Christian Matuz is a food technologist who has dedicated his life and career to educating people about nutrition and healthy eating. He owns iHealth Meals, a Cape-based company that tailor-makes meal plans to suit individual needs such as building muscle mass, maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight in a nutritionally sound way.
Matuz says the cold days of winter often tempt people to eat foods that are inherently unhealthy; foods crammed with ingredients that increase the risk of lifestyle-related illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.
Some of the worst culprits:
In winter people tend to choose heartier meals, and red meat is a favourite. To many people, red meat is their main source of protein and fat, but a diet heavy in red meat increases the risk of cancer, heart disease and ulcers, among others. Eat red meat in moderation. Substitute protein sources include chicken, fish, legumes, seeds, nuts and dairy.
Warm soups and chowders are definitely rib-sticking comfort food in winter, but if they are loaded with cream they are also loaded with calories. Shop-bought soups also tend to be high in salt and artificial flavourants and colourants. Choose soups that are broth-based like vegetable or minestrone, and pair them with a salad or a whole-wheat roll.
Cream- and cheese-based casseroles and stews or those topped with bacon or fried onions:
Creamed and au gratin dishes may start out with healthy foods such as broccoli, beans or potatoes, but when you add cream or butter and top these dishes with cheese, bacon, fried onions or breadcrumbs, you increase the calories and fat content immensely. That negates most of the value of the “good” foods that were originally the basis of the dish.
There’s nothing more delicious on a cold winter’s night than a pudding served straight from the oven, but desserts can have a lasting impact on your weight because they’re high in calories and fats. A portion of pudding can destroy a week’s worth of exercise in five minutes flat.
Macaroni and cheese:
This baked pasta will for many people evoke memories of childhood, with “mac and cheese” being the ultimate maternal comfort food. It’s also relatively inexpensive to make, so it’s still a month-end favourite in many households. The cheese-sauce base is traditionally a roux, though, which has as essential ingredients flour and butter. Add handfuls of cheese and the calorie count and fat content go through the roof – especially using full-fat cheese.
It may be cold, but many people are loathe to give up their carbonated drinks; either consumed as is, or used as mixers. They are bad for you because they are acidic and loaded with sugar or chemical artificial sweeteners, neither of which are healthy. Water is a much better bet – about eight glasses a day.
Everyone’s favourite casual eat-out comfort food is a calorie, salt and fat bomb, especially if it’s heavy on melted cheese and processed meats, such as salami.
Biscuits and rusks:
Enjoying one biscuit or rusk, that dunking delight we grew up with, is not a problem. The problem is that one tastes like another, and another, and another. Few people can stop at one, so best avoid them altogether because they’re calorie-loaded, with a high sugar and fat content.
Fried meal accompaniments such as hot chips or onion rings:
Hamburgers top most countries’ lists of favourite fast food. Hamburgers by themselves are already high in empty calories and bad fats, but how many people can truthfully say they never order chips when they’re buying burgers? Burgers and chips are as much a match in most people’s minds as cheese and tomato or tuna and mayo when they’re ordering toasted sandwiches. An average portion of hot chips is about 500 calories – a quarter of an adult’s recommended daily calorie intake. Add a burger and the calorie count for that single meal tops 1 000, with anywhere from 25g to 50g of fat.
Pastry and potato-topped pies:
The aroma that wafts from an oven when a home-made chicken pie or cottage pie is baking can bend the will of the most determined healthy eater. Pastry is high in calories and usually prepared with butter, which means it’s also high in saturated fat. Mashed potato that tops a cottage pie is also a no-no, because it is usually prepared with butter or cream.
Foods you should eat in winter (and why you should eat them!)
Winter means cold temperatures, less outdoor exercise, less sunlight and the urge to eat warm foods loaded with carbs and fats. It also heralds the annual wave of colds and flu, which means many portions of immune-boosting food should be on the menu in winter. Essential vitamins and minerals for this time of year include:
We mostly get Vitamin D from sunlight, which is in shorter supply when the sun rises so much later and sets before most people leave work. Few foods contain Vitamin D, so it’s important to include oily fish in your diet (sardines, mackerel). Smaller amounts of vitamin D are found in beef liver, cheese and egg yolks, as well as some varieties of mushroom.
This is essential for a strong immune system. Most people know that oranges are high in Vitamin C, but so are many other fruits including grapefruit, strawberries, kiwi fruit and pineapple. As for veggies, stock up on peppers, broccoli, sweet potato and Brussels sprouts.
This vitamin is high in antioxidants. Vitamin A also helps eyes adapt to different levels of light, and with unpredictable winter-driving weather, top-notch vision is a must. Foods high in Vitamin A include dairy products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt, oily fish including sardines and meat such as beef and chicken. In vegetables, Vitamin A can be found in carrots, pumpkin and sweet potato.
This mineral is often described as the closest people can get to a “magic” nutrient during cold and flu season. Not only does zinc boost the immune system, but it also shortens the duration of a cold when someone already has the bug. Foods high in zinc include beef (and beef liver), turkey, chickpeas, peas, cashew nuts and pecan nuts.
While technically classified as vitamin B, biotin helps keep your hair, skin and nails in tip-top condition through winter. Dry skin and hair are common complaints in the cold months, so eating enough biotin helps to rebuild from under the skin. Foods high in biotin include Swiss chard, carrots and berries. - The Mercury