For most of us, Easter may be a little different this year given we’re unable to get together with family and friends in the same way that we usually would. However, what still remains the same is the supermarket shelves being packed with the temptation of brightly packaged chocolates and hot cross buns. And since the supermarket is one of the only places we can go at the moment, we might find ourselves facing new challenges when it comes to navigating Easter this year.
We’ve put together our top tips on how to make mindful choices over the Easter period - 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.
Practicing 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 practice paying attention on purpose and non-judgmentally to one single thing (in this case, eating a chocolate 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 this food. Perhaps it's because it’s being offered to you, or 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. You can also refer to our hunger-fullness scale to see if you’re genuinely feeling hungry, or whether you might be craving foods for an emotional reason instead.
If you’re looking for a way to practice mindfulness, you can try this activity where one of our health coaches, Bari, will talk through the process of mindfully eating chocolate!
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 too 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 eggs and take your time eating 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 eggs. Ideally choose something with at least 70% dark cocoa.
- If you like 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 carbohydrate, so enjoy in moderation.
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.
- Prepare a protein-rich breakfast, such as an omelette or homemade baked beans, 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 boiled eggs, savoury slice, 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.
- Depending on what’s available in your supermarket, you might like to try a traditional Easter recipe like our Roast lamb which you can find in the app. This will give you something to look forward to on Easter Sunday!
- If you’re vegetarian or vegan, you could try this recipe for stuffed cauliflower instead!
What to do if you overindulge
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, drinking 8 glasses of water each day, and practicing 10 minutes of meditation.
It’s important to also be kind and accepting towards yourself, especially during this time when many of our emotions are heightened and we might be separated from friends and family. Remember that the Second Nature community is here to help you work through any challenges and provide support.
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 less 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 less 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 less 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.
Easter egg alternatives
As many of us will have limited access to the shops this year and might not get to see our loved ones on Easter Sunday. However, we can take this as an opportunity to try some alternative Easter gifts. Here are a few suggestions that could be substituted for the traditional chocolate egg:
- Deliver a bunch of flowers to your loved ones. Many online flower services are still offering delivery and it’s an opportunity to support a local business.
- Ask for an e-book or money towards a massage or spa day - something to look forward to for the future!
- For children, why not send a colouring book or toy instead of Easter eggs? These will keep them more active and engaged throughout the lockdown - and prevent a sugar high!
- If you’re more of a savoury person, why not try a cheese Easter egg! Many shops and online retailers are now selling these, including M&S, Sainsburys, and ASDA.
How to keep the fun in Easter this year
Despite the fact that we’re all in social isolation for Easter this year, we have a few ways you could keep the day fun and exciting:
- Often the best bit about an Easter egg hunt is the process of hunting, rather than the prize 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!
- Plan a phone or video call with loved ones who you’d normally spend the Easter holiday with
- Do an Easter themed quiz. You can search the internet for questions and answers and get your friends and family involved via a video phone call.
Most of all, we hope you have a happy and healthy Easter break. Take care and stay safe.