When we think of food as a reward, we tend to associate indulging with feeling guilty. If we feel as though we have to earn our food, we start equating the food we eat with our self worth. If we over-indulge, we relate it to our willpower – or more accurately, our lack thereof.
So, how do you create a healthy perception of sweet or salty snacks? Instead of thinking of them as rewards, call them what they are: treats. This means, they shouldn’t be eaten every single day in large quantities, but if you feel like reaching for something out of your daily routine, you should go right ahead. You don’t need to deserve it.
Maybe you’ve structured a reward system so systemic that you can’t finish a work day without your “sugar fix”. How do you stop the vicious cycle?
If you’re hooked on junk food and need to wean yourself off, pick up something healthier when you get that 3pm sugar craving.
You should keep the treats as part of your lifestyle, too. I know some people that give themselves “free weekends”. It’s easy to remember, and if you feel like indulging during the week, it’s an okay exception to your overall routine. As a bonus, when you eat healthy food during the week, you’ll find yourself packed with extra energy and mental clarity.
If you’re wondering what to eat when a junk food craving hits, here are some great snacks to squash the craving:
1) Green apples dipped in natural peanut butter
Recently, I went on an elimination diet to determine some food allergies, and these became one of my go-to snacks.
Whether I was craving something salty or sweet, these did the trick. The flavor is so satiating, it squashed any craving I had. These are great afterschool snacks for the kids, too.
1 large green apple (Granny Smith is great for having very low natural sugars)
2 T no-sugar-added peanut butter
Put your peanut butter in a ramekin and cut your apple into eighths. Dip to your heart’s content.
I should mention that some elimination diets require you to bake your fruit for easier digestion. So, if you need to bake your apples, this is still a delicious combination.
2) Kale chips
Don’t let their appearance fool you. These are some seriously tasty snacks. With all the salty flavor of your favourite chip, with a great texture to boot, these can easily replace any chip addicts daily fix.
1 bunch of kale
2 T olive oil
1 t salt
1 t garlic powder
1/2 t cayenne powder – I’ve used paprika before, which is also yummy
If you prefer, you can make parmesan kale chips, BBQ kale chips, etc. by supplementing garlic and cayenne pepper with parmesan or your favourite smoky seasoning.
Pre-heat your oven to 350 F and line a baking sheet with tin foil. Mix the salt, garlic powder and cayenne powder (or whatever you’re using) in a bowl and put to the side.
Wash your kale well, and then put it into a salad spinner for two rounds to get all of the excess water out. If you put damp leaves in the oven, you won’t get a crispy chip.
Next, remove the stems from your kale leaves. Start tearing the kale into chip-sized pieces and spread the pieces evenly along your baking sheet. Drizzle your olive oil sparingly along the entire sheet. Next, sprinkle your seasoning mix over the entire sheet.
Bake for 15 minutes and allow a few minutes to cool before devouring.
3) Tea popsicles
With the warm months approaching, this is a great idea for adults and kids alike. As the loose-leaf tea craze continues to capture Toronto’s attention, you can get a bunch of delicious and unique tea blends virtually anywhere in the city. The best part: you don’t need to add any sugar to get this refreshing treat.
My favourite? Try Pina Colada herbal tea for a bold, tropical flavor.
4 cups boiling water
8 t of your favourite loose-leaf tea (Use 4 tea bags if you don’t have loose-leaf)
8 popsicle or craft sticks
1 popsicle tray (Can supplement with small Tupperware or empty yogurt containers)
Pour your boiling water into a large mixing bowl or juice jug with your tea leaves or bags. If you’re using loose-leaf, you can either put the leaves into infusers or you can let them float around loosely and strain them before pouring out the finished product.
Let green tea sit for 2 minutes; Let herbal tea sit for 4 minutes; Let black or oolong tea sit for 2 minutes; Let white tea sit for 1 minute. Then, pour your tea into your tray. Put a stick into each section of the tray – if you’re using Tupperware or yogurt containers, each one of these gets a stick – and then put your tray in the freezer overnight.
You’ll wake up to a tray full of delicious, no-sugar-added popsicles!
You can eat all of these snacks as part of a regular, healthy routine.