What can we say about load shedding that South Africans haven't already heard or lived through?
But at the end of the day it’s one of the strange but widely accepted phenomena that serves up a wide range of inconveniences and frustrations, but it may very well have far more serious implications when it comes to our eating habits.
There are worries that frequent power outages are increasing fast food consumption as South Africans have less uninterrupted opportunity to make healthy meals at home.
It has also led to an increase in food wastage because of rotting.
Registered Dietitian, Zitandile Mfono, who is also a spokesperson for ADSA (Association for Dietetics in South Africa), says, “It’s a pity that the positive home cooking trend we saw during Covid lockdowns is now being reversed due to the frequency of load shedding during meal preparation times.”
She goes on to say that it’s already a challenge for working parents to put healthy, home-cooked meals on the table due to their busy lives, and now they must contend with power outages just as they get home from work and start to focus on making dinner.
It’s not surprising that people are opting for more convenience foods in these difficult circumstances.
However, this means an increase in high fat, high salt and high sugar foods in the family diet.
“With the country’s high rates of obesity and Type 2 diabetes, these are the kind of dietary changes our nation cannot afford. In addition, at a household-level, increased consumption of takeaway foods leads to higher monthly food costs.”
Being among the most obese people in the world, with approximately 80% of South African women and 31% of South African men overweight or obese, this new reality that we as South Africans must face is alarmingly complicated.
The South African healthcare system is significantly burdened by chronic diseases.
And NCDs drastically lower quality of life and are responsible for 90% of all deaths. Obesity is a significant risk factor for many chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, kidney failure, and pulmonary and renal diseases.
According to The World Health Organization, obesity has been demonstrated to shorten quality-adjusted life expectancy and being overweight can make it more difficult to manage chronic diseases
In light of this new reality, Mfono advises that preventing NCDs should be a top focus in order to lessen the effect that they have on our health.
She proposes buying a “wonder cooker,” which employs heat-retention technology to slow-cook food without using electricity or gas, or even building your own.
The wonder cooker, also called a wonderbag, functions similarly to a slow cooker but uses neither gas nor electricity.
That sounds like a dream
Another qualified dietitian and ADSA spokesperson, Chanelle Retief, suggests the following tactics to assist you stay committed to your family's healthy lifestyle despite the challenges of load shedding:
- Plan ahead and in more detail – “The old saying ‘failing to plan, is planning to fail’ is so true when it comes to power outages.”
- Have a food plan ready, along with information on each meal for the upcoming week. Align your plan with the load shedding timetable so that you only buy food that you are certain you will consume and can prepare.
- Make healthier choices if you are ordering in – keep the plate model in mind, 50% of your plate should be veggies, 25% should be healthy carbs and 25% should be lean protein. Try and stay away from anything that is fried or ‘creamy’.
- Never opt for the upsize or “buy one get one free” options.
- Be aware of food waste: Keep in mind that wasted food is a preventable expense. Being conscious of avoiding food waste will help you to use up what you have in your fridge before it spoils. If you don't think you'll be able to finish the food you have in time, donate it instead.
While load shedding is a reality, we may take steps to lessen its negative effects. When we get used to missing meals, it could be time to experiment with new strategies to keep the family's healthy lifestyle. Irrespective of the difficulties of load shedding, said Retief.
“Despite the hardships of load shedding, we must keep our focus on the family making healthy eating choices daily.
This may mean that we need to try out some new recipes and dishes, such as nutrient-dense smoothies, salads that include protein and grain bowls.”
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