Easter is approaching and the temptation to over indulge comes with it. Here are a few suggestions to help you maintain a healthy weight:
- Use a smaller bowl/plate/glass
It is amazing how something as simple as using a smaller bowl will result in you eating less. Research has shown that the size of the crockery you use can influence the quantity of food you eat, so choose a smaller cereal bowl, dinner plate and wine glass and see if you notice any change to your waistband after a few weeks. Remember that if you go too small too quickly you will just have a second helping so, as always take incremental steps.
- Cut out alcohol on Monday-Thursday
One of the easiest ways to reduce the number of calories you consume is by cutting out or down on alcohol. It is very easy to consume a large number of calories through drinking soft drinks and alcohol. You may just think ‘it’s a drink, I don’t need to worry about the calories’, but the alcohol content is 7kcal per gram and the sugar is 4kcal per gram, so it easily adds up after a few glasses (see my blog on drinks). If you avoid it completely for four days of the week, you immediately cut out unnecessary calories. Just make sure you don’t compensate and end up drinking more at the weekend!
- Do a weekly shop and plan your meals
Buying the majority of your weekly food in one go will enable you to ensure you achieve balance in your meals. To give you an example, I might plan to have a roast on Sunday; the left-over meat with jacket potato or in a risotto on Monday; fish on Tuesday; eggs on Wednesday; pasta on Thursday; chicken on Friday and whatever we fancy on Saturday maybe spaghetti bolognaise, chilli or curry. You don’t have to keep to a strict regime and can of course mix it about within the week, but having a general guide can simplify your shopping, prevent food waste and avoid last minute purchases, which should save a few pennies. This also helps avoid the naughty impulse buys when you pop to the shops, hungry, on your way home.
- Take left overs for lunch
If you manage to do points one and three, then point four should be easy, just cook a little bit extra each night for your evening meal, have a slightly smaller portion (resist second helpings) and you’ve got healthy lunch options for the whole week. Not only will you save money, but you won’t rely on limited, often high calorie, retail lunch options.
- Choose wholegrain
By choosing carbohydrates that are higher in fibre you are not only doing your insides a favour by keeping you more regular and improving gut health, you will also find you feel full on less food for longer, and should eat less overall.
- Don’t snack between meals
Get into the habit of eating three staple meals so you can keep going until the next meal without a snack. Just tell yourself you don’t eat between meals and then soon you’ll forget it is an option. If you need something around 11am or 4pm, have a piece of fruit/carrot sticks/oat cake and see if that will keep you going until your next meal.
- Switch from milk chocolate to dark chocolate
If you are a bit of a chocoholic and at certain times healthier snacks won’t cut it, rather than opt for milk chocolate try switching to dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is lower in sugar than milk and white chocolate, which is good news for your teeth and because it has a stronger taste, you’ll (hopefully) be satisfied by eating less of it and therefore eat less calories over all. A health benefit often associated with dark chocolate is the presence of cocoa flavanols (a type of polyphenol, compounds produced by all plants), which have been associated with protective heart effects. Although higher levels of flavanols have been found in dark chocolate compared to milk, it is not yet known whether we can benefit from these compounds due to the processes involved in making chocolate that may prevent them from having an effect. This is therefore not a justifiable reason to overindulge!
Dark chocolate, is also still very high in fat and therefore high in calories, so you really do need to make sure you don’t eat too much. Remember that not all chocolate is created equal. If you compare labels you might be surprised that different brands and different cocoa solid percentages have differing calorie contents (Table 1). I’ve found that for Lindt, which offers 90%, 85%, and 70% cocoa solids varieties, it is the 85% option that has the optimal fat to sugar ratio providing the lowest calorie and sugar content compared to the 70% or 90% options. Obviously, the healthier option would be to ditch the chocolate completely. Dried fruit in particular can satisfy those sweet cravings after a meal and figs and dates can feel really indulgent.
The take home message here is that everything has its place in a healthy balanced diet, but if you do find yourself consuming more of something (like chocolate) than you would like, especially over Easter time, then plan, check the label, choose smaller portion sizes and/or choose a healthier option.
|Table 1: Comparison of label data for a selection of chocolate brands and varieties (Source: Sainsbury’s website 13th March 2018)|
(kcal per 100g)
(g per 100g)
(g per 100g)
(g per 100g)
|Green and Blacks||85%||630||53.5||32||13.5|
|Green and Blacks||70%||580||42||25||28.5|
|Green and Blacks||Milk||565||36||21.5||45.5|
|Lindt||Extra creamy milk||567||37||23||50|
|Green and Blacks||White||580||38.5||23||51|