Treats That Feel Like Cheats

Posted by: Tiffany Ritter
Date: October 20, 2016

Our cravings for certain foods can have their roots in many places: Genetics, taste preferences, our environment, even ingestion of artificial sweeteners, added sugar and highly refined foods. Overconsumption of sugar can create a vicious cycle of intense cravings by over-activating your brain’s reward system. A different way of eating – including discovering treats that feel like cheats – can take some adjustment, but over time you may find yourself surprisingly satisfied. Here are a few tips to get started at home or at work.

Don’t compare your old favorites to the new healthier alternatives. As you begin substituting foods with added sugar or other unwanted ingredients with healthier alternatives, keep your focus on what you’re currently eating verses comparing it to the “original.” Comparing foods may leave you unsatisfied and make your adjustment harder. Instead view the healthy food as a new choice and you may find yourself loving your new discovery.

Start tasting real flavors. Allow yourself to try healthier options, such as natural peanut butter rather than the processed variety with unhealthy added ingredients. As you continue to eat the purer product, you may find your sense of taste adjusting and pleasantly enjoying the natural flavors that were previously masked. Before long, the food you started with may no longer even be appealing.

Encourage behavior change. Help yourself by doing what you can to prevent temptation. Apply the out-of-sight, out-of-mind idiom. Keep unhealthful foods locked away, whether it’s in your kitchen or at the office. Sometimes not even having them on hand can help. Try replacing them with a bowl of fruit on the table or other healthy alternatives. When you feel a craving for your old habits, distract yourself by taking a walk, squeezing a stress ball, or having a cup of tea.

Enlist your employer to help you. Are events at your workplace always celebrated with donuts and breakfast buns? Have you been subtly criticized for trying to eat healthy? Talk with your employer about the food culture at work, ask to consider certified health coaching, and make suggestions about celebrating events more healthfully.

We have compiled a few recipes for healthier alternatives to the nutrient poor foods that are usually considered “treats.” Try these and you’ll feel like you’re cheating, but you’re not.

CHOCOLATEY CHIA PUDDING
2.5 cups 1% milk
½ cup chia seeds
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ cup cocoa
Optional: 2 tablespoons honey

Blend all ingredients except chia seeds in a blender until smooth. Whisk in chia seeds. Pour mixture into a glass container and refrigerate for four hours or overnight to gel. Serves four.

Nutrition information per serving (no honey):  Calories 199 , Carbohydrates 18.5g, Protein 12g, Fat 10g, Fiber 12g; (with honey): Calories 229, Carbohydrate 27g, Protein 12g, Fat 10g, Fiber 12g

BANANA “ICE CREAM”
Basic recipe:
2 medium bananas (frozen)
½ teaspoon vanilla

With added flavors:
2 medium bananas (frozen)
½ teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoon cocoa
1 tablespoon peanut butter

Start with soft, ripe bananas. Peel the bananas and cut them into “coins.” Put in an airtight container and freeze for at least two hours. Pulse the frozen banana pieces in a small food processor. Keep blending — the banana will go from crumbly to gooey, and finally will look like creamy oatmeal. Blend for a few more seconds to aerate. (If adding any mix-ins, like peanut butter or cocoa, this is the moment to do it.) Serve immediately or freeze until solid. Serves three.

Nutrition information per serving (plain): 72 calories, 18g carbohydrate, 0.8g protein, 0.2g fat, 2g fiber; (with cocoa and peanut butter): 112 calories, 21g carbohydrate, 2.8g protein, 3.2g fat, 3.9g fiber

FOUR-FRUIT SORBET
1 cup frozen mixed berries (strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries)
2 tablespoons plain yogurt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Place the fruit, yogurt and vanilla into a blender and puree. Typically, sugar gives sorbet its rich, creamy texture, but you don’t need to add sugar to enjoy it. Serve immediately. Serves one.

Nutrition information per serving: Calories 112, Carbohydrates 21.6g, Protein 2.3g, Fat 1.3g, Fiber 5.4g

ROASTED CHICKPEAS
1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained (15.5 oz.)
Garlic salt (to taste)
Cayenne pepper (to taste)
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Dry chickpeas by blotting with a towel. In a bowl, toss chickpeas with olive oil and seasonings to taste. Spread on a baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes, until browned and crunchy. Stir chickpeas or shake pan every 10 minutes.

Nutrition information per ½ cup: Calories 154, Carbohydrates 20g, Protein 7g, Fat 5g, Fiber 7g

FROZEN GRAPES
1 bunch seedless red or green grapes, washed

Take grapes off the stems and place in a shallow container or plastic bag. Put them in the freezer for several hours or overnight. When you get hungry for a naturally sweet snack, simply pop a grape into your mouth!

Nutrition information per 10 grapes: Calories 34, Carbohydrates 8.87g, Protein 0.35g, Fat 0.08g, Fiber 0.4g

The information presented is for your general knowledge and does not replace the advice of your health care provider. All medical inquiries regarding your health should be presented to your health care provider.