My Sweet Escape

Sugar is something that, in the past, has been almost like a drug for me. It's something I had to eat every day, otherwise suffering from intense, relentless cravings. I recently went six weeks without eating added sugars, excluding occasional, small amounts of honey. I admittedly have never tried the "no added sugar" thing... and my body's response to it surprised me. After going without it, my palate for sweets changed dramatically. My enjoyment of sugar was significantly less, and I didn't have the somewhat visceral urge to eat sweets like I once did. 

The American Heart Association recommends that women consume only 100 calories of sugar daily, equivalent to 6 teaspoons. For men, that number is 150 calories, about 9 teaspoons. Chocolate with 72 percent cocoa solids has less sugar than milk chocolate or even dark chocolate with 50 percent cocoa. A 1-ounce bar of dark chocolate with 70 to 85 percent cocoa contains 6.8 grams of sugar. Since, 4 grams of sugar are about 1 teaspoon, limit your intake of chocolate accordingly.

For me, this was almost scary... I would ask myself "what the heck do I do if I don't like sugar anymore?!" I'm the kind of person who has always needed a little something extra to feel like my dinner experience is "complete", and I was feeling a bit aimless since sugar wasn't doing the trick any longer. Consequently, I came up with a few after-dinner alternatives that have worked well for me. 

+Nuts (I like cashews or almonds)
+Green Tea
+Decaf drip coffee
+Almond milk with cinnamon

For other times when I want a simple "sweet treat", but want to be cautious to not slip back into my former sugar-eating ways, I think in terms of eating something my body can easily process, and something that will give me satiety. It's true: drinking a big fruit smoothie or eating an Acai Bowl can mean I am consuming a lot of sugar at once. In this case, I am just conscious of how often I'm eating it, at what point in the day I'm eating it, and what I'm adding into it to maximize its nutritional benefits. I prefer to have my fruit/veggie smoothies in the morning so I have tons of energy to get me through the day. With that said, here are some rules of thumb I think of when choosing what kinds of sweets to eat.

+Add more cocoa to items that are already chocolatey (to make it richer, while adding no sugar). 
+When eating chocolate, try 70 to 85 percent dark chocolate. A little will go a long way!
+Eat natural sugars, like from fresh or frozen fruit.
+When adding sugar to a dessert, do so judiciously, using sugars that have a lower glycemic index (for example: agave, coconut sugar, or honey). These sweeteners may be closely comparable to table sugar in terms of calories, however the ability for your body to process these sugars is much easier than that of its highly-refined counterpart.
+Add Omega-3 fatty acids (like chia and flax seeds) to your dessert to increase satiety.
+Add sugar-free (aka no ADDED sugar), salt-free nut butter to your dessert or smoothie for added protein, healthy fats, and increased satiety.
+Use coconut oil for any sautéed or "fried" items - it'll add a buttery, slightly sweet flavor.
+When making a fruit smoothie or Acai bowl, sneak in some frozen spinach and/or kale to increase its nutritional value.

+Greek Yogurt with Dark Chocolate Chips and Strawberries
+Chocolate-Peppermint Banana Ice Cream
+Ezekiel (flourless) Tortilla Churros:  Sauté strips of tortilla on medium heat in 1 tbsp coconut oil until golden brown. Remove from heat, sprinkle lightly with cinnamon and coconut sugar.
+Cottage cheese + Fresh Fruit + Chia seeds
+Acai bowl 
+Green Smoothie: blend frozen berries of choice, 1/2 banana, spinach / kale, chia sees, flax seeds, dollop of Greek Yogurt, and coconut or almond milk. 
+Banana Oatmeal Protein Powder Pancakes : Blend 1/2 cup steel cut oats, one medium banana, one scoop whey protein powder, cinnamon, and a dash of almond milk until smooth. Pour into pan (1/4 cup at a time) and cook over medium heat, flipping once the first side is cooked. This will yield about two large pancakes. Top with a drizzle of honey, agave, melted peanut butter, or maple syrup.

Making the switch from tons of sugar, to only natural, limited amounts of sugar has been an incredibly eye-opening experience for me. Ultimately, it's something I'm so grateful to have done and am excited to be able to share.