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Here's how your pantry can survive the VAT crunch


Here's how your pantry can survive the VAT crunch

There are 19 food items free of VAT - and dietitians reckon you can live a healthy life on them

Senior features writer

Dietitians say it is possible to have a healthy diet based on the 19 zero-rated foods, a likely scenario for many households that will soon start feeling the crunch of the first VAT increase since 1993.
The registered dieticians would, however, like to add more healthy fats like peanut butter and free, safe drinking water.
Dietitian Irene Labuschagne, from the Nutrition Information Centre University of Stellenbosch (Nicus), said the zero-rated items were intended to “encourage consumers to  load their shopping basket with healthy, minimally processed, nutrient-dense food items”. 
A seven-day VAT-free menu plan by Nicus includes margarine, peanut butter, tea, coffee and one teaspoon of sugar per day to supplement the basic items.
Labuschagne said a cheap, healthy lifestyle should also include free tap water. “Water is an essential nutrient. No other substance is as widely involved in as many different functions in the body as water.”Dietitian Jessica Byrne, spokesperson for the Association for Dietetics in South Africa, said the zero-rated foods were in line with the South African Food-Based Dietary Guidelines, promoting foods that were minimally processed.
She said: “Items on this list, such as, eggs, dried beans, lentils, peas and milk products offer affordable sources of protein. Pilchards are not only a convenient and good source of protein, but also provide healthy omega 3 fats. Vegetable oils also are a source of healthy fats.
“Fresh fruits and vegetables supply fibre as well as a variety of vitamins and minerals,” she said.
Some starch options like brown bread and maize meal are fortified with additional vitamins and minerals.
Yet Byrne said: “The list lacks other high-fibre and whole grain starch options, such as oats and barley. One would also need to include sufficient safe drinking water in the diet.”
Dietitian Marie MacGregor, at Shelly Meltzer and Associates, commended the selection of proteins and wholegrain carbs, including all fruit and vegetables, as zero-rated items.
“The majority of proteins are vegetarian options but still suitable. There is plenty of research to show the health benefits of vegetarian diets,” she said.
“It is definitely possible to eat healthily based on just these items as long as it is well planned, and a variety of fruit and vegetables are chosen,” Byrne said.
Discovery Vitality promotes the purchasing of nutritious foods by offering discounts on them and has found this encourages the sales of healthy items said dietician Terry Harris.
Harris said zero-rated foods were an example of incentives for positive behaviour change.
“We also support the concept of a ‘sin tax’ such as the sugar tax on sugary beverages," she said.
The 19 VAT-free items include fruit and vegetables in their natural state (even chopped or sliced) but not if cooked or treated in any way.​ 
• Adsa dietitian Jessica Byrne says: “It is possible to make up a healthy and balanced lunchbox from this list, consisting of a variety of food groups and nutrients.
“For example, the lunchbox could contain a brown-bread sandwich with pilchards and slices of tomato, a portion of fresh fruit and carrot sticks as an extra snack, as well as a serving of milk or maas.”Tax-free meals
Spreading the good news, Hilary Biller uses zero-rated foodstuffs to make a trio of nutritious and delicious meals that won’t break the bank nor compromise on quality.
- All ingredients marked with a star are zero rated items
Serves 4
250ml (1cup) rice *
1 large onion, finely chopped*
1 clove of garlic, crushed*
30ml (2tbsp) oil*
1 large red pepper, cored and sliced*
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced*
1 large tomato, grated
1 x 400g can of pilchards in tomato sauce, gently broken up*
Salt and pepper
A handful of parsley, finely chopped*
Cook the rice in three cups of boiling water, adding a pinch of salt. Fry the onion and garlic in the oil till softened then add the pepper, carrot and tomato and fry till tender. Add the pilchards with the sauce  to the pan and heat through.
Fold through the rice  gently without mushing  all the ingredients until heated through.  Serve sprinkled with parsley.
Serves 4
1 x 400g can of pilchards in tomato sauce (or use sweet chilli or hot chilli sauce varieties)*
1 bunch of fresh coriander or parsley, finely chopped*
1 large onion, grated*
1 large carrot, peeled and finely grated*
500ml (2 cups) of fresh brown bread breadcrumbs*
1 egg, lightly beaten, optional*
Salt and pepper
Brown bread flour *
Vegetable oil for frying*
In a glass mixing bowl flake the pilchards with their sauce. Add the chopped herbs, onion carrot and breadcrumbs. Season. Mix through and if mixture is too sloppy add more fresh brown breadcrumbs.  If too dry add the egg. With wet hands shape the mixture into fish cakes and toss lightly in brown bread flour to coat.
Chill in the fridge for  30 minutes before frying in shallow preheated vegetable oil till golden on both sides. Drain on paper towel before serving with a salad.
Serves 4-6
30ml (2tbsp) vegetable oil*
1 large onion, chopped*
15-20ml (3-4tsp) curry paste or curry powder
3 cloves of garlic, crushed*
3cm piece of ginger, peeled and grated*
5ml (1tsp) each of ground cumin and ground coriander
250ml (1cup) red lentils, well rinsed*
750ml (3 cups) vegetable or chicken stock
2 large tomatoes, grated*
Salt  and pepper
Juice of 1 lemon*
A small bunch of fresh coriander, chopped*
To serve:
1 cup rice , cooked *
Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat and fry the onion till softened. Add the curry paste or powder and fry for 1-2 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger and spice and fry till fragrant then add the lentils, stock and tomatoes. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes, or until lentils have softened, adding more stock or water if too dry. Check for seasoning, stir in the lemon juice and add the coriander just before serving over rice.​

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