Here’s one idea on how to be slightly healthy this Easter without depriving yourself of the good stuff.
To most people, the terms ‘Easter’, ‘chocolate’ and ‘healthy’ seem to be at extreme odds with each other. But according to recipe creator and healthy cooking blogger, Bianca Slade, they can be compatible.
“I’m all about quick, healthy and delicious treats that don’t compromise on taste,” says Slade. “But I also absolutely love Easter and chocolate. It’d be really hard to say no to chocolate all together at Easter and not feel deprived. And I try not to associate healthy eating with deprivation.”
So how does Slade, Blackmores’ Superkids cook and owner of Wholefood Simply, merge healthy eating with Easter treats?
“There are so many different approaches to understanding healthy eating. But for me, health is about getting back to basics and using ingredients that our grandparents recognise.”
Enter wholefoods. As the term suggests, ‘wholefoods’ are foods that exist in their natural state. A wholefood hasn’t had colours or preservatives added to it.
There are so many different approaches to understanding healthy eating. But for me, health is about getting back to basics and using ingredients that our grandparents recognise.
A wholefood, the opposite of a refined or processed food (which dietitians are always telling us to avoid) also keeps all the minerals, vitamins and other nutrients in the food product in tact. Wholefoods – fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds, nuts or grains – therefore fulfil our daily nutritional requirements as they span a number of food groups.
Slade recommends that health-conscious cooks make their own Easter treats using wholefoods and unrefined, natural sweeteners. That includes natural cacao, cocoa powder, peanut butter, other nut butters, maple syrup, honey and medjool dates, which are popular in Middle Eastern and North African dishes.
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She tells SBS her top seasonal wholefood treats are picnic bar bliss balls and hot cross bun bliss balls (the recipe includes dried fruits and spices) – both are shaped round like an Easter egg so they can be gifted.
Or, for those who celebrate Easter with a group lunch, she recommends her wholefood chocolate tart and five-ingredient mud cake.
“You can have a piece of a wholefood chocolate tart and you may only have one piece. It’s not the type of dish where you’ll think ‘I want to eat that whole tart’ because it’s so nutrient dense. All of these foods are very sustaining as the GI is often a lot lower than non-wholefood meals.”
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How about chocolate?
The mother of three also says chocolate can be healthy if treats are made at home from cocoa or raw organic chocolate.
Research shows that chocolate – made from cocoa – is high in antioxidants. One study from 2015demonstrates that cocoa contains more phenolic antioxidants than most foods. As a result, it can help with insulin resistance and reduce the risk of diabetes.
“Cocoa can protect nerves from injury and inflammation, protect the skin from oxidative damage from UV radiation in topical preparations, and have beneficial effects on satiety, cognitive function, and mood,” the study reads.
Of course, cocoa can also make us put on weight: an outcome that can damage our health in so many ways.
“As cocoa is predominantly consumed as energy-dense chocolate, potential detrimental effects of overconsumption exist, including increased risk of weight gain.”
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However, the study’s authors considered the weight gain potential of cocoa and weighed up the health-based pros and cons. The authors concluded that cocoa, eaten in moderation, can do more good than harm.
“Overall, research to date suggests that the benefits of moderate cocoa or dark chocolate consumption likely outweigh the risks.”
The caveat is that healthy chocolate should be as unrefined as possible. Dark chocolate has a higher content of polyphenols and flavonoids than other kinds of chocolate. The higher the cacao or cocoa percentage of a chocolate bar, the better it will be for you.
Overall, research to date suggests that the benefits of moderate cocoa or dark chocolate consumption likely outweigh the risks.
Slade advises home cooks with a peaking interest in boosting their health this season to open their mind and consider a wholefood Easter choice. But for all of those who try to adopt healthier eating practices this Easter and don’t succeed, Slade recommends giving it another go after the long weekend.
“Be gentle on yourself. It’s only one day of the year,” she says.