It is almost a daily occurrence that when I talk with someone about food or nutrition, they often use the words “good”and “bad”when referring to their diet, their food choices, their nutrition behavior or even small little bits an pieces they’ve eaten on vacation. Apology is often the next thing that comes up – many people feel like they need to apologies for their “bad”behavior and they’ll hop right back on their “good”food wagon.
Well, this is my ode to the goodness of chocolate cake. To the goodness of the occasional peach cobbler and to the joy of the morning cup of coffee. I am a big believer of “everything in moderation”, and in my experience working with patients, denying oneself everything often leads to an over-consumption of something else. Sustainability is key! It’s OK to have your chocolate cake sometimes. And your morning cup of coffee and your favorite peach cobbler at that summer get together. The hard part is balancing when “occasionally”becomes every night, and then habits form.
The most common question I get about this is, “What can I do change my habits?? I need an alternative!”. So let me give you some of my favorites:
- The midnight/ late night snack: Instead of grazing for the sweet desserts or ice-cream late at night, try dehydrated veggies (like snap peas and carrots and dried fruits). These are not filling and offer a tangy sweetness or saltiness. I also like to make a cup of rooibos tea which tastes so sweet and soothing. The water fills up the stomach, making you less hungry to eat more.
- The finally-home-after-work beer: Ever tried kombucha? It’s absolutely delicious, fizzy, revitalizing and super bubbly. Also, Reeds Ginger Beer it another option when you just like the feeling/ritual of opening the bottle and sitting down with the beverage.
- The afternoon-eat-everything-in-sight grazer: This is where high protein snacks come in handy. Hummus is fantastic to snack on with some crackers or carrots sticks. A handful of nuts (like almonds, walnuts and cashews) are high calorie, healthy fat, high protein power houses. If you crave sweets at the same time, trail mix with chocolate chips or chocolate covered almonds are another good option.
- The uncontrollable sweet tooth: This can emerge at any moment. Here is where seasonal fruits come in to play (either dried or fresh). Peaches, apples, pears, nectarines, berries, pineapples and citrus fruits all have a punch of sweetness and freshness that can tame a pesky sweet tooth before you go for the bag of candy.
- The sugar-rush-breakfast: Sure, it will give you the immediate energy to get out the door, but that is NOT sustainable. Try instead a bowl of oatmeal (instant or the old fashioned kind) with fresh blueberries, walnuts, cinnamon and honey or maple syrup. This will really fill you up and stay with you well into the afternoon with the pop of sweetness, protein in the nuts, vitamins/minerals/antioxidants from the berries and heartiness from the oats.
Paying attention and limiting to when we’re reaching for our indulgences time and time again is a great practice to get into. And even better is really slowing down and enjoying our indulgences when we have them – eat them slowly, savor each bite, really be blissed out while you’re eating them, and share them, too!
All of these alternatives will take some time and experimenting to get the hang of and find out what works best for you. And remember, no food should bring on a massive amount of guilt or be considered “bad”, most especially if it brings you considerable JOY to eat and joy to share. For the love of chocolate cake, enjoy some indulgence every once in a while (and it’s even better when it’s home made!).
Lindsay Kluge M.Sc, CNS, LDN HealthCoach@EllwoodThompsons.com