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Happy Easter! As a chocoholic, it is my absolute favourite time of the year, writes Dee Copland.
A break from work, hot cross buns, chocolate ... just remember portion control. Ultimately, everything is fine in moderation.
A homemade chocolate, such as my fruit and nut chocolate recipe below, could be an Easter treat.
Instead of choosing cheaper chocolate eggs, opt for some good-quality dark chocolate. Ideally something with at least 70% dark cocoa, which has the added bonus of antioxidants. The high levels of cocoa have also been shown to lower blood pressure.
Dark chocolate is an acquired taste, but it satisfies you much sooner without the need to overindulge. As a rule, never eat Easter eggs on an empty stomach, as this will cause havoc with your blood sugar levels for the rest of the day.
If reaching or maintaining a healthy weight is something on your mind, here are a few more tips to staying on track.
The conditions will never be perfect - there will always be busy periods, trips away etc so making good choices the majority of the time pays off.
Just remember the tale of the tortoise and the hare; slow and steady wins the race.
TV is so distracting that it makes it harder to realise when we're actually satiated
It's a well-known fact but a recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reiterated that paying attention while eating can aid weight loss efforts, whereas distracted eating leads to a long-term increase in food consumption. Try to go back to basics and sit at a dining table or breakfast bar and make mealtime about the meal. Sitting upright with a long spine also helps your digestive organs to function properly.
Buy a fruit bowl and place it in a prominent spot on your bench top
You're more likely to grab fruits and veges over less-healthy options if they're ready to eat and in sight. We know that eating seven to nine serves of fresh fruit and vegetables daily helps us to reduce the waistline and meet daily fibre requirements, so keeping washed and prepared veges such as cucumbers, celery sticks, capiscums, sugar snap peas and carrots in the front of the fridge so they aren't overlooked is a good idea also.
Bananas, apples, pears, oranges and cherry tomatoes fare well as sweet snacks and should be kept on the counter where everyone can see them.
Aim to have about two pieces of fresh fruit each day and then as many vegetables as desired.
Repetition builds rhythm - be boring
Those on a successful weight-loss journey have just a couple of go-to healthy breakfasts or snacks. This might be a smoothie with plant protein powder, frozen berries, baby spinach and almond milk; scrambled eggs, mushrooms and tomato or oats soaked overnight with coconut milk, chia seeds, grated apple and cinnamon.
Choose to drink water, little and often, and avoid juice and fizzy drinks
A study published in peer-reviewed journal Obesity Research and Clinical Practice aimed to see whether it could be the carbonation in soft drinks - rather than the sugar - that explains the link between soft drinks and obesity.
Overall, they found rats that drank diet or regular fizzy drinks ate more and gained more weight over six months than rats that drank flat soft drinks or water. The weight gain was associated with increased production of the appetite hormone ghrelin.
The researchers then looked at the effects of carbonated drinks in young men and found they also had higher blood ghrelin levels after drinking fizzy drinks than after flat soda or water.
Obesity is caused by multiple environmental, social and lifestyle factors, rather than carbonation on its own but this is one factor we can address by switching fizzy drinks to water.
Move your body
Interestingly, low thigh muscle mass (quadriceps) is linked with insulin resistance, so activities such as hill walking, swimming, lunges and squats are particularly beneficial for improving diabetes risk factors as well as the waistline.
Homemade fruit and nut chocolate
½ cup coconut oil, melted
2 Tbsp cacao butter*, melted
¼ cup nut butter
⅓ cup roasted almonds, roughly chopped **
⅓ cup raisins
3 Tbsp cacao powder
2 Tbsp maple syrup/ rice malt syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
small pinch of salt
Mix all ingredients together and pour into a tin lined with baking paper. Pop into the fridge for at least one hour to set.
* cacao butter is optional but helps it to set better
** roasting destroys the minerals so usually when choosing nuts, opt for raw, unsalted nuts.