Eating well can be so difficult at times. Dieting is often associated with being very restrictive–don’t eat that, don’t drink that!
This is why diets are difficult. We often feel deprived of our favorite foods, and it can be stressful when we are not able to fulfill our cravings. With this in mind, I’ve devised a swapping technique that helps me handle cravings for not-so-healthy foods while staying satisfied and on track with a diet proper for me. Here’s a list of some of the healthier alternatives that I swap for my favorite foods, aka my most common sinful cravings.
Stevia, not sugar
Eating a high-sugar diet can have serious consequences for your mental and physical health. From weight gain to heart disease to even mental illnesses, the problems that sugar poses to one’s body is endless. Sugar is also known to contribute to the growth of cancer! This sweet substance is considered as the universal inflammatory, and it doesn’t help that sugar is found in virtually everything we consume, which is why a little effort to avoid sugar can go a long way for your health, such as using stevia when you can. Stevia is a plant-based, calorie-free sweetener, it doesn’t raise blood sugar levels like sugar, and other artificial sweeteners do. I always keep stevia packets on me just in case my coffee needs a sweet kick.
Almond milk, not cow’s milk
I find almond milk to be the best non-dairy substitute for milk. Although dairy milk has its benefits like being rich in calcium, cow’s milk is high in saturated fat and can also lead to coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and digestive issues. Not to mention, dairy, in general, causes inflammation to one’s body. Almond milk is naturally free of cholesterol, saturated fat, and lactose. It’s rich in calcium, vitamins D, E and A, and has far fewer calories than other types of milk. I typically take my coffee black, but when I do crave a creamy cappuccino, I opt for the almond milk version. This happens quite often so the few grams of fat and sugar avoided do add up!
Black coffee, not “dessert” coffee
Speaking of coffee, this delicious drink (can you tell it’s my absolute fave?) is the best for you when taken black, without the added dairy and sugar. As the third most-consumed drink in the world behind water and tea, coffee can be prepared a million different ways and is oftentimes prepared with so much added calories that it can rack up more calories than your average dessert or meal. That’s not good. I happen to love vanilla lattes, but with some time and adjustment, I’ve grown to love simple, black coffee. And since I drink it numerous times a day, keeping it black saves me from all those unwanted calories.
Wheat-free carbohydrates, not starchy bread and pasta
Whether or not you have celiac’s disease or a wheat allergy, I am a huge advocate of eating wheat-free as much as possible. People may think that wheat-free means gluten-free. That’s not entirely accurate. Gluten is one of the few proteins associated with wheat that causes a lot of health issues. The truth is the modern-day diet has way too much gluten that the body is meant to consume. Avoiding gluten usually involves cutting back on processed foods, as it’s found in a wide array of highly processed foods, such as fast food, baked goods, and sugary cereals. Like sugar and dairy, gluten is a known culprit for causing inflammation, so having some or too much of it can lead to a slew of issues such as a leaky gut, type 1 diabetes in children of mothers who consume gluten, autoimmune diseases like Crohn’s disease, skin disorders like eczema and psoriasis, and brain fog. Those do not sound like fun, right? So, I highly recommend avoiding wheat- or gluten-laded carbohydrates. Instead, you can get your daily recommended carb intake from vegetables (that would be the most ideal), or there are wheat-free options for popular carbs such gluten-free bread and pasta. I’d go for vegetables, but if you can’t resist, there’s low-glycemic and low-calorie shirataki noodles, or good ole rice! Just be careful of your portions–just because it’s gluten-free, doesn’t mean there’s no sugar, fat or high grams of carbs.
Dark chocolate, not milk or white chocolate
Sugar is sugar. It’s terrible for you, but I know life would be pretty depressing if we didn’t get to enjoy an occasional sweet treat or a bit of chocolate here or there. Which is why chocolate is my go-to to satisfy my sweet cravings, but not just any chocolate, I go dark. When it comes to which type of chocolate is the healthiest, the answer is simple: it’s dark chocolate by a landslide. Dark chocolate varieties contain super-high cocoa contents (usually 70 to 80 percent, but many up to 100!), which means they contain more flavanols–a heart-healthy antioxidant–than milk chocolate. But the more cocoa you have, the more bitter your chocolate will be—and that’s exactly why milk chocolate adds in a lot of milk and sugar to sweeten things up. Unfortunately, eating something that’s primarily sugar and saturated fat is a no-go for your health. But don’t worry: You can still get your choco-fix and do something good for your body at the same time. Experts recommend sticking with varieties that are 70 percent cocoa or higher to reap the benefits—like helping you fight off disease and even make you smarter. Plus, dark chocolate is packed with important minerals—like magnesium, zinc, and iron—which can also help keep your brain healthy as you age.
When I think of Heaven, I imagine endless pastries, chocolates, mocha lattes, and cookies. Sweets galore! These are undoubtedly my biggest temptation while living here in Manila. With that said, they are also some of the worst possible foods out there. They are laden with bad fats, gluten, refined sugar, and insulin-spiking carbohydrates. When I’m hit with a craving for any of these sweet treats, I turn to the much healthier alternatives I listed above. In a picture-perfect world, we wouldn’t encounter or crave for foods like these that are so incredibly detrimental to one’s health, but the reality is that we do. Every single day, in every café, restaurant, and grocery store. Avoiding these all together for long periods would be so stressful, and somewhat sad, in my honest opinion. I truly believe in having a balanced lifestyle. With that said, balanced doesn’t mean I encourage eating terribly. Balanced to me means that you are able to properly nourish and care for your body, while also enjoying the food you eat. These healthy swaps allow me to do that, and I hope me sharing this with you will help you to do so as well.