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Managing Easter in Lockdown

Easter is going ahead and Jacinda Adern has elevated the Easter bunny to the list of essential services permitted to operate this lockdown period.

In Ireland, the Taoiseach has granted a special Eggs-emption for the easter bunny to travel freely delivering this year.

That's great news for our little ones, however, now parents might be thinking about how to handle all that sugar. Especially with rain and storms that are forecast here in New Zealand and the idea of being cooped up inside all day.

We understand for many people life is a real struggle right now, the pressure on time, finances and availability is just might not be possible for everyone to celebrate in the way that they would want.

If you can and want to celebrate with Easter eggs, but are still worried about how to manage all that sweet stuff- we can help.

Some parents may be searching for ‘Easter egg alternatives’ or with limited access to the shops, they might be considering going chocolate free as an excuse to avoid having to face dealing with the indulgence altogether.

For those who are free to eat any ingredient (including sugar, dairy, gluten and all the rest of it), the choices can feel very overwhelming. Dairy-free, gluten-free, sugar-free, natural colourings, carob, organic, pure candy options even. All in bright colourful packaging, with cartoon bunnies, or the latest TV characters for that extra appeal. It’s even possible to buy Easter eggs made entirely of whole food ingredients, such as nuts, coconut and cacao.

If you are able to access chocolate this Easter and are not restricted in any way? How can we know what is best? Should we be looking for a healthier option? and how much sugar should we let our children eat?

Easter (even one in lockdown) can be the perfect time to support children to learn how to self regulate. Whilst there is such fear created around sugar. We know from research about that it has only been found to be addictive in those who have previously avoided or restricted it. The reality is, children need to learn to eat these foods. They can learn to eat sugar and sweet foods in a balanced way by tuning into their body and eating as much as they're hungry for without bingeing or eating to excess. However, this is a skill that needs to be practised (and role modelled by adults) in order to be mastered.

Here at The Food Tree, we like to step back and take a wider view.

Is it best for us, as parents, to spend our energy reading the fine print on ingredient labels? Perhaps it is possible to prove that one option has a slight nutritional advantage over the others, but what would it cost you — in time and energy — to figure that all out?

To celebrate Easter well, we do not have to make every choice perfectly. When we think of what good health means, it involves our physical, mental, social and emotional well-being. We need to be nourishing more than our bellies.

The best choice for most of us could be- to just relax about the eggs. Instead, focus on enjoying what these celebrations might provide. Moments that nurture our relationships and provide a break from the usual day to day routine.

We may be needing to alter our traditions a little bit this Easter. Yet, bubble life and the 4-day break offers many opportunities to create memories and connect with those we care about.

Allowing ourselves to be present and enjoy these, actually makes whatever Easter egg we choose, a healthy option, as it is really such a small element of the bigger event.

Our new book ‘Feeding a Growth Mindset’. While we’ve been writing primarily about how to encourage our children to develop a growth mindset around food and life, it is clear our findings also apply to parents. It is common to hear those stuck in a fixed mindset say things like: ‘There is no way I could let him loose around all that chocolate” or, “I’ll need the next 6 months at the gym for this!” That internal judgemental voice in our minds criticising our choices. But when we aim for a growth mindset — valuing flexibility, open-mindedness and experimentation, it is possible that holidays like Easter, serve to teach our children, something valuable about food and their bodies. That is, when we relax and actually enjoy the food, without the complication of guilt, restriction and shame, we also learn to tune into our body and what it needs.

Here are some ways to support a growth mindset around food this Easter:

Nurture your inner gourmet- Choose quality over quantity. Let favourite flavours and curiosity guide your choices, rather than the nutritional information panel. There are some amazing flavours out there now, try something new and learn about them as a family.

Relax about the sugar- Children learn how to manage sweet food given practice and good role models. During the weekend- let them self manage the whole stash. If anything is left after the weekend, offer some of it a few days later, at afternoon tea, for example, alongside other foods. This approach takes chocolate off a pedestal. No longer is it the treat that only comes after enduring the green and crunchy stuff. It’s just one of the many different foods we eat. No need to gorge or panic eat, we will eat chocolate again. This time, it's egg-shaped.

Yes, there will be times, especially if this approach is new to you and your child, where someone will eat more than they were hungry for. That in itself is a learning experience! These mistakes are all part of learning what works best for our body, it helps us make a better-informed choice about what to do next time. Certainly, has more of an impact than being told it will make us sick, or only getting one bite at a time before being told it’s bad for us (in a young child’s mind- how can something that tastes so good be bad?!) Better to learn this in a relaxed and open way, giving yourself time to notice how it makes you feel.

Eat mindfully- Choose a moment that is free from distraction to enjoy your eggs. Sit, taste, savour the flavours. When we allow it to be about joy instead of guilt and restriction, we are more open to the full sensory experience- have you smelt the inside of a Whittaker’s kiwi egg? Smoothed out the beautiful crinkly foil? Or paid attention to the sounds of an Easter egg? To this day the crack of a hollow egg is still one of my most favourite sounds. When we slow the eating experience, taking time to enjoy it, we also allow ourselves to listen to our body. Turns out when you actually taste the chocolate, eating a few mouthfuls is often enough to be satisfied. Other times you want more, and that is ok.

When we know we can always have more later, having a bit of chocolate doesn’t seem like a big deal. No need to binge, just relax and enjoy it. That is a skill I want my child to also have. As parents, we can set the tone and mood of these celebrations. When we swap out unnecessary rigidity for connection and enjoyment of the moment, it makes for a genuinely healthy Easter.

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