
The Dietitian's Life Xx

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Fight Away the Cold and Flu

Sniffles, sneezes and coughs…these are the familiar sounds of cold and flu season.

In addition to washing your hands often, staying active and getting plenty of sleep, following a healthy diet can help to boost your body’s ability to fight off any bugs that come your way. To keep your immune system strong this season, ensure to stock up on foods that act as a defence mechanism.

A strong immune system doesn't guarantee that your body can fight off every flu bug, but it is a powerful defence mechanism.
Use the following tips to stay healthy this winter....
·         Protein is an essential part of your body’s defence system and is therefore important to include in your daily diet. Good sources of protein include seafood, chicken, beef, eggs, beans, peanut butter, soy products and unsalted nuts and seeds. For the winter months stock up on homemade soups filled with protein.  An excellent example is  tasty chicken and mushroom soup.

·         Garlic may boost your immune system, increasing resistance to infection and stress. Add garlic to your meals this winter for flavour and  to aid to resistance.

·         Vitamin A helps prevent infections by keeping the skin and tissues in the mouth, stomach, lungs and intestines healthy. This nutrient, found in eggs, liver and in bright red, yellow, orange and dark leafy vegetables such as sweet potatoes, carrots, and spinach helps the body regulate the immune system.

·         Vitamin C triggers the production of immune-boosting antibodies and boosts your immunity. Oranges, grapefruit, guava, broccoli, peppers, strawberries, kiwi fruit and tomatoes are among the foods rich in vitamin C. Include more of this healthy vitamin in your diet. Enjoy citrus fruit with your breakfast or as a snack.

·         Vitamin E works as an antioxidant, neutralizes free radicals and may improve the immune function. Include sunflower seeds, almonds, peanut butter or spinach in your diet.

·         Zinc aids in  the immune system functioning to the full and may help wounds to heal too. Zinc can be found in lean meat, poultry, seafood, milk, whole grain products, beans and nuts.

Other tips:
  • Get plenty of rest. 
  • Get at least seven to eight hours sleep per night. 
  • Exercise regularly. 
  • Reduce stress levels. 
  • Keep well hydrated- make sure you drink plenty of liquids even on cold days. Dehydration inhibits the immune system’s functioning. 
  • Cut back on unhealthy habits, such as smoking and over consumption of alcohol

Healthy eating during cold and flu season means getting the daily requirement of essential vitamins and minerals by eating a balanced diet that contains a variety of foods from all food groups.

The Dietitian's Life xx

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Eat Out, Guilt Free!

With the public holidays at hand, eating out is often one of the things on the to-do list. Eating out is synonymous with a good meal and the company of your friends, family or loved ones!

... Unfortunately eating out often leads to bad food choices ending up in weight gain!

Whether it is breakfast with the family, pizza with the boys or a romantic night out, one should be equipped with the following tips to make better food choices when eating out:

Before-The-Meal Extras 

  • Avoid ordering before-the meal "extras" like cocktails, appetizers, bread and butter because these are often sources of extra fat, sodium and kilojoules. Eliminate the temptation of picking on the bread, by sending back the breadbasket.

Sauces, Salads and Salad Dressings 

  • Start your meal with a salad packed with greens, to help control hunger but remember to be selective at salad bars. Choose fresh greens, raw vegetables, fresh fruits and reduced-fat, low-fat, light or fat-free dressings. Avoid cheeses, croutons, marinated salads, bacon bits, pasta salads and fruit salads with whipped cream.
  • Ask that sauces and salad dressing be served on the side, so that you can control the quantity you consume. 

Opt for Healthier Choices 

  • Instead of fried fish or chicken, rather opt for baked, boiled or grilled.
  • Inquire about healthy substitutes. For example, if a dish comes with French fries or onion rings, ask whether you can exchange it for a baked potato with vegetables or steamed rice.

Be Beverage Wise
  • Stay away from the high sugary drinks like cocktails and soft drinks, rather opt for water (with mint or lime), light wine or unsweetened ice tea.

Size Does Count
  • Choose a “small" or "medium" portion. This rule relates to  main dishes, side dishes and beverages.
  • Instead of heading for the "all-you-can-eat" buffet, order an item from the menu.
  • Share a main dish with a friend.
  • Take leftovers home in a "doggy bag” or set aside half of it before starting your meal.
  • Resign from the "clean your plate club" - when you've eaten enough, leave the rest!

Remember to enjoy each taste and aroma. Do not rush the meal! 

The Dietitian's Life Xx

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A healthy start to your day...

It is the start to a new week and what better way to begin than with a healthy, balanced breakfast!

A good breakfast can help you... 

  • Lose weight (studies have shown that breakfast eaters weigh less than those who skip breakfast)
  • Increase energy
  • Boost brainpower
  • Improve concentration
  • Raise your metabolism 

...and ensure a healthy start to your day

While your drowsy mind craves comfort, your awakening body needs power!This means that one should eat breakfast within two hours after waking up. 

Follow these tips to help you make the most out of your morning meal and keep you satisfied until snack time:

1. Time issue 
To ensure that you have enough time for breakfast.....

  • Get Organised the Night Before: prepare a breakfast plan as you clean up from supper. Set the table with bowls and spoons for cereal. 
  • Keep Breakfast Simple: on busy days, get the family going with something as quick as a bowl of whole-grain cereal. 

2. Breakfast Options
  • Choose a cereal high in fibre (look for a brand with at least 5 grams of fibre per serving) and add half a cup of skimmed milk or low fat milk for the necessary calcium and protein – try All-bran flakes with fat free milk and sliced banana

  • Weetbix with fat free milk and a sprinkle of raisins

  •  A quick and easy on the go meal - Fruit smoothie made with fresh fruit and fat free milk. Mistakes often made, however, are that smoothies are served in incorrect portion sizes. Choose two tennis ball-sized fruits and do not add any fruit juice to the smoothie, since this is too concentrated. 

  • Cinnamon-oats with fat free milk and fresh strawberries or apples.  Whether you are in a hurry at home or at the office, whether you suffer from high cholesterol levels, constipation, cardiovascular disease or simply feel like having a healthy, yet fulfilling breakfast, a bowl of oats is all you need!

  • One scrambled or poached egg served with one slice of wholegrain toast 

  • Plain fat free yogurt with seasonal fruit salad
  • A low GI muffin topped with fat free cottage cheese

  • Choose low fat, low GI and unroasted muesli  

  • Sugar free peanut butter on toast 

May you have a wonderful week and start each day with a  healthy breakfast option!

The Dietitian's Life Xx

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Ultimate South African Braai

Even though summer is almost coming to an end, there is still no excuse for a braai! In my opinion summer in South Africa is all about the braai...

A weekend is, without a doubt, incomplete if it does not involve laughter, good company and food. Lots and lots of colourful food...

This, however, does not mean that one should pile on the kilograms!

One can still enjoy a braai. A braai with healthier options, that tastes delicious but does very little harm to the waist.
While enjoying a braai one can still lose weight or maintain a healthy lifestyle, while at the same time having more than enough energy to spend time with family and friends. In order to enjoy a healthy braai, I suggest one makes use of the following tips: 

Tip 1: Snack before the braai

Snacks will help to curve ones appetite and ensure that you do not overindulge during a braai. My tip is to eat a snack before attending a braai. This will ensure that one is less likely to make the wrong food choices. I indulge in the following healthy braai snacks when attending or hosting a braai: 
  • Homemade popcorn which is low in fat and lower in sodium than the traditional chips often served at braai's
  • Lean biltong
  • Raw, unsalted nuts
  • Vegetable crudites served with a delicious dip. For example: baby carrots, baby corn, cucumber served with hummus or low fat cottage cheese

Tip 2: Be on time 

Light the fire early! Having to wait ages for the meat to braai often leads to snacking on the wrong, high fat snacks. 

Tip 3: Include a variety of food

This tip applies not only to a braai but to all meals. Half of ones plate should always consist of vegetables or salad, a quarter of the plate may consist of starch and one quarter of meat. 

  • A great idea to ensure that vegetables are part of the braai is to serve vegetable kebabs. Make use of the following vegetables and make your own kebabs: mushrooms, peppers, baby marrows, pumpkin and brinjals. Ready made vegetable kebabs are also available from leading grocery stores. 
  • Roasted vegetables drizzled with olive oil or balsamic vinegar is always a winner. 
  • Add colour to the meal by including carrot salad, sweet potato salad, three bean salad or beetroot salad. 
  • Tired of the usual salad dressing? Lightly drizzle a tossed green salad with lemon juice or balsamic vinegar. 
  • For a healthy potato salad use light mayonnaise or fat free yogurt. 
  • Pre-boil mielies until just tender, then place on the braai to add a braai flavour. 

Tip 5: For the meat lovers

Boerewors and chops are often filled with unwanted fat and cholesterol. 

Rather choose lean meats to enjoy. For example:
  • Fish – a great alternative to the usual chop
  • Fillet
  • Lean beef
  • Ostrich
  • Homemade chicken kebabs. Make use of skinless chicken breasts and season with your choice of herbs. 
Remember to remove the fat before placing the meat on the braai. One should thus cut away all visible fat. When using chicken one should remove the skin.  

Lemon juice, garlic and fresh herbs can go a long way in adding flavour to the meal. Use the above mentioned instead of oily marinades, butter or margarine. Make use of herbs and spices to replace salt (this will assist in managing ones blood pressure).

Tip 6: Healthy starch options

Instead of serving white bread rolls at the braai choose from the following options:
Low GI brown bread, seeded rolls, whole-wheat pita, sweet potato or baby potatoes, barley or couscous. 

Tip 7: Time for Dessert
  • Fruit salad or fruit kebabs will not only add colour to the festivities but will definitely ensure that you don’t feel guilty after a second bowl of dessert.
  • Drizzle the kebabs with chocolate sauce or serve with a mixture of fat free cottage cheese and vanilla essence or fat free vanilla yogurt for added flavour. 

Tip 8: Drinks
  • Alcohol is loaded with kilojoules. One must therefore go easy on the beer, ciders and alcoholic beverages. Remember to alternate every alcoholic drink with a large glass of water.
  • Men should limit the intake of alcohol to 2 units per day and women to 1 (1unit=120ml wine, 340ml beer, 25ml spirits). Always choose light beer, light wine and light ciders.
  • Serve a jug of water with strawberries, sliced lemon or mint. A cold glass of water is always delicious on a hot summers day! 

May you enjoy the warm weather, experiment with healthy braai options and spend your braai's in great company!

The Dietitian’s Life