How to stay lean over the festive season

Stay lean over the festive season_SAMFA_recipe

By Renate Engelbrecht

Friday, Dec 15

It’s a catch-22, really. The end of the year calls for celebrations, which – in our South African culture – normally comes with wine, delicious food, bubbly, ice-cream on the beach and lazy days releasing the tension of a year gone by. At the same time, we all want to look at our best on the beach or in the berg. Toned legs, fit form, tucked tummies… Still, how to stay lean over the festive season is a question many of us often ask halfheartedly as we fear the answer. However, there are ways in which you can keep yourself from over-indulging; ways that aren’t too hard to adjust to.

Honestly, I am one for balance and moderation in all aspects of life. Apart from opting for healthier meals, like the below recipe from SAMFA, you can also consider the following tips for a more balanced approach this summer holiday:

  • Drink more water – not only to kill off cravings, but also to cleanse your body from toxins.
  • Don’t skip meals, as that might leave you hungry, which could result in over-indulging with the next meal.
  • Refuse seconds. If you REALLY want to go for seconds, go for the veggies. But, seconds are often one of the biggest culprits when it comes to struggling with staying lean over the festive season, which is why I often say: Stay away.
  • Move your body! While I am all for lazy days on the couch, reading books and sipping on cocktails, it’s important to keep moving. This might even keep you from craving all the wrong, unhealthy things and it will also assist in detoxing. Plus, come 2024, you won’t be as unfit, and you can jump right back into your fitness routine. It also helps to get your daily exercise out of the way as early as possible, as they day often runs away with you and before you know it, you’re sitting in front of the boma, glass of wine in hand. Cudos to those who have enough self-motivation to go running after the first glass of wine was poured.
  • Make clever drink choices. Any alcohol has an effect on your figure, but once you add fat and sugar to the mix (like with eggnog or sweet rum mixes) it’s worse. Remember: Sugars are carbs. So, opt for plain drinks without added sugars, like vodka or gin with water or soda. If you’re a wine lover like me, look for wines with a lower sugar content. According to an article in Women’s Health, these include: Dry reds like Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah/Shiraz; dry whites like Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and Viognier; and low-sugar Cap Classiques like Brut and Extra Brut.
  • Sleep! I suppose late nights are part of the holiday season, but sleep is one of those things you can’t neglect. In fact, use the extra time you have over the holidays to catch up on some sleep and feel refreshed as you enter the new year. But what might sleep have to do with staying lean over the festive season? Well, it helps moderate your appetite, for one, which evidently decreases calorie intake.
  • Finally, opt for healthy meals. Meals can be festive and healthy at the same time. Trust me. In fact, try this recipe from the South African Mushroom Farmers’ Association and you’ll see what I mean:

Roasted Hake on Tomato & Mushroom Lentils – A recipe in answer to how to stay lean over the festive season

Serves 4

how to stay lean over the festive season recipe


400g Portabellini mushrooms, sliced
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 x 400g tin diced tomatoes
1 cup / 220g brown lentils
750ml low sodium vegetable stock
3-5 sprigs fresh thyme
4 baby marrows, diced

4 x 125g hake fillets (or similar sustainable white fish)
1 Tbsp wholegrain mustard
1 tsp mixed dried herbs

Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil or Avocado Oil, for cooking
Salt and pepper, to taste
Green side salad, for serving

Cold Pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil Spray is also ideal for cooking as it allows for good coverage and fewer calories.



Heat a drizzle of cold pressed extra virgin olive oil in a large pot or spray lightly with cooking spray.

Sauté the mushrooms until golden brown.
Add the onion and carrot and cook until soft.
Add the garlic and cook until fragrant.
Add in the tinned tomatoes, lentils, stock and thyme.

Mix well and bring to a boil.
Reduce to a simmer and cook until the lentils are tender and have absorbed most of the liquid but remain a little saucy. About 30 minutes.
Add the baby marrow and simmer for a few minutes until tender.
Discard the thyme sprigs and taste to adjust seasoning.

When the lentils are almost tender, preheat the oven on the grill setting.

Place fish fillets on a baking tray.
Brush the hake with the mustard.
Sprinkle with the dried herbs and season lightly with salt and pepper.
Place in the upper third of the oven and roast for 5-7 minutes until just cooked through.

Serve the roasted hake on a bed of the warm mushroom lentils along with a crunchy green side salad.

Soon enough, you’ll see that the question of how to stay lean over the festive season actually doesn’t come with a too difficult answer after all.


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