Recently, I found myself in a fascinating conversation with a really cool fellow on a flight back from DC. We got talking about food - of course - and how sugar is such an innocuous additive. I mentioned I've been off it for two and half years and what a difference it has made to my being. He told me (and I agreed) that it would be so much easier to give it up if a) it wasn't in everything and b) it wasn't so delicious. Especially in snack-form.
That's always the toughest part. Really, with any kind of dietary change, accessibility (read: temptation) and preference (read: extra innate super-tough-to-overcome temptation) makes breaking up so hard to do. We prefer certain tastes because we've evolved to prefer them: sugar, for instance, is the one molecule we don't have an off-switch for. It's entirely evolutionary: you don't know when the next bush full of berries will come along, so you might as well eat all of its nutrient-dense, high-energy fruit until it's gone. What's tricky today is that these preferable flavors are all over the place. Ran out of ice cream? That's okay: 7/11 is probably still open.
Plus, feeling deprived is the quickest way to give up on any kind of intention you've set for your health and your eating. As soon as it feels like what we're gaining isn't worth as much as what we're giving up, we quit. Trouble is, what we're gaining is usually long-term well-being, more energy, a healthy weight, etc etc etc, and these don't happen overnight.
If you detest kale, the promise of a decreased risk of heart disease isn't going to feel very worth it in the short-term while you swap in greens for fries.
The trick is to find substitutes that work for your tastebuds and (inherently) your motivation. If, while you work on reducing your sugar intake, you swap in delicious veggies like sweet potatoes and squash that feel sweet, or you swap in creamy, healthy-fat-packed avocado and coconut milk in place of the dairy products that make you feel crappy, you might not notice what you're not having; instead, you'll notice and revel in and truly enjoy what you ARE having.
Some of my favorite simple swaps are below. For me, having easy go-to's is essential. Again, accessibility can be a help or a hindrance when it comes to making body-supportive choices.
Instead of ice cream, have whipped coconut milk
Open a can of coconut milk and scoop off the top layer. Blend for ~15 seconds until it forms little peaks, like whipped cream. Eat 1 tbsp at a time: it's super rich and doesn't take much to feel satisfied.
Try this 'pie-less pumpkin pie'
using canned pumpkin puree. Chill it a little and you've got a great after-dinner treat that's packed with nutrients.
Blend 1 cup frozen raspberries (much lower in sugar than most fruit) with 1/3 cup almond milk until custard-like to make your own frozen yogurt. The frozen berries give this a nice frosty consistency, which you can eat straight away without further freezing.
Instead of fries, have another veggie - and cook it without a deep fryer.
Instead of chips, have toasted almond flour tortillas
Instead of pasta, use non-starchy veggies
, Zucchini Pasta
and Cauliflower Mac and Cheese are amazing -- plus, you can always change up the sauce to make it an entirely different meal.
Instead of chocolate, make your own with coconut oil and cocoa powder
The how-to is in this chocolate chip cookie recipe
, which is an awesome swap-out for more traditional desserts, too. Frozen hazelnut butter fudge
will also be a great reminder that - while you're missing out on processed sugar and feeling gross tomorrow - you're actually winning at life because hazelnut butter fudge is ridiculously good.
These are just a few ideas to get you started. You'll notice that these are all super simple, using just a few ingredients. Less complicated = more likely to happen when you're short on time or high on temptation.
I like to keep a cheat-sheet on the fridge/ by the computer/ in my bag. Consider stashing one wherever you might need to refer to it while grocery shopping or making snack choices.
What are some of your favorite healthy swaps? What makes them easy for you?
Take care of you.