I have not written a blog post since becoming a mother. Let’s just say that out of the priorities I have, my little people won my attention. I now have two beautiful children who have had a powerful influence on my identity and priorities in the world. Which brings me to why I’m typing again. Today’s date is 15 July 2020. The world is in the throws of a global pandemic. The loss of life related to COVID-19 is now being overshadowed by the predicted loss of life related to the economic fallout from the pandemic.

In the middle of this catastrophic loss of life, my social media feed is full of people treating lock down as a period of self-improvement and transformation. I find this so incredibly TONE DEAF. We are facing the peak of infections in South Africa. Do you want to know what I think is important? Having empathy with the people who have lost family or friends. Acknowledging the hardship of people going hungry. Doing what we can to support local business that are facing ruin.

Some of my clients are feeling uncomfortable due to weight gain during lockdown. I’d like to remind you that the world as we know it has changed. Gyms, which many people rely on for exercise are still closed. Families are being kept apart for fear that being close could kill our parents. Many of our coping skills have been taken away from us. I hear you and I know your discomfort which is why I’m typing this!

One of the biggest lessons of motherhood has been learning to let go of perfection while embracing self-compassion. Self-compassion has three components: responding to oneself with kindness and warmth rather than judgement and criticism, recognition that one’s experiences are not unique and isolated but are common and shared, and mindful awareness of the present moment rather than over-identification with thoughts and feelings. Self-compassion has been associated with many positive outcomes including happiness, optimism, social connectedness, and life satisfaction.1

Picture of a hand journaling in a book. Exercise in self-compasion as described in a 2018 study with students.
Picture credit: Hannah Olinger from Unsplash

Self-compassion exercise:

In a 2018 study on college student, body dissatisfaction was improved after just three minutes of a writing exercise. 1 The instructions for the self-compassion group were as follows: “For the next 3 minutes write a paragraph to yourself (as if you are addressing yourself) expressing kindness, compassion, and understanding towards yourself regarding your weight, appearance and body shape.”

In comparison to the study group that did a self-esteem exercise and an academic writing exercise, the self-compassion group reported the least body dissatisfaction. The self-compassion group also reported the highest self-improvement motivation of the three study groups. There are people that avoid self-compassion fearing it will turn them lazy and unkept. In this study, students expressing self-compassion were more willing to take care of themselves than those that had an academic writing task or a self-esteem task.

So if you’re feeling uncomfortable, distressed that you can’t exercise or unhappy with how your body has changed, please invest three minutes in this science-back method to improve body satisfaction. You might even identify a small way that you can take care of yourself that helps lift your mood too.


  1. Moffit RL; Neumann DL, Williamson SP. Comparing the efficacy of a brief self-esteem and self-compassion intervention for state body dissatisfaction and self-improvement motivation. Body Image 2018(27):67-76

I have been patiently waiting to share exciting news with the world. Earlier this year I co-authored a healthy workout and nutrition guide with Fabufit’s Wardah Hartley. She was nearing the end of her pregnancy when our project began while my pregnancy journey was beginning!

Pregnancy announcement

I am now in my second trimester and am so glad that I’ve been well equipped with knowledge around the symptoms of pregnancy! I was incredibly tired and rather nauseas in the mornings and evenings which is why I have been so quiet on the blogging front.

Apart from an unusually strong craving for cottage cheese with chives, I’ve had almost no food aversions. Like many women, I have found coffee less appealing but I do still enjoy one cup a day. In our guide, I have explained that women can still enjoy coffee while pregnant so long as they keep their total caffeine intake to less than 200mg. One cup of coffee a day fits well within this limit.

Fabufit workout and nutrition guide

I have been doing many of the exercises from our guide. My gynae has given me the full go ahead to exercise as usual as long as I can carry on a conversation. This is a really useful reference for me as I get out of breath much faster than before the pregnancy. I have found interesting differences between the information given to me by my gynae and the information given to Wardah from her gynae. It has driven home the importance of listening to your health professional – you have chosen them and need to trust their advice for you. We are all different and there are often good reasons why we are given different information. If you have questions around your eating or exercise during pregnancy please make sure you write these down before your appointment, pregnancy brain is a real thing and you may forget to raise important topics during your exciting first appointments.

Want to buy our guide? It’s available on the Fabufit website under the shop section. We have enjoyed the project so much we are already working on the next one.

I have a backlog of interviews to post including an amazing chef from the Midlands and a nutritionist from Australia. I look forward to sharing them with you soon as I get back into my usual rhythm!

When Margaret Giustizieri shared her memories of picking sun ripened tomatoes as a child, I was so taken by the image of beautiful tomatoes that I wanted them to be a star in my next recipe.

Tomatoes are a key ingredient in many cuisines. They are so celebrated in Spain that there is a tomato throwing festival! Biologically, a tomato is considered a fruit but their nutritional profile has them grouped with vegetables due to their low kilojoule content. They are part of the nightshade family (which includes other vegetables like potatoes, eggplants, pepper and chilli) which some people may find difficult to digest.

For most of us though, tomatoes are a wonderful staple that is incredibly versatile. For today’s recipe I’ve chosen Roma tomatoes for an authentic Italian flavour. If you cannot find these, I would suggest trying some cherry or Rosa tomatoes – these smaller tomatoes have great, intense flavour and their smaller size makes them easy to mix with the beans.

Balsamic vinegar, olive oil and thymeI wanted to explore an aged balsamic vinegar with this dish. Traditional Balsamic vinegar starts its life as reduction of cooked white grape juice which is allowed to ferment for a few weeks and is then aged in wooden barrels. True balsamic vinegar, like Champagne, is only made in a very specific region and use of the name is very tightly controlled. What we know as balsamic vinegar in South Africa is not balsamic vinegar but rather a cheaper, balsamic condiment.  I did not find any aged balsamic vinegar at Cremalat’s store or at my local supermarket but I did find an aged balsamic condiment online and soon after my parcel arrived, I also found some at a local delicatessen. While these are still not a true balsamic vinegar, some are made in the traditional way and at a fraction of the cost.

Tomatoes dressed with balsamic vinegar, olive oil and thymeThe reason I have used vinegar and wine (or lemon juice) in this recipe is because they are all examples of natural acids. When added to food, an acid can help develop and intensify the flavours of a dish. Next time you’re tasting a dish and think it’s missing something, try a squeeze of lemon or a drop of vinegar before reaching for the salt shaker.

Cannelini beans cooking with red onion, garlic and thymeWhile wine is acidic, it also contains alcohol which vinegar does not. Have you ever wondered how much alcohol remains in a dish after cooking? Does it all boil off or does some of it remain behind? I found the answer to this question in a great magazine called food and nutrition* which credits research done at the University of Idaho, Washington State University the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Nutrient Data Laboratory for the following information:

  • Alcohol, no heat, stored overnight: 70% alcohol retained
  • Alcohol added to boiling liquid and removed from heat: 85% alcohol retained
  • Alcohol flamed: 75% alcohol retained
  • Alcohol, stirred baked/simmered 15 min.: 40% alcohol retained
  • Alcohol, stirred baked/simmered 30 min.: 35% alcohol retained
  • Alcohol, stirred baked/simmered 1 hour: 25% alcohol retained
  • Alcohol, stirred baked/simmered 1.5 hours: 20% alcohol retained
  • Alcohol, stirred baked/simmered 2 hours: 10% alcohol retained
  • Alcohol, stirred baked/simmered 2.5 hours: 5% alcohol retained
  • Alcohol, not stirred in, baked 25 min.: 45% alcohol retained

This means that there will be at least 40% of the alcohol retained in the finished dish below. Know someone that cooks with alcohol and would like to know this information? You can use the share buttons at the end of the post to share this page.

White beans on balsamic roasted tomatoes served on rocket leaves Please let me know what you think of the recipe and share pictures of your dish with the hashtag: #informedappetite.

White beans on balsamic roasted tomatoes
Recipe Type: Light lunch
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Nathalie Mat, RD(SA)
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 2
White beans simmered with white wine and thyme served on balsamic roasted tomatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • 4-6 Roma tomatoes (or 400g Rosa or cherry tomatoes)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Beans
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tin of cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves
  • ¼ cup dry white wine or juice of ½-1 lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Parmesan for grating over the whole dish
  1. Slice tomatoes in half and arrange on a roasting tray covered with baking paper.
  2. Mix remaining ingredients in a tea cup or small bowl and then brush over the cut side of the tomatoes. If using smaller tomatoes, it may be easier to slice them in half and then toss with the dressing in a mixing bowl or on the baking tray.
  3. Bake at 180° Celsius until soft (about 30 minutes depending on the size of the tomatoes). If you have bigger tomatoes, you can turn the heat up a bit more but watch the tomatoes closely to make sure you don’t scorch them. You want the tomatoes to soften but not dry out. When the tomatoes are almost done, start the beans. If you do not like tomato skins, they are easy to peel off once the tomatoes have slightly cooled.
  1. Use pan over medium heat to soften the onion and garlic in the olive oil.
  2. When the onion is translucent and soft, not browned, add the remaining ingredients. You want most of the wine or lemon juice to evaporate and the beans to be warmed and well mixed with the herbs.
  3. Season with a good amount of black pepper and salt if needed. If using lemon juice, check if enough was added. Too little leaves the dish tasting bland.
  4. To serve, dish at least two to three tomato halves per person. Top the tomato halves with warm beans. Using a fine grater, grate a small amount of parmesan or similar hard cheese over the beans. This last step really makes the dish pop.
  5. If you used smaller tomatoes, you can mix them gently with the beans in the warm pan before serving.
  6. This dish is delicious served with a rocket-based side salad as a light lunch for two. It will also go well as a side dish for red meat.


Margaret Giustizieri’s favourite dish is pasta pomodoro. Growing up her family harvested tomatoes from their garden and would preserve them for the year. When she talks about making pasta with her grandmother, I can tell that food means much more to her than fuel for her body. It is part of her identity and part of her history. As one of the founders of cremalat, it is also the main focus of her day.

When I arrived at the Cremalat restaurant and deli, I was surprised by the location of the restaurant. It’s in an industrial park. Despite this, there were several people having breakfast on a Tuesday morning. The restaurant is there because loyal deli customers asked for it. Margaret and her now late husband, Claudio started Cremalat selling imported Italian meat on Saturdays at the Michael Mount organic market in Bryanston. Demand was great, people wanted the access to the produce all week and restaurants were placing orders when the market was not open. And so Cremalat began it’s growth, responding to customers’ demands and requests. Customers asked for cheeses and other quality deli produce and so Cremalat increased the range of foods that they imported and even purchased a local dairy farm in the Freestate.

Tinned beans and tomatoes at Cremalat

I did not visit the farm but I did buy some of their award-winning gorgonzola. A small portion of cheese on some crackers is a really indulgent snack. When it comes to moderating your intake of rich cheeses such as gorgonzola, remember that you can choose to buy a really small portion when you are at a deli. Do not buy a big portion if you’re worried you’ll eat it all!

Margaret’s favourite restaurant is in Italy is called Antichi Sapori. She says that most of the food served at the restaurant is sourced exclusively from the farms immediately surrounding the restaurant meaning that vegetables are often the stars of a dish. I must admit that this is the one part of Italian dining that we may completely miss when walking through and Italian deli in South Africa. You will find lots of fine meats, cheeses, pastas and canned or bottled delicacies, but you won’t find the balance of seasonal, fresh and local vegetables that should form an intricate part of every meal. A deli provides the specialty ingredients but there should still be a balance with fresh and local produce.

Patsa-lined shelves at Cremalat

Another important concept that has been “lost in translation” bringing Italian food to our continent is the portions of pasta and risotto that are traditionally served as part of a meal.  While Margaret was talking she held up a single cupped hand to indicate the traditional serving size: “pugno” or handful. It is something that Paul from Pronto <link to article> also mentioned when I interviewed him. Pasta can and should be enjoyed in small portions.

So what did Margaret say about cooking? Firstly, she said that she’s not a chef. She’s a person that is incredibly passionate about foods. One of her bugbears in the kitchen is when people order a dish she has carefully curated but change half of the ingredients. She has carefully considered all the flavours and textures to create a particular experience. Changing ingredients is like changing an artwork.

Apart from salads as the traditional healthy choice, Margaret recommends carpaccio as a light and delicious option. Her own key to health lies responding to what her body wants. She believes in eating small portions of food and that food should be kept simple but beautiful. Regular exercise is also very much part of her health routine.

Tinned beans and tomatoes at Cremalat

One of Margaret’s favourite underrated vegetables in fennel. She loves dipping raw strips of fennel into a traditional olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper dressing. Fresh shaved or sliced fennel has a subtle licorice or aniseed flavour that is a wonderful addition to salads. If crafting a vegetarian dish that even a meat eater would enjoy, Margaret immediately mentions porcini mushrooms. She then ordered me a small portion of their porcini fettucini.

I enjoyed a taste while still there (not lunch time) and finished it at home. Thanks, for a delicious lunch! The Mushroom Association of South Africa is very much on the same page as Margaret when it comes to getting people to eat more vegetables and less meat. They did an interesting little study where they replaced some meat in meals with mushrooms. Read more about it and on their website (which includes mushroom-centric recipes too!) Botanically, mushrooms are not a vegetable but a fungus. From a dietitian’s perspective, we lump them in with the vegetable group (to keep it simple).

It is clear when Margaret talks about food that her upbringing shaped her love of food and this love has turned into a passion for supplying great quality ingredients. Pop into the Cremalat store(which has had a recent expansion!) to find yourself some Italian inspiration for your kitchen.

The new extension of the Cremalat restaurant
Image credit: Cremalat

Kitchen inspiration from Margaret

  • Keep food fast and simple, there is no need to complicate your life
  • Eat fresh and seasonal foods
  • Enjoy simple but beautiful foods in small portions

Arye and I have chatted about proteins, fat and carbohydrates which make up our food from a nutrient perspective. We have not spent much time talking about water and other drinks and so in this episode we’re talking drinks.

We all know that we need to drink water, but how do you know if you’ve had enough water today? Do tea and coffee count? What about alcohol?

Take a listen to 17 minutes of drinking 101.

Contact us:

Nathalie Mat RD(SA)

011 442 7277

Parkwood Medical Centre, 46 Ashford Road, Parkwood.

Click here to make an appointment

Nathalie is registered with the HPSCA and is a spokesperson for ADSA


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