How to keep healthy, fit this festive season

The meals people eat during the festive season are determined by several factors including the value often attached to Christmas, family norms of celebration and financial ability.

Fredrick Kizito, a dietician and president of the Uganda Dietetics Association, says many people often forget about their health and diet, and instead use the opportunity of the festive season to over-indulge.

He says it is important for people to eat the right type of food with the necessary nutrients. Common foods that people partake during the festive season include beef, chicken, rice, potatoes and matooke.

Fruits, vegetables, cake, juice, soda and alcohol also make up part of the festive celebrations.
“There is no danger caused by the meals people usually indulge in during the festive season because it is not a diet they consume every day,” says Kizito.
He explains that what a person eats only becomes harmful when it is done continuously over a long period of time.

“While the festive season is a time to indulge and make merry, people also need to ensure they do not compromise their health,” he says.
Kizito says the following precautionary measures should be taken into consideration.

Balanced foods
Kizito says a balanced diet is crucial during the festive season. This, he says, means eating foods that are rich in carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and essential fats.

For instance, carbohydrates contain starch, a major source of energy that the body needs for proper functioning.

Carbohydrates can be got from foods such as brown bread, sugar, cereals, and potatoes.

Kizito says it is aisable to eat high amounts of complex carbohydrates such as whole-grain flour and brown rice because they are rich in fibre. These foods make it easy for the body to break down the food. It also ensures that the digestive system functions properly.

Another good source of food that people can indulge in is proteins. These are energy-giving foods that are essential for the body to grow and build muscles. Foods that are rich in this nutrient include meat, beans, fish, cashew nuts, eggs, dairy products and chicken.

Fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are not only a good source of vitamins and minerals, they also help to lower the risk of heart diseases, stroke and some cancers. Fruits and vegetables are also naturally rich in micro-nutrients, which are essential nutrients for the body. They include pineapples, watermelon, cabbages, carrots, onions, cucumber and eggplants.

Fat is essential for the body to function well. However, while most fat is bad, there are good fats such as Omega-3 fatty acids, which contribute to lowering of bad cholesterol in the body. Omega-3 fatty oils also lower the risk of developing heart diseases. They can be found in olive oil, nuts, fish, and various seed oils.

On the other hand, consumption of saturated fat, which is commonly found in processed and fast foods, should be minimised because it raises the risk for heart diseases. To avoid using a lot of unwanted oil, Kizito says it is better to grill, roast, bake and steam some foods instead of frying them.

Drinking water regularly keeps the body hydrated, aids digestion and helps a person lose weight. “On most Christmas menus, people forget to add fruits, vegetables and water and instead focus on soft and alcoholic drinks that are high in sugar,” explains Kizito.

He says soft drinks can be alternated with fresh juice.

Cooking method
He adds that food should not be over-cooked, as this may cause some of the essential nutrients to be lost. Kizito says this is common for foods such as matooke, pumpkin and some vegetables.“Food should be eaten as soon as it is cooked while it still has heat-sensitive minerals,” Kizito says.

Food poisoning
Besides having to take precaution about what people eat during the festive season, Kizito says the risk of suffering food poisoning and allergies is high.

“With several invitations to parties, people are likely to eat different types of food and develop food poisoning,” says Peterson Kato Kikomeko, who teaches nutrition at Kyambogo University.

He says food poisoning is common in salads and other raw vegetables because of the way they are prepared and the hygiene involved.

On the other hand, some people may find themselves eating foods that have some ingredients that they are allergic to. When this happens, it is likely to have a negative effect on their overall health.

Alcohol intake
Most festivities are incomplete without alcohol. But Kikomeko says those who feel they have to drink during the festive period should do so with caution. Apart from alcohol containing a lot of calories, it could also lead one to drink-driving, which subsequently may lead to accidents.

Binge eating
Binge eating usually leads to conditions such as constipation and indigestion.

Dr Paul Matovu, a general practitioner at Nagalama hospital, says, over eating is dangerous, especially if it is done continuously over a long period of time.

“When a person over eats, the body is forced to work harder and food may be digested at a slow rate. This also means extra digestive workload, which requires the heart to pump more blood to the stomach and intestines,” explains Dr Matovu. This may also result in dizziness and heart attack.

Another consequence of overeating is indigestion. This is a condition which causes a feeling of fullness or discomfort during or after a meal.
It may be accompanied by burning or pain in the upper stomach, belching and gas, growling of the stomach, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting. To prevent indigestion, a person should eat food in smaller portions, spread throughout the day. This should be accompanied by drinking a lot of water.

Most people have extra time over the holiday season to engage in regular exercise. This will help to burn off the excess calories and fat gained over the same period. It can also get a person into the habit of exercising regularly after the festive season is over.

However, Bernard Byekwaso, a fitness instructor in Namugongo says during the festive season, most fitness facilities are empty as many are out to have fun with family and friends.
However, he says people could use the holiday to engage in exercises at home, outdoor or at the gym.

Common exercises to engage in include jogging around the house or along the road, swimming and playing a sport as a family. In all, the different experts say the festive season can be made a fun-filled period, while at the same time ensuring that people remain healthy and fit.

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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