Sunday, 27 March 2016

Wishing you a Healthy and Happy Easter

Hello lovely readers! Sincere apologies for my long, long, long hiatus from this blog! I don't have any great excuses for having not written on here for such a long time; I've simply been really busy with work and life!

Anyhow, last week I had returned to the keyboard and begun a new post with my top tips for a healthy Easter. Despite my good intentions, a number of other commitments popped up, and what do you, I never completed that post in time. However I thought I would still share my thoughts with you all today, because it may help to get things back on track after the long weekend. Plus, I believe my recommendations here are applicable to any weekend, holiday or special occasion, so I do hope you can still find them of use.  

Easter (and Christmas, long weekends, holidays, special occasions) can be a challenging time of year for many, especially if you are watching your weight or you have diabetes, heart disease or an eating disorder. It can be a very tempting and triggering time of year with many delicious treats, such as hot cross buns and Easter eggs in abundance, not to mention the break in routine and more social eating. However, this is absolutely OK!! It is all part of life, and can bring much enjoyment, rest and restoration. 

My tips for enjoying a happy, healthy Easter (or any holiday or special occasion) are as follows: 

1. Reflect on what Easter (or whatever the holiday or special occasion) means to you. 
In this modern day and age, we are becoming increasingly separated from the religious significance of holidays such as Easter and Christmas, with these days becoming more and more commercialised. However, I still think it is valuable to pause and reflect on what Easter means to you? Is it a religious and spiritual time for you, or is it a chance for rest, activity, adventure in the great outdoors? Maybe it is all about feasting for you, or maybe you appreciate time and connection with your family and friends. 

If you are able to identify why Easter is special for you, this can help you to appreciate what is most important to you and prioritise where you place your focus. For example, this may just mean spending time with others, or it might mean seeking out a new outdoor adventure.

2. Go for Quality over Quantity 
My mother always used to tell me that sometimes "less is more." Of course, as a child, I never did understand this concept and I actually thought Mum was a little bit crazy for believing this........ however I now understand what she meant! This saying rings particularly true at Easter time. Sure, you can go to the discount variety store and buy a whole heap of no-name milk chocolate Easter eggs for a steal..... however you are really only buying a truckload of fat and sugar and encouraging yourself and/or your family and friends to overeat! Chances are, the cheap choccies that you do buy probably won't even taste that good, so are they really worth that sick feeling after devouring the lot?

Instead, put your money towards some good quality chocolate. You may not get quite as much for your money, however this can encourage you to savour what you do have and appreciate the more intense flavours of a higher quality chocolate.

3. Eat your chocolate Mindfully 
How do you usually eat your Easter eggs? Do you unwrap a couple of mini eggs and shove them in your mouth whilst doing something else, such as walking through the house/sorting the washing/watching TV/reading/browsing the web, etc etc?? 

If this sounds like you, chances are that you are not fully appreciating your chocolate! Many us eat whilst we are distracted by something else. As a result, we can't be fully aware of the way our food tastes, or how much we have eaten! That is why it can be so easy to demolish a giant chocolate bunny whilst curled up in front of the TV....... 

To mindfully enjoy your chocolate, simply slow down and pay a little attention to it! After all, you've waited a whole year for this occasion, so you may as well get the maximal amount of enjoyment from it!! So, unwrap your chocolate and look at it. Notice the details on the chocolate, be it the lines around the egg or the facial features on the bunny. Next, smell your chocolate. This is something we rarely do, but it is something that can slow our eating and bring more enjoyment to the overall experience of eating the chocolate. Smell is a big part of our overall taste experience. Next, eat your chocolate one bite at a time, and notice the way the chocolate reacts in your mouth. Does it feel rough? Does it melt? Does the flavour change as you chew it more? Again, these are things we cannot notice if we are putting a lot of food in our mouths and swallowing quickly after beginning to eat. Paying attention to all the features of your food in this way can help you to savour and appreciate the food and notice when you have had enough.

4. Squeeze in Some Activity 
For most, Easter signals a rare 4 day weekend. This is a great opportunity to get active, enjoy the great outdoors, get some vitamin D, some fresh air, and have some fun! Now, this does not mean you have to go and run a marathon or spend all weekend slaving away in the gym. Simply do something that feels good to your body and that you enjoy. This may be going for a bike ride, exploring some markets on foot, going swimming, or playing a game of backyard cricket or frisbee with family and friends. Anything that is enjoyable for you and gets you off the couch! Exercise is important for overall and health and wellbeing, but the key is making it enjoyable, so you are more likely to do it!

5. Try some Home Cooking 
As I mentioned, most of us will be gifted a 4 day long weekend this weekend, which is a great opportunity to trial some new recipes at home in your kitchen. With a little more time on your hands, a little more preparation time and some time to ponder over recipe books and websites, it is a perfect time to trial something new and sharpen those skills in the kitchen. This can be invaluable to keeping your health on track from here on in, as many studies show that people who cook at home have much better health markers than those who dine out or eat take away more often. This may mean getting together with some friends or family and having a social cooking session, or buying a new cookbook or just trying out a new ingredient.

6. Enjoy Everything in Moderation
I may be a dietitian, but that does NOT mean that I am part of the "Food Police." I believe strongly in the importance of listening to your body. I don't believe that ongoing restriction and deprivation is healthy. In fact, it is these behaviours that can set one up for binge eating and/or over eating. This is not healthy. If you want it, have it, but eat it mindfully (as per point 3) and stop when you have had enough. There is no need to feel guilty. Easter comes around once per year, so it is a special time to savour and enjoy. 

7. Get Fishy 
Although Easter seems to have less and less of a religious significance these days, it is still a great opportunity to honour Good Friday and serve up some fish. Many people do not eat enough fish, despite it's benefits for heart, brain and eye health. It does not have to be fresh fish, even tinned fish or smoked fish are delicious ways to enjoy some nutritious omega-3 nutrients. Some delicious fishy recipes which I enjoy are baked salmon fillets, smoked salmon pasta, tuna patties or a simple tune or salmon salad. 

Obviously, because I was slack, as mentioned, this post is getting to you too late to be of benefit for Easter 2016, however I do hope it can be of benefit to you for the remainder of the year in some way, shape or form. I'd love to hear how you spent your Easter this year, and please do let me know if you have any tips for a healthy Easter.

Whatever you do decide to do this Easter, I hope you all enjoy yourself, and stay very safe and happy. Enjoy the break. 

Em x    


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