With New Year resolutions long forgotten, spring is the perfect time to push the 'restart' button on our healthy living - considered, as it is, a time for rebirth and fresh beginnings. Often used as a metaphor for the start of better times, here we take five traditional Easter customs and turn them on their head to help you blossom into a new, improved you!
1. Easter eggs
Let's face it, we're all big kids at heart and, with chocolate eggs in abundance, it's hard to avoid the sweet stuff this time of the year - it's what Easter is all about, isn't it? But, with such indulgence comes many health risks and we need to be mindful of the damage sugar can do to our teeth - and its effect on our overall health too, with obesity and type 2 diabetes among the related health issues. A good tip is to try to limit your and your children's intake of chocolate over this break so their dental health doesn't suffer. You can always opt for sugar-free chocolate or, if that's a step too far, maybe look for alternative prizes for that Easter egg hunt.
Dental therapist Melonie Prebble suggests that Easter may just be the perfect time to book a dental hygiene appointment for you - and the children. She says: 'A trip to see your dental hygienist or therapist to enjoy a professional clean will also serve as a reminder of how food and drink can influence the health of our mouths as well as raise awareness of good dental health habits for the children. Dental therapists and dental hygienists are perfectly placed to offer whole families good tips and to advise on tooth-brushing techniques. Try to eat chocolate at mealtimes and avoid snacking on them throughout the day, a habit that leaves sugar to do its worst. Monitor children's intake and drink a glass of water after a nibble. And do remember to brush for two minutes twice a day - you could even buy a fun timer for the kids instead of an Easter egg, or a powered toothbrush. There are lots on the market for children and some even have an inbuilt timer.'
In the meantime, 'real' eggs are a very good source of inexpensive, high-quality protein. More than half the protein of an egg is found in the egg white, along with vitamin B2 and lower amounts of fat and cholesterol than the yolk. The whites are rich sources of selenium, vitamin D, B6, B12 and minerals such as zinc, iron and copper. Eggs are a great way to start the day - their low glycaemic index rating means energy is released slowly, which means blood sugar levels are maintained so you're less likely to reach for a snack during the day.
2. Easter bonnets
This tradition is part of the old custom of wearing new clothes at Easter. Women would decorate old bonnets with fresh flowers of the season to breathe new life into them to mark the springtime theme of rebirth. So, perhaps we should be inspired by this concept of celebrating the first bloom of spring too? Spiritual renewal can be found in enjoying the simple pleasure of being outdoors - and certainly this can improve our overall wellbeing in so many ways. Budding gardeners should perhaps consider going green this time of year to benefit their overall health. Studies suggest that there are many physical benefits of getting out in the garden for adults and the elderly - and researchers recently found that children too, can reap the benefits of digging, raking, and weeding. Garden-based exercise interventions for children not only promote a physically active lifestyle but can raise awareness of good nutrition and a healthy diet, too.
3. Easter bunny
Healthy eating includes eating at least five portions - ideally, 7-9 portions - of a variety of fruit and vegetables each day. Fruit and vegetables include fresh, frozen, tinned, or dried varieties, and fruit juice. On average, people who eat lots of fruit and vegetables tend to be healthier and live longer. Raw fruit and vegetables are also a healthy alternative to snacking on sweets and chocolate - and if it's good for rabbits - who seemingly have boundless energy - then surely it must be good for us too? According to health writer Peta Bee, eating raw or lightly cooked foods requires more energy to chew and digest, which means we burn up those calories. So eating fruit and vegetables raw may be a healthier option. Cooking tomatoes for just two minutes, for example, decreases their vitamin C content by 10%, so far better to keep it simple. However, not all veggies are best eaten without a little warmth under them - sometimes cooking them can make it easier for our bodies to benefit from their protective antioxidants.
And dental therapist Melonie Prebble suggests that munching on a carrot can help clean the mouth, too - the Easter bunny's all-time favourite veggie kills harmful germs in the mouth and helps to prevent tooth decay!
4. Morris dancing
This folk dancing tradition is not necessarily an Easter one, but does feature at a lot of spring celebrations. Some say it has its roots in Druid rites. These days, there's much evidence to support the fact that dancing offers a great all-round health boost. Physically, it offers a variation in exercise - from quick steps and short energy bursts for aerobic exercise to slower sweeping movements and stretches that strengthen our core muscles, improve stamina, agility and flexibility and encourage good posture. Only this month a study revealed that moderate-intensity dancing can lower your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Elsewhere, research suggests it wards off high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, as well. For cognitive health, it makes us focus, tests our motor skills and powers of learning and makes demands on our memory. A study this month found that Latin dancing improved fitness levels for the elderly like no other exercise - plus, it's found to reduce the risk of dementia. Attending dance classes is also good for emotional and psychological wellbeing. It's fun to dance - especially with other people - so it's a great social activity. It can help with self-confidence, too - after all, 'nobody puts Baby in a corner' so put on your dancing shoes - and discover all the right moves!
5. A spring clean
This Easter, why not add a spring into your step? A spring detox is the perfect way to prepare for the summer ahead - and even shed some pounds in the run-up to the holiday season. We can feel a little sluggish after those long winter months, and giving up alcohol and sugary drinks is a fast route to a healthier, fitter you. Having the goal of the summer break ahead should inspire us all. Our body is nearly two thirds water so it is really important we consume enough fluid to stay hydrated and healthy - and, as the temperature warms up (hopefully), it's important to remember that the amount we drink is also weather-dependent with increased exercise activity having an influence too. Without enough H2O, we can feel lethargic, suffer headaches and will struggle to perform at our very best - cognitively and physically. Essential fluid sources - aside from water from the tap or the bottle -may also come from other drinks such as tea and coffee, milk and fruit juices but the best way to top up on water is always by drinking water! It delivers what's needed without the added calories and without potentially damaging teeth. Water also protects our mouths and, if we don't have enough of it, can lead to tooth decay. Dental therapist Melonie Prebble explains: 'Frequent exposure to sugars in the mouth along with plaque bacteria creates an acidic environment which leads to tooth decay. If we don't brush our teeth or floss regularly, it may soften enamel and dentine and, subsequently, lead to cavities.
'However, it's an easy fix. Stimulating saliva by drinking water enables it to do its job and neutralise any aggressive plaque acids, and help to repair early tooth damage and decay as well. If you have any dental health concerns, book an appointment to see your dental therapist or hygienist.'