Do you have a sweet tooth?
Some crave sweeter things; for others, it’s salty or savory things. As for me? It’s sweets all the way!
When I first began incorporating healthier foods into my eating plan, I learned how shocking amounts of sugar are added to nearly all baked foods. This includes some surprising non-dessert items such as snacks and breakfast foods, etc. Knowing that the excess sugar contributed to many of my symptoms, I tried to cut back but this thought kept my progress at bay, “I could NEVER go without these foods!”
I couldn’t imagine a world without crackers, chips, cookies, pastries, toaster waffles, cereals, processed breads, pastas, etc.
I bet you can relate.
Here’s the problem with that line of thinking. When we start making healthier changes to our diets, we have this misconception that the “new” diet is all or nothing. It’s all healthy all the time, or nothing healthy ever. We think everything has to be either/or, or black/white.
I’m here to let you in on a secret: Embrace the gray!
It’s time to leave black and white thinking far behind you. Following a healthy nutrition plan most of the time is the goal. But there’s a lot of room in between eating nothing healthy and everything healthy. Let yourself experiment with healthier fare at the pace that feels right to you.
Eating clean (the practice of eating meals free from processed foods) is desirable, but the main goal is to do your best the majority of the time. It’s as simple as that.
Black or white thinking is usually very detrimental (not to mention unrealistic and limiting) to your overall nutrition plan. It’s neither practical nor sustainable. If we attempt to restrict ourselves of treats, there will naturally be a backlash to that restrictive mindset.
With that in mind, a treat now and then, can actually help to keep you on track. It allows you the latitude needed to feel supported and encouraged in your journey.
This is the toughest time of year to deny yourself the gastronomical delights sure to tempt you at your next party or family event.
To help, here are 10 Quick Tips to Tame Your Holiday Treat Concerns:
Is there a healthier substitute for this food? Sometimes we want a certain flavor such as chocolate or perhaps cinnamon spice. Look for healthier foods that provide a taste of that same flavor. Could a chocolate breakfast smoothie provide the same satisfying flavor you crave? Could a cinnamon spice flavored herbal tea hit the spot and provide your taste buds with that sweet and spicy combo you desire?
Portion the desired treat and – right then - put the rest away for later. Sometimes we simply want a treat. The problem comes, however, when we do so, and then have just one more, and then just one more after that. You know the drill. It can be helpful to portion off what you plan to have and put away the rest. Or, there’s nothing wrong with throwing away what you don’t need!
Nibble, nibble, nibble. When you’re at a party, and the tasty treats are spread before you like a dancing buffet, consider just taking small pieces and nibble on them politely.
Avoid them altogether. Have you ever had a hard time avoiding the treats you’ve made or purchased for others in your home? You may not even like a particular snack, but if it’s on the counter, in the fridge, or front and center in your pantry, it’ll be front and center in your mind, too. Instead, tuck it away. The saying “out of sight is out of mind” is actually true and can be a useful tactic in avoiding unwanted indulgences.
BYOT (Bring Your Own Treat). When attending an event, bring your own healthy dessert or treat along so you’re not left out when others indulge.
Fill up your tank. Eat a meal before your party or event to be sure you’re not going with an empty stomach. Pay particular attention to eating healthy proteins and healthy fats as they’ll have a higher satiety level and help to keep you feeling fuller longer.
Sip up. Drink water on your way to the event so that you’re properly hydrated. Continue to sip throughout the duration of the event to limit your hunger pangs and to help you feel satisfied.
Get your groove on beforehand. Participating in a fitness activity at some point in the day before you attend your event can give you the boost you need to stay in a positive frame of mind. Dance, walk, do yoga, ride a bike … whatever feels good for both the body and soul. Once you’ve worked out, you’ll feel energized and motivated to keep up with your healthy eating plan and you won’t want to “sabotage” it with unplanned foods later.
Confide in a buddy. Let someone else know about your healthy eating plans. That way, he or she can help you to feel supported as well as accountable. Support each other and afterwards, pat yourselves on the back for a job well done.
Enjoy! There’s a big difference between gobbling down a treat out of mindless frustration, fatigue, or anxiety, and choosing to enjoy a treat. When you choose to do so, do it wholeheartedly and with your full intention. When you decide to have something that’s outside of your typical daily nutrition plan, do so with delight. I encourage you to enjoy every bite, slowly savor every texture and flavor, and relish the entire experience. No guilt allowed.
Now that you have a few tips on how to handle the treats that typically cause discomfort over the holidays, here’s a simple and easy recipe to try. With this, and other holiday treat recipes, feel free to alter the ingredient quantities to suit your needs. Make a smaller batch than you think you’d want in the first place. Consider halving or quartering the recipe. It’s a better plan to make more if you want it, than to have more than you need and feel like you need to have “just one more.” (See items #2 and #4 above.)
I won’t go so far as to say the following recipe is completely healthy (I’m under no such delusion), but I will say that it’s more than likely far healthier than any other sweet treat you’ll find at your holiday parties and get-togethers.
It has just a few ingredients and the nutritional benefits are many. The highlights include antioxidants, healthy oil, fiber, folate, vitamin A, potassium, calcium, and, magnesium. Try getting that from a jar of marshmallow fluff!
Fabulous Effortless Fudge
- 13 Medjool dates (soaked for around 20 minutes)
- ½ C Raw cacao powder*
- ¼ C Coconut oil**
Mix all ingredients in a blender or food processor until well-blended. Pour into oiled or parchment-lined dish (such as a pie pan or an 8”x8” square pan). Refrigerate for an hour. Makes about 10 small pieces.
Add crushed or chopped nuts, cacao nibs, flaked or shredded unsweetened coconut, coffee granules, peppermint flavoring, chia seeds, cinnamon, cayenne, or your choice of add-ins.
Here’s an important note: Although dates contain a natural sugar, it is still sugar (and that’s why they’re so sweet!). There’s no getting around that point. This is something to enjoy on occasion.
* When it comes to the cacao powder, don’t make it too complicated. Generally speaking, cacao powder refers to the raw or minimally processed powder from the cacao bean. Once it’s been processed with heat (and sometimes other chemicals), it’s then usually referred to as cocoa powder. Either way, use whatever you have on hand, and have fun with the experimentation!
** If you haven’t worked with coconut oil, it’s important to note that it’s either a solid or a liquid depending on the room temperature. In the winter time in colder climates, it’s likely to be a solid. If so, simply add the desired amount into a glass measuring cup or bowl, and “float” it in a larger bowl filled with hot water (double boiler method). The coconut oil will liquefy quickly.
When you make your fudge, it’s easy to adjust the consistency. For thicker fudge, add more cacao powder. To thin out fudge that’s become too thick, add some of the water drained from the soaked dates.
It’s my greatest wish that you feel happy and healthy this holiday season. Treat yourself to a treat now and then, and do so with joy and gladness.
Sue Ingebretson (www.RebuildingWellness.com) is an author, speaker, certified holistic health care practitioner and the director of program development for the Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Center at California State University, Fullerton. She is also a Patient Advocate/Fibromyalgia Expert for the Alliance Health website and a Fibromyalgia editor for the ProHealth website community.
Her #1 Amazon best-selling chronic illness book, FibroWHYalgia, details her own journey from chronic illness to chronic wellness. She is also the creator of the FibroFrog™- a therapeutic stress-relieving tool which provides powerful healing benefits with fun and whimsy.