Food & drink

Nutrition with Jane McClenaghan: Fancy a treat?

If your reward system is fuelled on sweet treats your health can suffer - not to mention your waistline...
Jane McClenaghan

IT'S been a long week. If threatened bus strikes, the start of exams and rainy weather have taken their toll on your mood, you'll need a little 'r and r' this weekend. Time out to chill, relax and be kind to yourself.

How do you treat yourself? Do you use food as your comfort, or do you prefer to hang out with friends, go for a walk or get gardening?

We all have funny little ways to rest and relax. Cooking, running and reading a good book do it for me.

We all need rewards and treats in life, but if your reward system is more often fuelled on less healthy treats like chocolate, crisps and wine, then your health can suffer - not to mention your waistline.

This week I was doing some group coaching with women from my online membership club and we were thinking about how we look after ourselves.

We agreed that how we feel drives our choices, so if we feel good, we tend to make healthier choices.

For many of us, lockdown changed the habits a lifetime. When we were spending more time at home, with easy access to food, it seems that we may have been reaching for more snacks to make ourselves feel better.

One study, from the Guy's and St Thomas' Charity, studied over 1,000 14-19-year-olds. They found that although families tended to eat more main meals together, these teens were also reaching for more frequent snacks, grazing on crisps and chocolate, whether through boredom and something to do, or just because the food was there.

The report says snacking was the "biggest negative consequence" in eating habits during the pandemic, with a 40 per cent increase in snacks.

Of course, when there are some tasty morsels on hand, it is hard to say no. We might mindlessly munch on a biscuit or three with a cup of tea at our desk, or have a hoke in the fridge for that lefties dessert we know is there when we get the 3pm energy slump.

It can be hard to break a habit, but when we replace one habit for another, it makes it a whole lot easier.

Here are some examples that might work for you:

:: If you crave something sweet with your cuppa, try switching to herbal teas that taste natural sweet, like Suki Tea's Apple loves mint, or a cinnamon tea. You might find it easier to drink herbal tea without a bite to eat.

:: Put a bar of dark chocolate in your trolley for a little something after dinner, rather than a high sugar biscuit or bar.

:: Hit the playlist when you get home from a hard day's work. Music has the power to change our mood in an instant. Stick on some good tunes that lift your mood and energy.

:: Think about your trigger times for unhealthy munching. Is it that mid-afternoon energy crash, or while you sofa surf in the evening? What else could you do that will make you happy? Just 10 minutes of unstructured time doing something fun can be game changer. Reading a few pages of your book, hanging out in your garden, or whatever it is that floats your boat.

When life gets busy and we don't have time to think much about ourselves and our own wellbeing, our choices can become quick fixes - food for fuel rather than food for health.

Taking time to think about different ways of rewarding yourself can stop you hitting the fridge and leave you feeling a whole lot better.

::The Revitalise Club is open for new members, so if you want some weekly motivation, check out the link at vital-nutrition.co.uk.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Food & drink