Some of us think that the Easter holiday can be more of a challenge than Christmas. It can be somewhat of a softer holiday, shorter in duration and less social pressure but more chocolate. And coming as it does after a period of deprivation for those who observe the Lenten tradition of ‘giving something up’ for 6 weeks prior, the Easter Bunny can bounce in with gusto and leave a trail of sugary sweet sodden cells.
For those following a healthy lifestyle, working on healthy goals or pursuing the dream of an optimum life – you’ll know that sugar addiction is one of the biggest challenges we face. Not just the items with clear and upfront sugar like chocolate, but also the sneaky sugars that are found where you’d never think of looking for them like in Weetabix or Baked Beans.
It’s certainly something I battle with every single day but it helps to be reminded of some of the downsides to the tasty treats.
Foods high in sugar reprogram your brain and palate. The more you eat, the more you crave.
Sugar hides in most packaged goods and has no nutritional value.
Sugary foods and refined carbs trigger an outpouring of insulin from the pancreas. This pulls more sugar out of the bloodstream and leads to energy crashes and more cravings.
A diet high in sugar is linked with a host of health problems including heart disease, diabetes, obesity, Alzheimer’s and aging;
But all that is for another day and another article.
For now, I wanted to give you some tips that can be tailored no matter what stage of the health continuum you are at.
6 Top Tips for a Healthier Easter
Everything in moderation is the buzz word of almost every health guru these days, but what is moderation for one person might be deprivation for another, and vice versa. One square of chocolate or ½ an Easter egg – figure out what is moderate for you. Don’t compare yourself with someone else. Perhaps in time gone by, you would have eaten 1 or 2 eggs in a sitting, so you should pat yourself on the back if you can reduce that. You might want to think quality rather than quantity. Dark chocolate is loaded with nutrients that can positively affect your health. Made from the seed of the cocoa tree, it is one of the best sources of antioxidants on the planet. Studies show that dark chocolate can improve your health and lower the risk of heart disease.
Setting some ground rules or boundaries for you and any younger members of the family will help keep chocolate consumption within an acceptable range. That might be setting a maximum in terms of amount, or it could be a time frame e.g. no chocolate before breakfast and after tea. Remember that chocolate will set blood sugars on a roller coaster of spikes and crashes. Avoiding it 3-4 hours before bedtime will help everyone get a better night’s sleep. And the ZZZZ’s are important. Studies show that we make poor food decisions after a bad night’s sleep.
"The average person during the course of an average day makes over 200 food-related decisions," says Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating. "But if you ask someone what that number is, they say around 30."
At Easter ‘average’ doesn’t factor and the number of food related decisions will increase substantially. The top tip here is to ENJOY every bite. Take as long as you can over every morsel of chocolate. Prolong the pleasure and delight in the treat. Use all your senses - sight, sound and smell will all get the digestive juices flowing even before the taste buds strike.
Research has shown that mindful eaters eat less, and that true mindful eating can be more effective for weight loss than dieting.
Easter is falling later this year, so we may be lucky with some spring walking weather. Why not set yourself a movement challenge? Family walks, a cycle or maybe even time to sign up for park run. We all know you can’t out exercise a bad diet, but time spend walking is generally not time spent eating.
Eat your greens. Enjoy dark, leafy greens with every meal, and enjoy plenty of good fat and protein so that meals are well-balanced. It will keep you feeling good regardless of an occasional treat. Make good quality protein a priority – keeps you feeling fuller for longer and helps to keep cravings at bay. A nice high protein breakfast will set you up for the day.
Email janice@janicetraceynutrition for some high protein (12gms) breakfast ideas.
Wishing you a happy and healthy Easter from all at Janice Tracey Nutrition