Keep­ing it healthy at snack time

Clodagh Finn

Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - Food -

THERE’S no need to be spooked by the an­nual sugar splurge at Hal­loween, says award-win­ning par­ent­ing blog­ger Cliona O’Con­nor. The trick is to let them have their treats, then re­turn to a rou­tine of healthy snack­ing be­fore the sat­u­rated fats come back to haunt you.

As the mother of four so wisely puts it: “There are lots of sac­ri­fices that need to be made in life. How­ever, choco­late is not one of them. Ev­ery­thing in mod­er­a­tion, I al­ways say.”

That line is typ­i­cal of Cliona O’Con­nor’s light-hearted take on life which is dis­pensed with wit, hu­mour and sear­ing hon­esty on lean­mean­momma.ie, a blog that charts the day-to-day ups and downs of a mother with a house­ful of “loud, lov­able rogues” who are all un­der 10.

In fact, try­ing to cope with the pres­sures of work­ing as a phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal rep and be­ing a par­ent was what put her on a new path as a well­be­ing am­bas­sador and blog­ger. Af­ter her third child was born four years ago, she knew some­thing had to give.

“I thought it would be eas­ier. I was ly­ing in bed won­der­ing if I would ever feel like my­self again,” she tells Feel­good.

When ex­haus­tion took hold, she started to re­call the nu­tri­tion she stud­ied as part of her PE and sports science de­gree and to in­tro­duce changes. She in­vested in a blender and be­gan, step by step, to cut down on re­fined sugar and avoid the bad fats that are in pro­cessed foods.

“I was so tired that I had to give my­self ev­ery chance to feel well. It was never about los­ing weight, it was about how I felt in­side.”

She still had her treats but be­gan to live by new guide­lines: “If you have to un­wrap it, you prob­a­bly shouldn’t be hav­ing it, but if it is swims, runs or grows, then it’s prob­a­bly fine.”

When her fourth child was born two years ago, she gave up the rep job and be­gan to fo­cus on ap­ply­ing her own health eat­ing tips to her chil­dren’s diet and then shar­ing her suc­cesses – and fail­ures – with the wider world on her blog.

One of the first chal­lenges was keep­ing her chil­dren — Caoilinn (nine); Fi­adh (seven), Ol­lie (four) and Ja­cob (two) — in healthy snacks.

Chil­dren, she says, and in par­tic­u­lar younger chil­dren, don’t have three meals a day. They need lots of snacks, but it’s vi­tal to give them healthy ones.

Snack­ing, how­ever, is not just for chil­dren. Over 70% of Ir­ish peo­ple snack ev­ery day, ac­cord­ing to a Su­per­Valu sur­vey re­leased ear­lier this year. The study also found that just a quar­ter of peo­ple un­der 65 eat at ded­i­cated meal times while two in five of us have at least two snacks a day.

The so-called fourth meal — or propen­sity to snack — was iden­ti­fied as the big­gest food trend of 2018 and Cliona O’Con­nor thinks it’s here to stay. She says part of it is due to our busier life­styles and the in­creas­ing range of hunger-in­duc­ing ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties for chil­dren.

That is why it is more im­por­tant than ever to snack well, she says. She has teamed up with Su­per­Valu, which stocks over 1,000 healthy snack prod­ucts, to fo­cus at­ten­tion on the im­por­tance of healthy snack­ing.

“As a mum, we can all wax lyri­cal about go­ing to four dif­fer­ent super­mar­kets for our prod­ucts and to the Outer He­brides for the sauces, but we have to be prac­ti­cal too,” she says.

At the same time, peo­ple must make a con­scious de­ci­sion to eat well. “It is still much eas­ier to reach for the bad stuff when you are tired, but you won’t feel well,” she says. Her top healthy snacks in­clude: Smooth­ies: Re­place some of the fruit with veg as you have to pay at­ten­tion to the nat­u­ral sug­ars as well as the re­fined ones. Add some frozen spinach and call it Jun­gle Juice. Two bananas (frozen is even bet­ter but fresh per­fect too),10-15 al­monds,1 tsp cin­na­mon,1 tsp honey (op­tional) or 3-4 dates,4 tbsp Greek-style nat­u­ral yo­gurt, 400ml Mór Milk Fruit bowls Yo­gurts, but check the sugar con­tent Pan­cakes made from milk, ground oats, eggs, vanilla ex­tract and co­conut sugar

Hum­mus with car­rots, cel­ery sticks or red pep­pers Fruit and veg chips Made­good gra­nola bars, which are or­ganic, ve­gan and gluten-free

“I al­ways keep try­ing them with stuff. Once you stop, the game is truly up. You have to try some­thing 12 times, I think, be­fore it catches on.”

FEEL­ING GOOD: Cliona O’Con­nor turned to healthy snacks and foods while try­ing to feel well in her­self af­ter her fourth child, and she hasn’t looked back.

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