New Year, New Start, New Me!
I say it every year and every year I fail. But this time I really mean it. I want to lose weight, I want to exercise more and I want to live a healthier lifestyle. I’m consciously aware of the fact I’m overweight, my doctor makes a point of reminding me every time I visit and with my sister getting married in September, I do not want to look like a beach whale waddling down the aisle with her.
So, back in December I signed up to take part in Nairn’s Naturally Energising Challenge. The challenge is a six-week lifestyle plan written by nutritionist and broadcaster Amanda Hamilton. It has been devised to support the health and nutritional needs of families with young children and aims to help them learn how to enjoy a healthier and more wholesome diet.
As part of the Naturally Energising Challenge, families are required to sign up to a free subscription service. So that’s exactly what I did. I then received nutritional advice and tips from Amanda through a series of six weekly emails, which had a different area for us to focus on as a family each week.
The emails combine informative video content with a variety of healthy recipe ideas and family activity suggestions which I feel are really in keeping with Nairn’s ethos of “keeping it real” with wholesome and naturally energising food choices.
One area I was particularly keen to focus on during the challenge was snacking and fuelling on the go. Snacking can actually be super healthy and good for you, but not if – like me – your go to snacks are a packet of crisps, a handful of biscuits or some other sweet confectionary.
Amanda’s Top Tips For Dealing With Cravings
There are many different factors that contribute towards cravings. It could be stress or a change in mood, it could be fatigue or a response to your blood sugar levels crashing. The trick, she says, is to keep yours and the family’s blood sugar levels as stable as possible throughout the day. So, how can you do that?
- Don’t start the day off with sugary breakfasts like processed cereals, flavoured yoghurts, white bread/toast with jam, marmalade, chocolate spread, orange juice or shop bought smoothies. The high sugar content causes blood sugar to rise quickly but then it will drop leading to an inevitable slump in energy later. This is known to affect mood and concentration particularly in children.
- Don’t mistake hunger for thirst. The feeling of thirst can often lead us to crave for more water, which can often be mistaking for hunger. Try getting into the habit of drinking a glass of water first, and then ask yourself (or your children) if you/they still feel hungry.
- Keep filled up on low-fat, high-protein, slow-release energy snacks as they will help you to feel fuller for longer, keeping those pesky cravings at bay.
Before taking part in the Naturally Energising Challenge I used to binge on crisps, biscuits and chocolate, for ease and convenience more than anything. I’d definitely got myself stuck in a bit of a rut, especially over the Christmas and New Year. I don’t care to admit how many extra pounds I am carrying because of it!
When it comes to snacking now, I start with a starchy carbohydrate like Nairn’s oatcakes or wholegrain crackers and then add a portion of protein, as I find this releases energy at a slower rate and keeps me feeling fuller for much longer. Good sources of protein include salmon, tuna, eggs, cheese and lean meats.
Another great alternative is protein balls which are perfect for when you want a healthy snack that’s packed full of goodness. The only downside is that they can be pretty expensive so it’s much cheaper to make your own.
After-School snack attacks were also an issue. Previously I would have given into the boys’ demands for crisps and chocolate, which meant they often weren’t hungry enough to finish their dinner, but now I use the opportunity to get them to eat more fruit and veg instead. It’s a much healthier alternative and my attitude now is if that if they’re that hungry, then they’ll eat it. If not, they can wait until dinner.
So, I always make sure that I have variety of different fruit available including apples, grapes, bananas and oranges and they tend to help themselves to something when they get home from school.
Healthy Snack ideas
- Fruit – apples, bananas, oranges, pears, plums, grapes, kiwi, berries, avocado, cucumber (easy to transport so great for snacking on the go!)
- Vegetables – carrots, peppers, celery
- Hummus or guacamole
- Eggs – hard-boiled and peeled
- Mini cheeses or bite-sized cubes cut from a larger chunk of cheese
- Wholegrain crackers or bread
- Oatcakes – Nairn’s ones come in individual packets which are perfect for on the go snacking. (They taste super yummy with a topping of nut butter and sliced banana, mashed avocado and boiled egg or marmalade, cream cheese and hazelnuts).
Snacking really doesn’t have to be sinful.
I think if I’ve learnt anything over the last six weeks, it’s that snacking and fuelling on the go can actually be very healthy and nutritious, so long as you’re putting the right ingredients and “real food” into your body. I think one of the stigmas I had associated with living a healthier lifestyle was that the food would be boring, unappealing and time-consuming to make, but the Naturally Energising Challenge has proved to me that is not the case. There are plenty of simple and delicious options that don’t need much preparation at all making them perfect for busy families. There’s really no excuse for not taking care of yourself and your family.