For most of us, Easter is a time when we get together with friends and family. Often celebrations include food and drink and may feel tricky to navigate if you’re trying to eat healthily. Likewise, supermarket shelves are packed with the temptation of brightly packaged chocolates and hot cross buns.
Remember that there’s no reason that occasional treats and indulgences can’t be part of a healthy diet. The important thing is that you’re eating nutritious and satisfying food most of the time. With that in mind, we’ve put together our top tips on how to have a healthy Easter – remembering that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with indulging a little!
Is chocolate as bad as we’ve been told?
Not all chocolate is created equal. Milk chocolate is primarily sugar and milk powder, whilst dark chocolate tends to have a higher percentage of cocoa and is lower in sugar. Having large amounts of foods high in sugar (such as milk chocolate) can cause spikes in our blood sugar levels, which over time can lead to weight gain and increased risk of chronic disease.
If you’re looking for a more nutritious option, we’d recommend selecting a high quality, dark chocolate (75% cocoa +). That being said, allowing flexibility in your diet to enjoy the foods you love, which includes chocolate, is important in making sure your food choices are sustainable in the long run.
How to practise mindful eating
Eating mindfully can help you to become more aware of your food choices over the Easter period. The goal of mindfulness is to practise paying attention on purpose and non-judgmentally to one single thing (in this case, eating a chocolate Easter egg!). It involves becoming more aware of what you’re eating, how much you’re eating, and why you’re eating it!
Before having a piece of chocolate, stop and take a moment to reflect. Ask yourself why you want it. Is it because it’s being offered to you, or perhaps you’re eating it because you feel like Easter is the only time of year you can enjoy chocolate? Or is it because you genuinely want to taste and savour it? If it’s the latter – then great! Take the time to enjoy it free from distractions such as the TV, and think about the smell, taste, and texture of every bite.
However, if you’re having the chocolate for a different reason, take a moment to reflect and reassess. Ask yourself whether you really want to eat it, or could you feel satisfied without it.
If you’re looking for a way to practise mindfulness, you can try this activity where a registered dietitian will talk you through the process of mindfully eating chocolate!
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Be aware of portion sizes
As with any holiday, we may find ourselves eating more than usual, particularly if we’re staying at home. Portion control can help us to continue working towards our overall lifestyle goals without feeling left out or restricted. It’s much better to enjoy a smaller portion of something and savour it, than to deprive ourselves altogether.
So, here are our top tips on how to be mindful of our portion sizes:
- Buy individually wrapped mini Easter eggs and take your time to eat these. The process of unwrapping each small egg is more time consuming and will make you more aware of what you’re eating. It’s a simple trick, but it really can work.
- Rather than indulging in the days leading up to Easter, why not save your eggs for Easter Sunday like you did when you were a child? That way you have something to look forward to.
- If you have a large egg, break off an amount you’d like, place it on a plate, and wrap the rest for another time
- Opt for a higher quality dark chocolate egg which will contain much less sugar compared to milk or white chocolate Easter eggs. Ideally, choose something with at least 70% dark cocoa.
- If you enjoy hot cross buns, try to choose wholemeal options where possible as these will contain more fibre, which will help keep you feeling fuller for longer. Alternatively, you could make your own at home using wholemeal flour! Just remember that any type of hot cross bun will still contain carbs, so enjoy in moderation.
- If you’re looking for delicious Easter recipes, sweet treats, or Easter desserts that are still healthy, you can try these Bounty Easter eggs which are lower in sugar plus vegetarian and naturally gluten-free, or Banana bread which makes a delicious addition to Easter brunch.
- For healthy Easter lunch recipes, why not try a traditional roast lamb. Or if you’re looking for vegan alternatives, you could try this recipe for cheesy baked aubergines.
Balance the rest of the day out
Be mindful not to slip into the ‘all or nothing’ mindset over the Easter weekend. Even if you might be indulging in chocolate and other occasional foods, you can still be building balanced meals that nourish your body at the same time.
- Plan your meals ahead of time, which means you’ll be less likely to make an unhealthy choice at the last minute.
- Prepare a protein-rich breakfast, such as an omelette, baked eggs, or blueberry pancakes, which will help keep you feeling full throughout the morning. As tempting as it may be, avoid eating Easter eggs on an empty stomach, as it may be harder for you to tune into your hunger and fullness cues, which can lead to overeating.
- Have healthy snacks on hand, such as deviled eggs, spicy chickpeas, homemade crackers with cheese, or veggie sticks and hummus. That way you’ll have something nourishing and filling if you’re feeling hungry between meals.
- Often our body can confuse thirst for hunger, so be sure to keep hydrated and drink plenty of water. Keeping a water bottle with you can act as a good trigger to drink more.
What to do if you overindulge
One of the most important things to realise when implementing healthy lifestyle changes is that it’s ok to experience a slip-up occasionally. Try to avoid giving up on all your healthy habits as a result of indulging over the Easter period. Instead, start by setting some small goals to help you get back into your healthy routine. This might be aiming to plan your meals for the following week, drink 8 glasses of water each day, and practise 10 minutes of meditation.
It’s important to also be kind and accepting towards yourself, being too hard on ourselves has been shown to increase the likelihood of further overeating.
Remove the guilt around enjoying chocolate
Most of the time, guilt around food is related to ‘shoulds’ and strict rules which we think we ought to be following. For example, that we should be eating certain foods, that we shouldn’t be eating chocolate, that we should cook a fresh meal from scratch every day, and so on. And every time we ‘break the rule’, we feel guilty about it. So, what can we do to stop this?
Firstly, ditch the ‘shoulds’. Every time you catch yourself saying any sentence that has a ‘should’ in it, reformulate in a non-guilty way. For example:
‘I should drink more water and fewer fizzy drinks’
Result: you feel guilty and nothing good can happen from this. Stop and reformulate like this:
‘I want to drink more water and fewer fizzy drinks’
Result: you’re out of guilt mode and you’re setting a positive intention. Or, reformulate like this:
‘Today, I am going to start drinking more water and fewer fizzy drinks’
Result: you’re in action mode. This will remove the guilt and will put you in a place where you can really move forward in a positive, self-respecting way.
Secondly, stop categorising foods as ‘bad’ or ‘treat’, which then encourages the idea that you can’t have it. Instead, they’re just foods to eat in moderate amounts, mindfully, and less often. Living a healthy lifestyle is all about balance and moderation, rather than restriction.
Fun Easter ideas
There’s lots of social activities that don’t need to involve food if you’d rather steer clear. Try out some of the following Easter-themed examples:
- Do an Easter themed quiz. You can search the internet for questions and answers and get your friends and family involved, perhaps get each person or to prepare one round so that everyone’s involed. This might generate a few laughs, which triggers the release of the happy hormone ‘serotonin’, making us feel much more relaxed and positive.
- Often the best bit about an Easter egg hunt is the process of hunting, rather than the prize of an Easter treat at the end! This means you don’t necessarily need Easter eggs to do a hunt. Why not hide a few favourite toys, dominos, painted rocks, or marbles? This can be done either in the garden or inside the house and enjoyed whether you’re 3, 30 or 90!
- Paint your own egg. You could use foam or plastic eggs if you can’t get real eggs, or even an oval-shaped stone or rock from the garden. This activity will keep children busy and can be used to play an egg and spoon race afterwards!
Take home message
- Enjoying yourself over the Easter period may involve indulging in some of your favourite foods, which is all part of living a balanced lifestyle
- Practising mindful eating and being aware of our portion sizes can allow us to still enjoy the foods we love without compromising our health goals
- Planning your meals and snacks ahead of time can ensure you have a healthy option ready when you need it
- Try to remove the guilt that often comes around Easter time by avoiding ‘should’ statements, and instead being kind and accepting towards yourself
- Importantly, accept that this year Easter may be a little different to usual, but there are still ways you can have fun and connect with friends and family