Easter is just around the corner so our resident nutritionist Nick Owen is on hand to give you some top tips on eating healthily and embracing all the fresh produce available at this time of year.
Nowadays, many of us associate Easter with chocolate eggs, hot cross buns, spring lamb, as well as the wonderful choice from the abundance of seasonal produce starting to appear – giving the opportunity for both health and indulgence. It’s this time of year that spinach, asparagus, purple sprouting broccoli and Jersey Royal new potatoes all come into season, offering a great tasting accompaniment to any number of dishes.
But what are the benefits of your Easter feast? What should you watch out for? Here is a handy guide to help you to reap the greatest nutritional value from this period.
Let’s start with the centrepiece on the dinner table for meat eaters. Easter heralds the arrival of spring lamb for that all important protein source – as well as zinc, iron and B vitamins. 100g of lean lamb usually contains a very useful 25g of protein.
Spinach is a great source of vitamins A, C, E and K, as well as magnesium and folate. It is also rich in iron and calcium. However be aware that the body is unable to use these iron and calcium sources effectively due to the high levels of oxalate also contained in spinach, and therefore absorbs less than 10% of the calcium. So why not add in some watercress which also contains iron and calcium that are consumed in a manner which enables the body to absorb it far more effectively.
Asparagus will add flavour and freshness to any dish and comes into its own around March and April. It is an impressive source of the B-complex vitamins needed to produce energy and maintain the nervous system. Asparagus provides a useful amount of vitamin K – essential for strong bones, blood clotting for helping wounds to heal and may potentially be a factor in fighting off the onset of Alzheimer's disease.
Now you’ve seen the potential benefits of some of the must-haves of the Easter dinner table, let’s address the area that most of us struggle with – the tasty treats.
Easter eggs and the hot cross buns are both are best classed as enjoyable but indulgent – so enjoy in moderation and with discipline; perfectly acceptable if our usual every day eating is built on a healthy foundation.
The eggs will usually be a sweet milk chocolate; on the high side with fat and sugars – a cream egg contains about 150 calories, including the equivalent of 6 sugar cubes and up to 10% of your overall daily fat content. Be wary of over-indulgence as consuming 2-3 of these across a day will require some serious gym work, as well as wreak potential havoc on your blood sugar levels, and remember that sticking with dark chocolate will be healthier.
For the Hot Cross-Buns, they are primarily a processed sweet bakery based carbohydrate with up to 20% of your daily recommended fat intake – remember too that the cheaper versions are likely to contain harmful hydrogenated fat – ever wondered why they are available in store so long before Easter? Thanks to hydrogenated fat! As with the chocolate eggs, the same rules apply. Use them as a treat if you wish, but not too many and not too often.
Enjoy your Easter weekend and don’t forget that you can always embrace the great outdoors and run off some of those excess calories. Have fun!
Nick Owen is the Club's resident nutritionist and is available for one-to-one sessions with members and non-members. Check out his profile here.