Whenever I meet someone with good intentions to start eating healthier, they always say, “I just can’t seem to give up (their thing).” It’s usually cheese, ice cream, pumpkin spice lattes, or something of the sort. I get it. We all have our comfort foods, and with the chilly weather and holiday season, those cravings seem to get stronger.
So, we decided to start a column on healthy alternatives, replacements for your go-to favorites that will satisfy those cravings and set you on the path to making healthier choices. We all want to live long and thrive; that is our shared goal, and believe me, nobody is perfect, including me.
Making dietary changes can feel overwhelming. No one wants to deny themselves of anything, so change has to be simple, and the alternatives have to taste good and satisfying. We will keep that in mind for this column. Just set your motivation (lose weight, reduce cholesterol, increase energy, etc.) and let that goal be your inspiration. Remember, nobody is perfect and change takes time. This will be fun!
It is important to love food that fuels you and to pass on that which causes harm. There are two leading principles to embrace to help ease your transition and add to long-lasting results.
First, sugar is the devil. It is the leading cause of inflammation, deemed the root of most chronic disease, and the favorite food of cancer cells. The sooner you ditch the addiction, the better off you’ll be. Secondly, healthy fats (olive, avocado, coconut, nuts) are good for you, and starting your day with ample amounts will fuel your brain, curb your appetite and put your body in fat-burning mode. Desert Health covers these two principles often and you can find related articles on our website.
When you start making healthier choices, you’ll be surprised at how much more food you can eat without gaining weight or suffering the consequences.
Let’s consider this delicious scoop of chocolate-covered ice cream with nuts and chocolate chips. What if it contained 2 grams of sugar, a lot of healthy fiber and only good fats? Wouldn’t you feel better about eating it?
Well, it does exist, and I eat it often. Ice cream is my “thing.” There is nothing that quite compares to a spoonful of velvety ice cream (and I’m a sugar and dairy-free girl!). We don’t often consider the importance of texture for food cravings. While our desire for a specific taste (sweet, salty, sour, savory) usually drives cravings, the texture greatly contributes to overall satisfaction – the melt-in-your-mouth bite of a creamy dessert or the crunchy burst of a cheesy Cheetos (a great alternative to these in the next issue).
So, let’s get back to that ice cream. Healthy alternatives usually start with more nutritious ingredients, and you can find all of these at chain grocery stores, but more options are available at health food stores. My go-to ice cream is So Delicious no sugar added coconutmilk non-dairy frozen dessert sweetened with monk fruit. A serving of vanilla bean (2/3 cup) delivers 9 grams of healthy fat, zero cholesterol, 10 grams of fiber (chicory root) and
2 grams of sugar. And it’s very creamy, BUT you have to leave it out of for 30-45 minutes to defrost (or it’s very hard).
Compare that to a serving of Häagen-Dazs (less at only ½ cup per serving): 18 grams of dairy fat, 110 grams of cholesterol, zero fiber, and 18 grams of sugar (even their non-dairy coconut caramel has 20 grams of sugar!).
For the chocolate sauce, I use 100% cacao mixed with coconut milk and stevia or monk fruit (all to your taste and texture). Make extra to store in the fridge and heat for future servings (keep it easy). Sprinkle with Lily’s sugar-free chocolate chips (stevia sweetened), nuts, and maybe even Sweet Rose Coconut Whipped Topping (plus 1g of cane sugar), and voila! You have a savory, satisfying and healthier alternative to your less-than-healthy ice cream sundae.
How great is it to wake up to the crisp winter air? This long hot summer certainly enhanced my appreciation for cool mornings, and the perfect complement is a cozy warm cup of coffee or tea.
Thoughts of pumpkin or gingerbread lattes may come to mind, but let’s look at an option that can help reduce inflammation and deliver that healthy fat to enliven our brain and reduce cravings throughout the day.
My go-to is a frothy vanilla golden milk latte with MCT oil. With Ceylon cinnamon, ginger, turmeric and a few drops of vanilla stevia, it delivers a warm and satisfying sense of the season while providing a plethora of healing spices that make you feel good with every sip. It’s a great way to start the day, and certainly better than that guilt you’d feel from consuming a sugar-laden alternative.
It’s simple and starts with quality ingredients. I recommend organic coffee (or tea) and unsweetened coconut milk. I make the golden milk in bulk (again, for ease) by combining equal parts of Ceylon cinnamon (the healthy cinnamon), ground ginger, and turmeric. I sometimes add a dash of nutmeg and cardamom for added benefits, based on a recipe by Jessica Needle, ND we previously featured.
I previously made my drink with only coconut milk from a carton and started getting a bit of acid reflux. In a checkup, I asked my naturopathic doctor if it could be the spices, and she informed me that the turmeric needs to be combined with enough healthy fats or it can be harsh on your system. She recommended using full-fat canned coconut milk (very creamy and GOOD for you) or MCT oil, and that did the trick, so keep that in mind.
To make the froth, combine either full-fat canned coconut milk or a teaspoon of MCT oil with unsweetened coconut milk from the carton and 4-5 drops of vanilla stevia. Add a teaspoon of the golden milk mixture and froth (I use a $15 milk foamer pictured here). Place in your cup first and then add the coffee to warm it up and enjoy!
So, there you have it, our first two satisfying alternatives to consider. I look forward to providing more with each new issue. Until then, I recommend experimenting with different natural sugar-free sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit to find one that you prefer. I like flavored stevia, which can be found at Clark’s Nutrition in Rancho Mirage and Sprout’s in La Quinta. I keep vanilla, cinnamon and caramel handy at all times as they can be used to sweeten everything from smoothies to baked goods, from cocktails (yes, we will share those, too) to sauces.
Remember, healthy living starts with a mindset, so these delights will be most satisfying if you are genuinely committed to living your best life. Get excited about it! Once you make the transition, you’ll truly crave these healthy foods and easily turn away from things you used to love because you have come to embrace – and understand the value of – foods that serve your body well.