The food items that should be in every trolley

A diet to live for

Monday, February 18 2013

By paying more attention to what food you put in your shopping trolley you could significantly reduce the risk of you or your family contracting a range of diseases, says Francette Bekker, a dietician at Medicross - The Berg, one of 68 Medicross Family Medical and Dental Centres, situated around the country.

We often tend to buy food products without considering what damage we could be doing to our bodies. As the person who buys the groceries for your family, you could greatly improve your health and that of your family by making a few small changes, observes Bekker.

Bekker examined the average household food trolley and provided the following recommendations for healthy living:

  • Sweetened breakfast cereals. Many of the popular breakfast cereals contain high amounts of sugar and are low in fibre. Rather choose a high fibre cereal. Fibre not only prevents constipation but also helps reduce cravings by keeping you fuller for longer and thus preventing weight gain. Another advantage is that soluble fibre found in oats and oat bran also helps to lower cholesterol levels. High cholesterol increases the risk of conditions, such as coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes and high blood pressure.
  • Muesli can be high in fat if it contains nuts and seeds. Look out for mueslis with a lower fat content and choose one with a low Glycaemic Index (low GI). Low GI foods help to maintain consistent blood glucose levels and thus also prevent weight gain.
  • Full cream milk contains about 8g of fat per 250ml. Milk is high in saturated fat ("bad fat" for your heart) so rather choose low fat or fat free milk.
  • Butter and hard brick margarines. Butter is high in saturated fat while hard brick margarines are high in trans fats - both of these fats are unhealthy. Instead choose the soft tub margarines and use it sparingly.
  • Cream cheese and high fat cheeses. Substitute cream cheese with low fat or fat free cottage cheeses which are much lower in fat. Choose lower fat cheese like mozzarella rather than high fat cheeses such as cheddar.
  • White bread. To increase your fibre intake and to prevent high blood glucose levels rather choose whole-wheat and low GI breads and bread rolls.
  • Crisps and dips. The fat content of crisps is very high (about 20-35%). Rather snack on homemade popcorn, unsalted nuts and buy fresh vegetables to dip into your dips. Regular dips are usually high in fat. Choose low fat options or make your own dip by combining equal quantities of either plain white yoghurt or low fat cottage cheese with low fat mayonnaise.
  • Sweets and chocolates. Rather fill your shopping trolley with a variety of fruit to snack on. Fruit is a healthier alternative because it does not contain any fat and most types are high in fibre.
  • Biscuits. Biscuits are high in fat and sugar. A better choice would be high fibre crackers, such as Provita.
  • Creamy pasta sauces. Make your own tomato-based pasta sauce using fresh tomatoes and herbs, such as basil and origanum.
  • Red meat can raise blood cholesterol levels, which contributes to heart disease and stroke. If you buy red meat, choose lean cuts of meat and lean mince. Better alternatives are ostrich, chicken (skinless and trimmed of fat) and fish such as hake and salmon.
  • Salt and packets of soup and flavourings. Even if you do not have high blood pressure, it is best for your health to keep your intake of sodium to a minimum. Read food labels and choose items with 120mg or less sodium per 100g of the product. The best flavourings to add to food are those that do not contain any salt. Good examples include herbs (basil, origanum, thyme), spices (curry, tumeric, coriander, nutmeg, mustard powder), lemon juice, vinegar, onions, garlic, chilli, tomatoes and sweet peppers.
  • Processed meat like polony, viennas, Russians, salami, boerewors. Choose lean and unprocessed meats. Better choices for sandwich fillings are peanut butter, avocado, tuna, pilchards, baked beans and left overs, such as lean meat, chicken (grilled without the skin) and fish.
  • Cold drink and juice. A healthier choice would be water, sugar-free cold drinks and 100% fruit juice, which should be diluted with water before drinking.
  • Readymade meals. Ready to eat meals tend to be high in energy, fat and salt and low in micronutrients. It is always best to eat food that is prepared at home, since you can control the amount of fat and salt that you add.
  • Rich cakes, desserts and ice cream. Rather buy or make your own fruit salad. Other options are low fat yoghurt, baked fruit and sorbet.
  • Sweet wine, beer and spirits with cold drink. Mix spirits with water or soda water and rather buy dry wine and light beer or light ciders.
  • Coffee and tea creamers. Creamers are high in fat and often not made from real dairy. A better option would be skimmed milk powder.
  • Fat, lard, ghee, shortening. Olive, canola and sunflower oils are healthier alternatives, since they are high in "good fats" such as polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat. Use small amounts since fat is very energy dense and can cause weight gain. Replace butter, margarine or oil with non-stick sprays to grease pans or baking tins.


Issued by: Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Medicross Family Medical and Dental Centres
Contact: Martina Nicholson, Monique Vanek or Graeme Swinney
Telephone : (011) 469 3016
Email :, or