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Healthy eating choices to get you through the season.
Red or White Wine?
The Better Choice: Red Wine
For that you can thank the skin of the grape. “That’s where the antioxidant resveratrol is found,” says Ann Yelmokas McDermott, Ph.D., a nutrition researcher at Tufts University, in Boston. Resveratrol, a phytochemical with a structure similar to estrogen’s, has a number of beneficial properties, such as anti-inflammatory, anticoagulant, and cholesterol-improving effects.
But… The grape skins that make red wine healthy are also the source of tannins, which can cause headaches in some people. White wine doesn’t contain tannins, so it’s less likely to trigger headaches.
Mixed Nuts or Olives?
The Better Choice: Olives
Like olive oil, olives are high in monounsaturated fats, which help lower cholesterol. They’re also low in calories. Each olive has only about five calories and less than a gram of fat, while one pecan, for example, has almost 14 calories and nearly two grams of fat. And though you can toss back numerous nuts almost too easily, olives often require a little more work. And when you’re left with a plateful of pits, you’ll know exactly how many you’ve put away.
But… Nuts are also high in monounsaturated fats, and they’re a good source of fibre and arginine, an amino acid that helps keep blood vessels relaxed and open.
Cheese and Crackers or Crudités and Dip?
The Better Choice: Crudités and Dip
A platter of nutrient-rich vegetables wins over a saturated fat–filled cheese board. But even here some offerings are better than others. “Favour colourful vegetables, like red peppers, carrots, and broccoli,” suggests Kristine Clark, a registered dietician and the director of sports nutrition at Penn State University, in State College, Pennsylvania. Filling your plate with such a mix guarantees that you’re eating a wide variety of vitamins and antioxidants.
But… If the dip contains sour cream or mayonnaise, you’ll be scooping up lots of extra calories and saturated fat along with every bite. So don’t double-dip.
Roast Beef or Ham?
The Better Choice: Roast Beef
Roast beef is less processed, contains about half as much saturated fat, and has three times as much iron. It’s also rich in B vitamins. Both meats are great sources of protein, but the ham has almost three times as much sodium.
But… Research has linked red-meat consumption with an increased risk of colon cancer. One study published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that women who ate two or more ounces of red meat a day were 30 to 40 percent more likely to develop colon cancer than those who ate little or none. Whichever option you choose, eat it sparingly.
Champagne or a Cocktail?
The Better Choice: Champagne
Bring on the bubbly. From a purely caloric standpoint, Champagne is the clear winner of this contest. A flute has about 75 calories, while a mixed drink, like a whiskey sour, can have up to 240 calories. Some experts say the bubbles may even help fill you up, so you won’t feel as tempted by the endless cocktail-party treats.
But… You can slim down a cocktail by using a sugar-free mixer or club soda instead of fruit juice, tonic, or a sugary mix. And although a screwdriver or a Cosmo does contain juice, the health benefits are probably not worth the extra calories.
The holiday looms, and so does Christmas. All you want to do is chill out after what’s been a hard year. But that’s not always the easiest thing to do – you know the bit about life being “the thing that happens while you’re making other plans”.
For some, chilling out may mean booking a camping site 20 km from the nearest village a year in advance. Or going into a Trappist monastery until the festive season is over.
But most people will have a more sociable time – either at home, visiting relatives, or at the seaside somewhere. Who knows, you might need to get back to the office in January to get some rest. In order to get the most out of your break, try and avoid the following festive season stressors.
Guests galore. You have a big house, and over Christmas it fills up with aunties, grannies, nieces, uncles – you name it. Instead of looking after four people, you are now looking after twelve. This is no holiday for you, as you are the unofficial entertainment committee, the caterer, the conflict resolution specialist, and the local cleaner. If you live in a popular destination, you might have to put your foot down. Or at least put together a duty roster for the cooking and the cleaning. And, for heaven’s sake, don’t feel you have to be the unofficial tour guide. Take a day or two off and let the guests entertain themselves.
Feeding frenzy. Food, food, food. It’s all over during the Christmas season and it’s lying in wait for you everywhere, and we’re not talking about celery sticks either. It’s chips, cakes, cheese snacks, chocolates, to name but a few. And, after all, you’re on holiday. So why not? That’s fine, but just don’t get into a new habit. Most people end the festive season with quite a few kilos that were not there in November. Don’t become a festive season fatty.
Booze bonanza. From the office party to friends’ homes, to family barbecues – booze is no stranger to the festive season. And often, other people are paying for it. By all means have a beer or two, if you’re not driving, but don’t binge on booze. Drinking too much is something that carries its own punishment with it, a bit like eating that second helping of hot Indian curry. And do remember, that everyone likes you to have a drink or two, but nobody likes having a social embarrassment at their parties. Fall down drunk, or insult one of the other guests, and you can be sure you’ll be off the party list. Forever.
I’m so lonely. Some people wish everything could be a little quieter. Others wish for a break from the peace and quiet and they dream of the phone ringing or a horde of guests arriving. The secret is to arrange a few things in advance. Invite people for supper, get a friend to go with you to a movie, or organise a day or two away in a different place. Don’t wait until the festive season is upon you before doing something about your social calendar. It’s not going to happen by itself.
Exercise inertia. Most people give their exercise regimes a break during the festive season. It is, after all, the end of the year. Problem is, many people overindulge completely on the food front at the same time, and coupled with a fortnight of couch-potato-ism, your waistline might be expanding at the rate of knots. Go for a walk with the family, run along the beach, play volleyball. Do anything to burn up those extra calories. And get back into it early in the new year.
Credit card crisis. The last of the Big Spenders. If that describes you in the shopping centre with your Christmas bonus and your credit card, you’re obviously a sucker for all those Christmas ads. And you’re going to be stony broke in January, and depressed in February when the credit card statements start arriving. Point is that you can probably buy just as nice a present for R100 as you can for R200, or R400. You just need to plan it well. It’s the thought that counts, not the size of the present.
Sunburn stress. The sun in the southern hemisphere is vicious , and skin cancer is a real danger. And remember that the damage is cumulative. Burning yourself to a crisp or having a whimpering and sunburnt child on your hands, is no way to spend Christmas. Speak to your pharmacist and get a high-factor sunblock before you head for the beach. And speaking of the beach – watch out for bluebottles or pieces of broken glass in the sand.
Crowd control. Think of Christmas, and what many people see are teeming masses of people in a shopping centre, all of them with a mission, and accompanied by at least two unwilling and exhausted kids. It can be avoided – do your gift shopping in November and do a bulk grocery shop before 15 December. Milling crowds can be exhausting, and elicit everything but the Christmas spirit in you. In fact, it can bring on a bout of trolley rage.
Gift of the grab. Frantic last-minute gift-buying is a killer – not only don’t you get what you are looking for, you also spend a fortune on it. Rather than give unwanted and expensive presents, go for gift vouchers – at least people will appreciate them, even if they are not the most personal of offerings.
Family fest. Family. You get them, you don’t choose them. And never is it more obvious than at Christmas time when Uncle Freddy is holding forth on all his achievements, or Aunt Doris is slurring after her third beer. Or your cousin’s kids are running around screaming, chasing your poor cats. Then there are the endless questions about when you are going to tie the knot, have babies etc. Family get-togethers seldom do much for your self-esteem. Just repeat the mantra, “It will soon be over for another year.”
When pairing wine and cheese, you want a wine that’s going to complement the flavours of the cheese and not overpower it – and vice versa. You wouldn’t drink a really light wine with a strong-tasting cheese, or a mild cheese with a full-bodied, robust wine.
There’s a general rule of thumb to follow: the stronger the cheese is, move up the spectrum of the body of wine.
Mild, hard cheeses such as cheddar are best paired with Gamet Noir, Merlot, Pinot Grigio, unwooded Chardonnays or Cabernet Francs. While stronger hard cheeses such as aged Gouda or Asiago go best with a full-bodied Shiraz, Zinfandel or Bordeaux blends.
Aromatic wines such as Riesling and Gewurztraminer are great with soft cheeses like brie and Camembert; while a Sauvignon Blanc and Rose are classic pairings for goat cheese.
When it comes to blue cheeses, you want to pick an ice wine, late harvest wine or port. Going for higher sugar content will smooth out the edges of a strong blue cheese
Moderate consumption of red wine on a regular basis may help to prevent coronary disease and some forms of cancer. The chemical components thought to be responsible are catechins, also known as flavanoids and related to tannins . Catechins are believed to function as anti-oxidants, preventing molecules known as “free-radicals” from doing cellular damage. One particular form of flavinoid, called oligomeric procyanidin, recently proved to prevent hardening of the arteries.
There are also compounds in grapes and wine (especially red wine,grape juice, dark beers and tea, but absent in white wine, light beers and spirits) called resveratrol and quercetin. Clinical and statistical evidence and laboratory studies have shown these may boost the immune system, block cancer formation, and possibly protect against heart disease and even prolong life.
One recent study, published in the American Journal of Physiology, indicates that resveratrol also inhibits formation of a protein that produces a condition called cardio fibrosis, which reduces the heart’s pumping efficiency when it is needed most, at times of stress. More evidence suggests that wine dilates the small blood vessels and helps to prevent angina and clotting. The alcohol in wine additionally helps balance cholesterol towards the good type.
When entertaining friends and family during the festive season, sometimes it’s best to go back to the basics. Nothing beats this good old-fashioned roast beef recipe, which is guaranteed to have guests asking for seconds!
4 small onions, quartered
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 1.8 kg boneless rib or roast
Heat oven to 190° C. In a roasting pan, toss the onions, oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Push the onions to the edges of the pan. Season the beef with 1 teaspoon each and pepper and place in the center of the pan.
Roast the beef to the desired doneness, 65-80 minutes for medium-rare (remove from oven when the internal temperature registers 50° C).
Transfer the beef to a cutting board, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for at least 15 minutes. Slice and serve with the onions.
Serves 8 people
This dish goes well with big wines like the Arniston Bay Cabernet Sauvignon. This well-balanced, full-bodied wine has a deep red colour with fruit and berry aromas.
Source: Real Simple Magazine