Danica D’Souza is a second year university student studying nutrition who enjoys chocolate and baking and is the creator of A Piece of Shortcake, where she shares stories and recipes. We had a chat with her and she shared her views on health, sugar and a few tips to maintain a balanced lifestyle.
What does healthy living mean to you?
To me healthy living means to consume more nutritious wholefoods and less processed foods that may be high in saturated fat and added sugar. I also believe it’s important to decrease time spent doing sedentary activities and instead be more active.
Do you think quitting certain foods is a good way to get healthy?
I wouldn’t necessarily say quitting a certain food completely is healthy. I would say monitoring what types of foods you are eating and making sure you are eating a wide variety of foods from all 5 food groups (meat/meat alternatives, fruit, vegetables, dairy and grains) is a much easier and realistic way of maintaining good health. Of course, it is also important to monitor your intake of discretionary or ‘treat’ foods such as chips, lollies, chocolate bars, pastries etc. as these foods shouldn’t make up the main proportion of your diet.
How do you maintain a healthy lifestyle?
I maintain a healthy lifestyle by trying to eat a variety of foods from the 5 food groups. I’m definitely one of those people who eats with their eyes so I usually try to get lots of colourful fruits and vegetables on my plate in order to get my recommended 2 serves of fruit and 5 serves of veg. I also try and watch my portion sizes when it comes to those treat items– obviously there are times when it can be unavoidable (I mean who doesn’t like a piece of cake at a birthday party?). I think it’s important to recognise that although these types of foods may be tasty, they aren’t going to nourish your body so they should only be enjoyed occasionally. I also try to be more physically active each day. Since I’m still studying it can be quite challenging to find the time to exercise but whenever I feel like I’m losing focus on my work I’ll take a quick break from my studies and jog on the spot or find a fun exercise video on youtube. I also choose water as my main choice of drink. I try to avoid sugary drinks such as soft drinks and even packaged fruit juices as these can actually be quite high in added sugars!
Describe sugar in three words.
Carbohydrate, sweet, addictive.
Should sugar be viewed as something that is ‘bad’?
I think it depends on what type of sugar you’re referring to. Our brain requires glucose as a source of energy, which can in turn help our bodies function properly. However, we should definitely be sensible about where we’re obtaining this glucose from. I definitely think refined sugars and sugars that are added to food products can be dangerous and hence should be limited, especially if people consume quite a lot of these sugar-laden foods and drinks each day. However, I believe natural sugars such as those found in fresh fruit and honey shouldn’t be deemed as ‘bad’ as even though they contain sugar, they also contain nutrients such as vitamins and minerals that are beneficial to your body. So that way you can satisfy your sweet cravings whilst also doing something good for your body!
What is your favourite way to ‘treat yo self’ and get that sugar fix?
Snack-wise, whenever I feel like something sweet I try to go for fruit (either fresh or dried). In saying that, I’m a self-confessed chocolate lover so when I feel like a more indulgent treat I get my sugar fix by eating 1 or 2 squares of dark chocolate. Most people prefer milk or white chocolate but I LOVE dark chocolate because I find that it has a richer flavour so I don’t need too much to satisfy my cravings. Plus it contains antioxidants which is an added bonus!
What advice would you give to people seeking to live a healthy, happy and balanced lifestyle?
I definitely think choosing foods from the 5 food groups and doing regular exercise are important to maintain a balanced lifestyle. When it comes to treat foods, I don’t think people need to COMPLETELY cut them out, but rather, these foods should be reserved for special occasions instead of constituting a large proportion of one’s diet.
For more of Danica’s views and recipes visit her blog, A Piece of Shortcake!
Stay Sweet! CD