Don’t just ditch the chocolate: 11 positive food habits to pick up for lent

After the last of the sugar and lemon-doused pancakes have been snaffled away, Ash Wednesday usually kicks in with a vengeance.

Traditionally, and religiously, it marks the beginning a 40 day period of fasting. So until Easter, many of us – religious or not – cut out chocolate, pass on crisps, deny ourselves the merest Digestive biscuit, and blanket-refuse dessert.

But there’s an argument for treating it as a six-week chance to pick up some positive new eating habits instead, and try new culinary avenues too. Here are some ideas to consider…

1. Make a packed lunch

At least every weekday – and quit eating lunch at your desk too. You’ll save money and not get quite so many crumbs in your keyboard.

2. Give something you hated another chance

Despise olives? Maybe you just haven’t found the right olive yet. Hated seafood as a kid and haven’t tried it since? Now’s your time to get to grips with salmon and mackerel – or at least fish fingers.

3. Bake for your friends/colleagues

You had your pancakes on Tuesday, but you’ve still got a baking cupboard full of odds and ends. Make cookies and take them into work, or the kids can take them into school. Brownies will go down even better.

4. Learn to use the right oil at the right moment

If you find yourself wincing over whether to cook with extra virgin olive oil, or only ever seem to have sunflower in the house, apparently there are rules. Learn ’em (e.g. Extra virgin is fancy, buy the good stuff, only use it on salad and for dunking bread in).

5. Deal with that niggling kitchen skill you can’t get quite right

Learn how to: Actually poach an egg properly, sharpen your kitchen knives, cook a steak medium-rare, whip meringue, cook rice without messing it up.

6. Instigate a weekly family dinner

You never know, if you’re lucky it might carry on past Lent.

7. Take on the 10-veg-a-day challenge

And see if it’s actually possible to achieve (worth a try though, right?).

8. Start doing meat-free Mondays

If you don’t already, now’s a good time to start, and if you already do take part, Lent could be the time you work a vegan day into your week too.

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9. Switch sliced white for sourdough

Honestly, it’s a total game changer – and better for you, a lot of the time.

10. Potentially improve your sleep

Find out whether cutting out that last cup of tea/coffee before bed actually helps you sleep better.

11. Be more adventurous

If your local Chinese takeaway knows your order by heart; you can’t seem to look past chicken korma at the Indian; and without fail get a Big Mac whenever you see the golden arches, how about next time you ask to see the menu and pick something different? It might be a revelation.

- Press Association

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