With the long weekend approaching, Easter is a time for family to come together and celebrate with a feast of food and sugary sweets. For that reason, it can mean overindulgence, which can also add some inches to your waistline. While you are certainly allowed to have that Cadbury Crème Egg you’ve been craving, it is important to incorporate balance into the foods you put into your body.
Below are some great health tips from Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician in Vancouver, on how you can stay healthy this Easter without depriving yourself completely.
Let’s talk chocolate, first and foremost. Believe it or not, chocolate can be healthy. While milk chocolate is usually the go-to chocolate of choice for the holidays, you should instead opt for dark chocolate (preferably containing at least 60% cocoa.) It is better in quality as it contains more antioxidants. Also, rather than eating that large chocolate bunny or chocolate egg that can contain as many as 1,000 calories, choose the smaller, hallow eggs – those contain much less calories – around 75. Eating chocolate throughout the day can be tempting, but you should always save it for dessert. If you eat chocolate on an empty stomach, you can spike your blood sugar levels, which can actually make you hungrier. Always eat chocolate after eating a meal that’s high in protein and fibre. If you have an abundance of chocolate left over, don’t leave it lying around the house as that will only tempt you further – or worse, make you want to eat it in one sitting. Instead, share it with co-workers, friends or family members. Hot cross buns are another sweet indulgence that are popular over Easter – rather than eating the normal ones, choose ones that are whole grain instead. Not only do they contain more fibre and minerals than the normal kind, but also they are much more filling and tastier.
During Easter (or any major holiday, for that matter), it is important to keep your fridge stocked with foods that are healthy. This will help you avoid reaching for the sugary sweets. However, if you’re craving something sweet, don’t force yourself to avoid that craving. Studies have shown that if you do this, you may actually be more likely to overindulge – but rather than grabbing the chocolate, try using cocoa powder. You can use it to make hot chocolate, add it to smoothies, or even make chocolate-dipped fruit. Cacao, the purest and rawest form of chocolate, can also be used for cooking and is packed with antioxidants such as calcium and potassium. It can also increase the body’s serotonin levels and reduce symptoms of PMS. Great recipes can be found on Pinterest.
Another great way to keep track of the foods you’re consuming over Easter is to keep a food diary. While counting calories isn’t always a good thing, it’s a great way to record what you’re eating. Studies have shown that people who do keep food diaries actually lose twice as much weight as individuals who don’t keep a diary at all; and, of course, you should exercise. Exercise is a great way to balance between your health and your diet, has many benefits, and you can get the whole family involved. Weather permitting, you can go for a bike ride or take a walk. Community centres in and around Vancouver also offer affordable drop-in services, and some gyms even have free work-out passes.
If you’re a parent, fill children’s Easter baskets with healthier alternatives. Instead of solid chocolate eggs or other sugary sweets, you can make chocolate covered fruit – strawberries, grapes or bananas. You can also easily make peanut butter eggs, but try switching things up and using almond butter instead. Almond butter contains more iron, fibre and vitamin E. Easter baskets definitely don’t have to be all about the candy. You can incorporate some fun into the holiday as well by including things like sidewalk chalk, lip balm, and plastic eggs filled with things like stickers, toys, money, and even gift cards.
Lastly, after eating sugary sweets, always make sure to brush your teeth to avoid cavities and a trip to the dentist!