Happy New Year! This is often a time of year when people reflect on their past, look to their future and assess if and how their life is meeting their own expectations. After a month of meeting with friends, socializing and often eating and drinking too much, many people start the New Year resolving to eat better. What does that really mean?
· Eating less processed foods, such as chips, crackers, processed meats, ice cream, cakes and cookies
· Eating more fruits and vegetables
· Eating whole grains more often (whole wheat, brown rice, quinoa, millet, whole spelt)
· Cutting back on refined foods, loaded with white sugar and white flour
· Focusing on eating whole foods, that are as close to their natural state as possible - this includes fresh fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes, whole grains, fresh or frozen fish, eggs, unroasted nuts and seeds, unprocessed meats
After loading our bodies up with sugar in the month of December, one of the key elements to the healthy eating resolution is to cut back on sugar. However, given how ubiquitous sugar is in our society, this can often be challenging. But with a few tips, and some keen label reading it is possible and even enjoyable.
Here’s a list of strategies to help you consume fewer sweeteners:
· Eat Protein at every meal – Since protein is digested slowly, consuming it helps regulate blood sugar and reduces cravings for sweets.
· Eat healthy sources of fats – Have olive and flax seed oil, avocadoes, nuts, seeds, butter, fish. This is important because not eating enough fat can increase sugar cravings.
· Eat whole foods instead of processed foods with sugars
o Have oatmeal with fruit and nuts instead of commercial granola;
o Have a wrap with protein (hummus, cheese, beans, fish/meat) and vegetables instead of commercial bread/sandwich;
o Buy plain yogurt and add fruits (stewed apples and pears are amazing);
o Make your own power balls w/ dried fruits, nuts, coconut and peanut butter instead of having a cookie.
· Substitute sugary foods with fruits
- The natural sugar in fruit can satisfy sugar cravings AND fruit can be used as a sweetener.
- Bananas and dried fruits (dates, apricots) are excellent sweeteners: eg: add banana and a few dates to the last minute of cooking oatmeal instead of a sweetener.
- Be careful not to overload on fruit sugars or to simply replace all other sweeteners with fruit (fresh or dried), as it can still overload your system with sugar.
· Try natural sweeteners - Rather than reaching for white sugar to sweeten your foods, try unrefined sweeteners, such as agave nectar, maple syrup or honey. If you want a calorie-free, but potent sweetener, try stevia rather than using artificial sweeteners.
· Eat mindfully - Concentrate on what you are eating and enjoy it thoroughly. Try not to eat in a rushed state. This helps you think about what you are eating and not grab more of something just because it is there. This also allows you to savour your food, so that you really enjoy each bite. By slowing down your eating and concentrating on enjoying the flavours, you often end up eating less.
· Plan out your meals - If you think about what you are going to be eating on a daily basis, you can be mindful about the amount of sugar you are ingesting.
· Try adding less sweetener to your foods - Experiment and either don't add any sweetener to your foods, or add less than you normally would and try and enjoy the other flavours in the food.
- If you want a real challenge, eliminate all sugar from your diet for at least 3 weeks. Afterwards you may find that your desire and cravings for sugar and sweet foods actually decrease.
· Try cinnamon and other spices - Cinnamon has a natural sweetness to it, and when you add it to your meals, you may find that you need less sweetener.
· Substitute non-sugary condiments - Instead of using ketchup try tomato/pasta sauce or salsa; instead of teriyaki sauce use soy/tamari sauce (without sugar); make your own salad dressing without sugar.
· Consume foods rich in minerals - Mineral deficiencies can result in cravings
o Try eating more magnesium rich foods if you crave chocolate: found in dark green vegetables, seeds, black beans, quinoa and salmon.
o Zinc and chromium can also help reduce cravings.
o Zinc is high in pumpkin and sesame seeds, peas, yogurt, shrimp; and Chromium is high in pumpkin seeds, onions, romaine lettuce.
Good luck in your quest for better health and nutrition. I'll be posting some nutritious and delicious sugar free recipes soon...