With so much variety and range of flavours, who doesn’t love a traditional “7 colours” meal to wrap up the weekend or mark a celebration?
While happily tucking into one of these feasts recently, we found ourselves wondering how healthy the whole spread was… which led us to investigate and give you some healthier alternatives where necessary.
A 7 colours meal will vary depending on who cooks it and who you talk to, but you’re bound to see these kinds of foods accompanying the meat:
Starch: rice, potatoes, pap, dombolo (steamed bread)
Salads: 3-bean, coleslaw, beetroot
Veggies: pumpkin, butternut, carrots, spinach
Now, many of these foods on their own are loaded with nutrition. For example, beetroot is packed with iron, calcium and vitamins A and C. Butternut is a low-calorie powerhouse full of nutrients and vitamins, and spinach is an excellent source of folic acid, iron and calcium. Even potatoes, which have been vilified over that last few years in the wake of low-carb diets, provide a healthy amount of Vitamin B6, which actually helps in the metabolism of carbs! Sounds great, right? Sure, but here are some reasons why we don’t get the full benefits of the 7 colours…
Too much starch
While your stomach and your eyes might be telling your brain that it’s ok to eat rice, potatoes AND dombolo in one meal, it’s really not. Starch is a carbohydrate that in itself is not bad, but eating too much means that it turns into sugar, which ultimately plays havoc with your insulin and your weight. The other problem is that a lot of the starch we see on our plate is refined, meaning that it lacks nutrition.
Our suggestion? Choose 1 starch to enjoy and keep your serving between 100-200g or one serving spoon. Another option is to cook brown rice, which packs more of a punch in the fibre department, thus keeping you fuller for longer.
Too much added sugar
As we mentioned above, too much sugar in our diets is a massive problem that can lead to a range of health issues, not least of which is diabetes. (Read our blog about how this disease is now the second biggest killer in SA). With food, this problem is twofold. Firstly, there’s the added sugar that comes with buying pre-packaged salads like 3-bean or beetroot in the box. While this may be convenient, you are seriously cheating yourself out of the amazing nutrition that comes from cooking fresh. Rather buy fresh beetroot or dehydrated beans to make your own salads so that you can limit the amount of added sugar that goes into them.
The second issue is adding extra sugar to our food. You may be tempted to sprinkle sugar on your pumpkin to make it taste exactly like your grandmother’s, but stop yourself. Rather use dried or fresh spices to enhance the flavour of your veg. With all the hidden sugar in our foods, trust us when we say you should never add extra!
Frying rather than roasting
Be careful how you cook. To maintain the nutritional integrity of food, we would always recommend steaming or roasting when it comes to veggies and meat. Frying in loads of oil and overcooking can often strip food of all its value, so bear this in mind. Once again, it’s better to use your spices to enhance flavour as opposed to making it fatty through frying or adding butter.
Eating too much
We know this is a hard one to swallow, but the biggest issue with a hearty 7 colours meal is actually as simple as eating too much! Because there is so much variety on offer it’s hard (and often frowned-upon) to leave anything off the plate. If you absolutely have to taste everything, make sure you serve just a small tasting of each dish and don’t pile up! Everything should fit onto one plate without making mountains, and it goes without saying that second helpings should be completely avoided.
As always when it comes to food – less is more.