I have a super-sweet tooth, which definitely comes into conflict with my (mostly) sugar-free diet and serious hypoglycemia. So this week I’m highlighting my tricks on foods that satisfy the urge but will leave you feeling energized and full at the same time, without rocking the diet or endangering your health… just in time for Valentine’s Day!
Tip before launching into the list: food combining. I’ll go into details another time, but starches don’t mix well with fruits, causing digestive upset and weight gain (they also don’t mix well with meat… but more on that later). So in satisfying the cravings for sweets, keep this in mind for optimal digestion and weight maintenance. I know I used to love fruit on cereals, or with toast or on cakes, but it’s just so much more worth it to abstain.
From Slimming to Sinful… My Sweet List
- ALMOND BUTTER: My favorite sweet-craving alternative is Almond Butter on millet toast or slathered on an apple. Nuts combine well with healthy starches, together making a perfect protein, while giving a boost of protein and filling the belly comfortably. They’re high in monounsaturated fats, so they attack heart disease while being lower in calories than most nuts and super-concentrated with vitamin E. For women, almonds have been known to calm menstrual cramps when consumed daily. And for pregnant women, eating raw almonds is killer when battling nausea.
- KOREAN YAM: If you’re an urban-dweller, chances are you’ve seen Korean Yams in your local bodega and had no idea what they were. Also called Chinese Yam and Japanese Mountain Yams, they’re my FAVORITE root vegetable, much like a sweet potato but with a white flesh and a bit drier, sorta resembling boiled chestnuts in taste. From my research I’ve learned they’re great at aiding digestion and fighting fatigue due to the amount of mucin in them, which also aids in relieving constipation and reducing cholesterol! Amazing how the body craves what it needs. My favorite way to eat them is just to wash, poke some holes in and bake them. Or slice and season with a little oil, salt and pepper, and bake until crispy.
- SWEET POTATO: One of my little indulgences is Sweet Potato Chips from Terra Chips. Sweet potatoes, canola, sunflower/safflower oil… I’m in heaven. They really satisfy both the sweet and savory cravings. Just be careful – one serving goes down really quickly! To do even better for your body and bake fresh sweet potatoes, try slicing them in chunks or fry shape, and bake with a little oil, salt, pepper, rosemary, cumin, cinnamon… whatever spice combination you want to try… until they’re dark and crispy. A 400 degree oven or hotter usually seals the deal. My mouth is watering…
- Cinnamon: So simple, but adding cinnamon to foods tricks the mind, as cinnamon is associated with sweetness. So literally throw it on things you wouldn’t normally think to pair it with: roasted chicken, sauteed greens, on all fruits and plenty of vegetables. It’s great for you, so enjoy!
- Beets: Yes, beets are sweet, and great for the liver. To cook to sweetest potential, peel, slice and roast with a little cinnamon and salt still blackened at the edges. Or grab Terra’s Sweets and Beets mix for a ridiculous snack satisfier.
- Raw Cacao Nibs: A live super-food, I’ve very recently started adding raw cacao into my diet, and am SO HAPPY to have tried it out. The health benefits are too abundant to repeat here, so just click to be directed to LiveSuperFoods.com, a phenomenal website on all good-things live, with very reasonable prices – I have a feeling I’ll be ordering with them soon. To sum-up: raw cacao has more antioxidants than red wine, blueberries, and 4-times as much as a cup of green tea! Without the additions of processing and sugar, it’s not an indulgence – it’s medicine! The taste is nutty and a bit sharp, and the smell is INCREDIBLE! My boyfriend thought I was baking while sitting next to him, about 2 teaspoons of nibs mixed in my cereal! My favorite way to eat them is on my Uncle Sam’s cereal, or mixed with nuts and goji berries. Speaking of which…
- Gogi Berries: Another live super-food that’s been on my list for a while, goji berries are tiny, red and sweet, packing lots of anti-oxidants and strengthening the immune system. You can even get goji-berry juice for a power shot or an addition to smoothies. I add them to apple sauce and power-protein mixes for some sweet satisfaction!
- Organic Nectars Raw Agave Gelato: I’m currently exploring agave syrup from Organic Nectars out of Woodstock, NY, a town I’ve never been to but mentally have been stalking for their great products and housing of Phillip Petit. It’s made from cashews and agave. Way decadent. And because the agave is raw, it’s not heated and reduced to a syrup that’s worse for you than corn syrup (ew).
- COCONUT MILK: Coconut milk is great for you, especially if you have chronic conditions. Blend it with fruit for a smoothie, throw it in an ice-cream maker with crushed fruit for sorbet… have fun!
And now my recipes for guilt-free yummy desserts!
- Superfood Ooey-gooey winter warmth: This combines sweet bananas with protein packed nuts for a warming and indulgent treat. Note: this is practically the only time I ever use a microwave… in general, I truly believe stove-top warming is the way to go to avoid unnecessary rays. And careful if consuming too late at night, as the sugar in the banana and the spunk in the cacao can keep you up thinking. Slice an entire banana and microwave in a small bowl for 50 seconds, so that the bottom of the bowl has really soft banana but the top layer is pretty intact, warmed through. To the bowl add any combination of the following: 1 teaspoon almond butter, 10 or so almonds or walnuts, a sprinkle of goji berries, a tablespoon of raw cacao nibs, a generous dose of cinnamon, some natural applesauce… be creative!
- Coconut Custard: I’m just gonna skip the blah-blah introduction and go right into a recipe I got from Lissa De Angelis of NEW LIFE – NY YOGA magazine for a decadent coconut custard, so easy to make! 1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 2) Puree 2 organic eggs, 2 cups unsweetened coconut milk, 1/4 cup maple syrup, raw honer OR agave syrup, 2 squirts vanilla cream or plan stevia, a few grains of sea salt. 3) Pour into 6 individual ramekins or an oven-proof container. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup shredded coconut (optional) 4) Place ramekins or container into a bath of water and place in oven. 5) Bake until the custard has set, about 30-45 minutes. 6) Cool slightly and serve warm or at room temperature.
- Hot Apple Cider: For cold New England winters, nothing beats a hot apple cider with a cinnamon stick. Yes, that’s it… no more too it… just wanna remind you it’s out there for you…
- Baked Apples: Again, an oldie but goodie you may have forgotten about – one of the sweetest desserts is the simplest! Take a (preferably) local, organic apple, core it and fill with cinnamon and some sultanas (golden raisins) if you’re not too sugar-sensitive, wrap in foil and bake at 350 until super-soft. To make it a little more filling and add some protein, add some chopped nuts or a drizzle of nut-butter. I find myself often hungrier after I eat an apple, so adding the protein really helps keep me full.