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Healthy Easter Hacks

Easter can be a tricky time for some people, with chocolate eggs and bunnies crowding office kitchens and store aisles. Not only have we put together fuss-free, guilt-free Easter hampers for you to keep your chocolate choices simple and pure, we have also put together this list of what to look out for when making an Easter purchase, healthy swaps, ways to have fun and how to indulge this weekend! Happy Easter!

1. Stay on the Dark side…

of chocolate that is! A good rule of thumb is the darker the chocolate, the better it is for you. 70% and higher is a good guide. That is not only because it’s antioxidant content will be greater, but usually, the higher cacao percentage it is, the less sugar/milk you can usually find in it. In fact, dark chocolate v milk chocolate is less likely to contain dairy, and dairy-free is definitely the way to go when opting for a guilt-free treat! When sugar or milk/milk powder is the first ingredient, you can be sure that bar has fewer health benefits. My pick for all the best dark and dairy-free chocolate this Easter is this assortment of goodies.

2. Make your own

Be completely confident with what is in the chocolate you’re munching on by DIYing it. Try the easiest chocolate recipe here. You will need this and this. You can also find a more decadent Easter chocolate truffle recipe here. Another fun choc-treat to make yourself is dark chocolate coated fruit by melting down this chocolate. If you would like to minimise the chocolate used, simply drizzle it over instead of fully immersing the fruit in the melted chocolate. For added crunch, sprinkle with crushed nuts. This is a fantastic way to get the whole family involved, so that it isn’t just about eating, but more about creating and spending time together.

3. Chocolate replacements

There is no need to completely skimp on that chocolatey flavour you crave around this time of year. If you don’t want to splurge on chocolate, why not try and incorporate it into your day in other fun ways? Try this chocolate thickshake for a protein-packed breakfast, a bliss ball for that mid-morning or afternoon slump, a soothing creamy hot cacao or the healthiest chocolate mousse for those nighttime cravings!

4. Work for it!

Kids or no kids, an Easter egg hunt is a great Easter activity to do with family or friends, that actually sees you work for your chocolate! Get creative with the hiding spots, scattering them over a greater area of space to get you all moving further for longer! What’s more, you can also hide other Easter-related items: think baby carrots, bunny ears, pom-pom baby chickens, spiced teas, chocolate-scented lip balms. Get creative!

5. Apply the 80/20 rule

The 80/20 rule is a realistic one to live by: you abide by a healthy diet and lifestyle 80% of the time, and allow room for indulgence the other 20%. Whilst to some, this might mean a weekend of “blowing” out, because the rest of the week they have been “good”, I prefer to think of it with a little more moderation. Enjoy a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner, whilst also savouring those chocolate eggs (i.e. don’t skip meals! You will only over-indulge). If you can sneak in a walk or a workout over the Easter weekend, great! but if you are busy having fun, don’t sweat it, you ate fresh healthy meals, spent quality time with loved ones, and you treated yourself without the guilt!

How to keep it clean when dining out

Socialising over food is a part of life, and shouldn’t be the bane of your existence. There are times when you want to indulge and the rules go out the window (that is fine), and there are times where you would like to stick to the rules a little more closely. I eat out once or twice a week for a main meal, and whilst I usually find it relatively easy as I seek out health-oriented cafe’s and restaurants, there is the occasion where I have no control over where we go, or end up somewhere I wouldn’t usually choose. That is often the case when traveling or dining with larger groups! But these occasions don’t need to be avoided entirely, nor do they need to be stressed over. Embrace them and enjoy them for the company and experience, and keep these tips in mind, or in your phone, to gently guide you toward more healthful options.

1. Skip the bread basket, order crudités if on the menu, a veggie based starter to share, or simply olives, if you feel tempted to snack whilst you wait for your meal.

2. Avoid words like creamy, crumbed, crispy, or deep-fried on the menu, it is likely loaded with nasty oils and saturated/trans fats.

3. Let them know you are dairy-intolerant – vegan or not, there is no need for milk, milk powders/solids in your sauces and mains. This also means steering clear of creamy based dressings and sauces which often contain other undesirables like preservatives, thickeners and unhealthy fats etc. Find out why I choose to avoid dairy here.

4. Ask if they can cook in less oil, or use extra-virgin olive oil/coconut oil instead of butter (for vegans/dairy-free) or other vegetable oils.

5. Request dressings and even sauces on the side. Ask for a lemon, balsamic vinegar, tahini or avocado to compensate.

6. Order a bunch of side vegetables as a main – a balanced meal can often be created from a side of sweet potatoes, sauteed mushrooms, steamed greens, grains, side salad etc. Alternatively, see what produce ingredients they use in their other dishes and single out one or two you would like e.g. avocado, quinoa or beans, to add to your sides. This is also a great tip if you are vegan and there is no suitable plant-based option.

7. Ask if they have a vegetarian / vegan menu – these often exist, and are often healthier as veggies are the star of the show! They also tend to be grouped together with other diet-specific requirements i.e. gluten-free, refined sugar-free too.

8. Skip the fries and double the veggies or see if they will steam you some rice or sweet potato instead, if craving something more starch-based. NB: sometimes I do have the fries, moderation 😉

9. At Asian restaurants, see if they have gluten-free Tamari sauce available in place of soy sauce for a happier tummy. Be wary of the sugar used in some sushi-rice, ask if they would be open to swapping for steamed rice, however this might not always be possible.

Enjoy your food, but mostly the dining experience and the company you keep! There is no perfect, and your body can tolerate less-than-ideal choices from time to time 🙂

Going Dairy-Free? Here’s what you need to know…

With the new year well into its first month, a lot of us have made new years resolutions involving health overhauls. A lot of friends have asked me how to reduce their dairy intake. There are a lot of reasons people choose to cut out dairy… First of all, a large proportion of the world’s population are indeed lactose intolerant (many do not even know!), causing nasty symptoms such as digestive upset and skin irritations. Further, dairy is highly acidic, making it worthwhile to ditch during a health reboot (we want to consume more alkalising foods). Another good reason is that many dairy products, particularly non-organic varieties, are loaded with hormones and antibiotics, administered to the livestock and inevitably passed on to the consumer. Yuck! And of course, those consuming a vegan diet cut dairy out entirely.

Despite all these reasons to limit dairy intake, people are generally quite attached to it – we love our butter, pastries, cakes, ice cream, yoghurt, milk in our coffee, cream, cheese, milk shakes etc. And we often don’t even realise what contains dairy… Most candy bars, baked items, condiments and even supplements contain traces of dairy! It’s not until you can’t have it do you really think about how much it is (unnecessarily) in. But I promise you, with these helpful tips and healthy alternatives, it really is not so daunting. These easy swaps make going dairy-free a delectable breeze!

Almond Milk

Better than cows milk! Find my recipe here. I use this in everything from oats and baking to smoothies and teas. It is a one-for-one milk replacement, so feel free to use it in anything you would use milk!

Nutritional Yeast

Rich in protein and B vitamins, nutritional yeast is a power-packed superfood that brings a cheese-like flavour to meals. Sprinkle it on top of salads, pasta, bean-based meals or in wraps, rolls and sandwiches. I also like to add ½-1 tsp to salad dressings or dips. Try this vegan walnut caesar dressing using nutritional yeast on your next salad.  

Cashew Cheese

Use as a replacement to white cheeses like ricotta, cottage cheese or goats cheese. It is great as a dip with crackers, spread on toast or a sandwich/wrap, atop a pasta or zoodle dish, or dolloped on top of veggies. It is generally made from a blend of soaked cashews, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, dijon mustard, salt, pepper, garlic and water.

Brazil Nut Parmesan

Just 1 tbsp of this will be your daily dose of selenium, a mineral rich in antioxidants and required for immunity and normal thyroid function. Process 1 cup of Brazil nuts with 2 tbsp nutritional yeast, zest of ½ lemon, 1 clove of garlic and a pinch of sea salt. Use as you would parmesan cheese. Add smoked paprika for a smokey variety.

Cashew Cream

Delicious on top of pancakes, healthy baked goods, porridge or fresh fruit – use it as you would regular cream or custard, and enjoy every second! You can make your own simply by combining 1 cup soaked cashews, ¼-½ cup filtered water, maple syrup or sweetener of choice and vanilla bean. Blend and drizzle.

Coconut Yoghurt

A good coconut yoghurt is the answer to all dairy free prayers! Some can be a bit heavy, so a little bit goes a long way. Find one with no sugar or that only uses natural sugars. And as with regular yoghurt, the natural unflavoured varieties are always best to avoid artificial flavours and excess sugar. Try my tasty Spiced Coco Berry Bliss Smoothie.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is great for cooking both sweet and savoury dishes, rather than butter. It is a good baking oil as it has a higher smoke point than some other oils, meaning its nutrition stays in tact and it doesn’t turn carcinogenic. Macadamia oil is even higher. Coconut oil can also be spread on toast, if desired. Look for organic cold-pressed varieties. Another alternative for that buttery texture is avocado.

Tahini

Instead of using mayonnaise to bring creaminess to your dressings, consider adding calcium rich sesame spread aka tahini. If you aren’t fond of the taste and prefer something sweeter, almond butter does the trick! Try my creamy tahini cumin dipping sauce here.

Chocolate

Telling someone to cut out their beloved chocolate is definitely not a comfortable conversation. But there is an alternative! In Australia we have Pana Chocolate, a decadant raw vegan chocolate brand. Otherwise, an easy homemade recipe is simply: ½ cup raw cacao, 2 tbsp xylitol, ½ cup coconut oil, tsp vanilla essence, melted on the stove then freeze it in a baking dish or container. You can add raspberries, nuts, seeds, coconut and/or sea salt. You can also try my completely dairy-free chocolate mousse recipe here. So creamy!

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If you notice dairy has any effect on you – bloating, flatulence, stomach pain, break outs, mood swings, sleep disturbances – perhaps this is something you could consider? Try cutting it out for a period of 7-14 days and see if you notice relief from any of your symptoms. It might seem like a challenge, but the benefits will be so rewarding!

What about soy?

A common question I receive is “what about soy?” Personally, I limit my soy intake to fermented soy products such as tempeh, tamari and miso as non-fermented varieties tend to be very processed, full of unnecessary additives, and contain phytic acid which interferes with the absorption of important nutrients like iron. If I am out however and tofu, soy sauce, or soy milk is on the menu I will make the exception. When selecting these options, organic is always best.

Calcium 101

Another regular question is, “where do you get calcium from?” Aha! This is a favourite of mine to answer! Did you know that dairy actually increases calcium loss from the bones due to it’s high acidity? Put simply, the body tries to counteract the acidic conditions dairy (and other animal products) creates by releasing minerals that neutralize the situation. Calcium is a mineral that is actually a fantastic acid-neutralizer, and as such is released from the bones (where it is predominantly stored) and subsequently excreted! What’s more, plant sources of calcium are actually much more absorbable than that from dairy – approximately 30% of calcium from dairy is absorbed by the human body, compared to 40-65% absorption rate from plants! Isn’t it crazy that we have associated bone health with dairy for so long?!

Bottom line: meet daily calcium requirements through a variety of sources (preferably plant-based), cut out inhibitors and maintain regular exercise for strong healthy bones.

Plant-based Calcium Sources:

  • Collard greens
  • Broccoli
  • Bok Choy
  • Kale
  • Almonds/Almond butter
  • Sesame seeds/Tahini
  • Figs
  • Navy beans, black beans, white beans
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