This year May holidays cross with Easter. Everyone welcomes almost two-week holidays, and when tickets are bought and bags are packed it is time to think about delicacies for the festive table. Considering that the festive table will be generous also thanks to Easter cakes, our stomachs face double impact. For this, ForUm talked to Oleh Shvets, director of the State scientific research center for nutrition and chief nutritional specialist of the Healthcare Ministry, to learn how to organize the festive table properly.

- Ukrainians like to pamper themselves during holidays. How can we minimize the shock for the organism, what should be put on the table and what is better to avoid?

- There are three categories of food products, eating of which should be limited almost, including during holidays. These are products with sat fat, sugar and salt. Use of sweet and alcoholic drinks also should be limited.

- Half of the May holidays cross with the Great fast. How should fasting people organize their diet when the Fast is over?

- The transition must be gradual, but unfortunately, nobody follows this rule. However, fasting people should be careful, eat more vegetable food and limit fried, fat, salted and sweet products. The fact is that during fasting the alimentary organs relax and go on vacation, and sudden pressure may cause aggravation of existing diseases or provoke new ones.

In general, I would recommend fasting people to keep certain restriction they follow during the fast forever, to eat more vegetables and fish and less meat, fat dairy products, sweet and salted meals. Moreover, there is no point to define a trial period for a week or two.  It's just a wishful thinking, but in fact it does not change a thing.

- Easter cakes are a must for Easter holidays. How do these products effect our health and should we eat them normally?

- You know, starchy foods include a wide range of various products, which can be exactly opposite regarding influence on health. If we take ordinary bread, for example, there are two huge negative sides. The first one is salt. Our bread contains too much salt - 1g per 100 g of bread. European bread, for instance, contains twice less salt. Salt causes rise of arterial tension and risks of cardiovascular diseases. Second negative aspect is low level of dietary fibers. This so-called first-class flour contains only starch and simple carbs - pure energy without any nutrients.

However, if we take granary bread or wholemeal bread, it is very useful product, but again if it is light-salted. 

The same concerns pastries. Cookies and cakes made of refined flour with salt and sugar must be avoided, but pastries of household flour without salt and with minimal quantity of sugar are always welcomed.

- Many Ukrainians go abroad for holidays. What can you recommend people who likes to taste exotic products?

- The most important thing in such experiments is to make sure the food and water are safe. In developing countries the quality of water, for example, is not very high and may cause intestinal infection. Therefore, the problem is not in new meals, but in safety of those meals.

People suffering allergies should be very careful. People allergic to certain type of fish may manifest allergy to other kinds of sea products, especially unfamiliar or never tasted before. In fact, people suffering allergies should restrain from tasting something unfamiliar in other countries to avoid complications, while for the rest of travelers would be enough to remember about safety and moderate eating. As a rule, there are no other reasons to refuse some local cuisine.

- More and more fresh vegetables appear on store shelves: radish, cabbage, cucumbers, tomatoes, etc. On May holidays, they are the most popular products.  Are they useful and safe for human organism?

- Vegetables are always wholesome, except for potatoes, including young potatoes. A person must eat minimum 300 g of vegetables daily, and it does not matter whether they are fresh, frozen, canned, cultivated in hothouses or field produced.

Hothouse vegetables do contain more nitrates than field produced ones, but they bear no risks for adult people. Moreover, there are simple methods to reduce the grade of concentration of nitrates in vegetables - to peel and soak vegetables in water. Hothouse vegetables can be dangerous for kid, for example if a mom makes fresh juice of hothouse tomatoes.

Greens cultivated in hothouses also may have high level of nitrates. If a person eats 300-400 g of such greens (which is hard to imagine but theoretically possible), it may be dangerous for health.

- How wholesome are last year fruits?

- Very. Vegetables and fruits contain the most wholesome dietary fibers, and they last for a long time.

- What about conservations people make in summer and keep for years? How useful is that?

- Canned products are wholesome only if they contain small quantity of salt and sugar. If we speak about fruit jams or pickles, they are definitely not among the better-for-you products. Fruits in sugarless sauce, however, will be very nutritive.

- April and May are the height of the mushroom season. Many articles have been written about how mushrooms absorb radioactive particles. So, should we or should not go heavy on this product?

- Mushroom is the product of pleasure, as it has no nutrients. For this, we can quietly stay off them. In case of urgency, it is ok to eat safe mushrooms, champignons for example.

- What final recommendation can you give our readers to keep in shape?

- I will give only one recommendation - treat yourself better. It includes proper food, physical exercises and renouncing bad habits. If a person abuses alcohol, pigs out and smoke for nine months in a year and then fasts or follows dieting days, it will not change anything.  If a person has to arrange vacations for food from time to time, it means he treats himself ill.

It is important to remember that proper nutrition is the so-called healthy plate. In other words, the plate is divided into four even parts, consisting of vegetables, fruits, cereals and protein products (preferably fish) plus some dairy low-fat product. If a person follows this model every time he eats, he follows principles of healthy nutrition.

Tetyana Matsur, photos by Maxim Trebukhov


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