Dietitian Reabetjoe Mokoko on her work in ensuring South Africans eat healthier

Dietitian Reabetjoe Mokoko on her work in ensuring South Africans eat healthy

Reabetjoe Mokoko, a registered dietitian and founder of Plates and Scales, chats to us about the incredible work she is doing to ensure South Africans eat healthy food. 

Reabetjoe Mokoko
Reabetjoe Mokoko/ Twitter

June is Youth Month and we are focused on bringing you inspirational stories about young South Africans who are making our country a better place. 

Food is very important. Eating healthy can prevent diseases and help us maintain healthy body weight. 

One lady who is passionate about ensuring that South Africans eat healthy food is Reabetjoe Mokoko. The registered dietitian not only recommends healthy meals for her clients, but she runs a catering business that offers nutritional foods. She is the founder and CEO of Plates and Scales.

Mokoko chats to us about her passion for healthy eating and how we can improve our cooking methods to ensure we get the most out of the meals we prepare. 

How is your relationship with food?

I have a beautiful relationship with food, I love food. I love spending hours in the kitchen trying to figure out new ways to enjoy in a healthier way.

What made you become a dietitian?

Growing up I have always thought I wanted to become a medical doctor. All I wanted to do was to heal people and help them to feel better. At the same time, I grew up spending a lot of time in the kitchen cooking and baking. I was raised by my late aunt, who encouraged and nurtured the love [of] cooking and food in me. My late aunt suffered from diabetes and in the end, she passed on due to diabetic complications. Being raised by her sensitised me to food and nutrition. That treatment of certain health conditions rely a lot on the diet and what a person eats. And since I loved food and nutrition, it made sense for me to want to enter into a career path that not only allows me to help in healing people but one that also allows me to pursue my passion for food. Being a dietitian gives me the best of both worlds and hence I call myself Rea_TheCookingDietitian.

What motivated you to start Plates and Scales?

I started Plates and Scales while I was still studying towards my qualification to become a Dietitian. I had started catering for people’s social events in a bid to raise funds towards paying for my fees. While doing my hospital practicals it made me realise that most of the time people don’t intentionally eat unhealthy putting their lives at risk. In most of the time, it was due to lack of knowledge and a lack of how to make healthy eating more practical plus affordable. And that how Plates (Catering division) and Scales (Dietetics division) came about. I wanted to create a company that would be aimed at helping people to eat healthier whether it was at a social event, in a meeting or just in their homes. Plates and Scales understands when a client calls us with a brief and says that can we also cater for diabetics, hypertensives, gluten-intolerance etc…

Eating healthy is a struggle for most people. Were you always a healthy eater?

Generally yes, I have always been somewhat conscious of what I ate. I think it stems from being raised by a diabetic and the fact that diabetes was something that was genetic in our family. This encouraged me to want to eat healthy and live an active lifestyle to try and avoid getting diabetes. But we all have our times when are going through a rough patch and food becomes our solace and such a time for me was after the death of my sister. As a result, I gained weight and started to feel out of touch with myself. It took a picture that someone took of me to make me realise how much weight I gained. That made me go back to the good relationship I previously had and I also started hitting the road even going on to become a marathon runner.

What is the number one mistake that you see many people do when cooking?

I think it would definitely have to be the over-consumption of starches when cooking. What we need to remember is that definitely we need starches, they are a source of carbohydrates which our bodies need for energy. But if your aim is to eat healthier and to try and lose weight filling your plate with starches with very little vegetables or no vegetables at all would be defeating the purpose.

Starches are energy-dense and we need to remember that when we cook rice, mashed potatoes, butternut and sweetcorn all for one dish as they are classified as starches. 

People often visit a dietitian when they are sick or want to lose weight. Is this the right approach, or should the visit to the dietitian happen before one encounters challenges?

I think we need to learn a culture of prevention is better than cure. We need to take care of our bodies as we only have one body. At the same time, we need to remember that the scope of a Dietitian goes beyond weight loss, we are the key role players in management of disease conditions such as Diabetes, Hypertension, Malnutrition etc..Therefore I would highly recommend that people, especially those with health risks, try to consult a Dietitian to help get them on the right path for their own individual health journey. Most people tend to put going to the Dietitian as the last resort, they would rather take on advice from their neighbours, friends etc… Not everything we read on the internet is true, not every health fad that comes in is actually safe. So to get the correct advice and tips on how to make healthy eating practical and suitable for your own lifestyle it would be advisable that you seek the advice of a Dietitian.

What is your advice to someone who aspires to enter the catering business?

There are many sectors in the catering sector, try to clearly define where you want to fit in before you start. Define who your target market is and how you would actually reach them.

-When you start, start small and gradually grow the business.

- Never, ever promise a client something that you have not made before.

- The food industry is a sensitive sector to be in, one mistake could lead to food poisoning and it’s important to have some background information on food preparation and food safety. Even if it means training under someone who can show you the do’s and don’ts.

There are many catering businesses. What makes yours unique?

Plates and Scales offers a healthier catering solution to our clients. Being founded by a Dietitian we have all the knowledge to cater for clients with different health conditions. We know how to prepare a serve a meal suitable for a diabetic. We have made it our mission to make some of the popular dishes in a healthier way; desserts with reduced sugar, using healthier cooking methods such as grilling and baking instead of frying.

Over the year Plates and Scales has been able to tap into the different sectors of the catering field, Social, Corporate and Production catering. Across all the sectors we are known for our drive to want to teach our clients to eat healthier through our food that been prepared and cooked in a healthier way.

Lastly, please offer our readers a few tips about healthy eating.

- Make your healthy eating suitable for your life and budget. We tend to want to adopt and do what others are doing and at the end it becomes a futile exercise as its not specific to us.

- Try to avoid going on diets, diets normally give short term results. With increased chances of relapsing as most diets are not sustainable.

- Do not make any big, drastic changes overnight. Slowly start to reduce the sugar you consume, switch to healthier snack options, drinking more water etc… And learn to make those changes part of your lifestyle.

- Learn to cook your way in a healthier way, reducing the amount of sugar, fat and salt you add

- Make fruits and vegetables part of your daily diet. These are low in calories and high in vitamins and mineral.

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