Crowd it Out

Posted by Healthful Elements Staff

This post is an installment in our 52 Health Hinges series. Remember, “Small hinges swing big doors.”

Many times, dietitians, nutritionists, or nutrition programs provide their clients two lists of foods: one lists the foods allowed, the other lists what should be avoided. Black and white. Good and bad. Right and wrong.

If your favorite food ends up on the naughty list, well, it’s only natural that at some point you’ll cave. And when you cave, it’s easy to experience the domino effect of feeling like you failed, giving up completely, and bingeing on an entire pan of brownies.

Let’s not go that route.

Rather, for now, how about we make a deal that nothing is off limits?

Keep eating your favorite foods, as long as you also agree to add in some new, healthful foods, too. This is what we call the crowding out concept.

For instance, vegetables are high in vitamins and minerals, and when you increase your intake of these nutritious foods, your body will simply have less room for processed, sugary, nutrient-deficient foods.

Want to cut down on the soda you’re drinking? How about allowing yourself to have a soda with a meal, but never as a drink by itself. (Naturally-sweetened sodas are so much better for you than anything sweetened with high fructose corn syrup or chemically-laden artificial sweeteners that can have a host of hair-raising side effects. But you knew that.)

The trick is to plan ahead and be organized so that you have the healthful foods available and ready when you’re hungry, or, like I discussed in last week’s post, have an emergency plan ready in case things get desperate.

Little by little, your tastes will start to change and you’ll crave that favorite thing a little bit less.

Trust me.

Since we started out talking about sugar, let’s circle back and end with a few healthful options that can be used to satisfy your sugar cravings while crowding out the white stuff.

1. Choose a sweet vegetable. Certain vegetables have a deep, sweet flavor when cooked, like corn, carrots, onions, beets, winter squash (butternut, buttercup, delicata, hubbard or kabocha), sweet potatoes, and yams. Eating a lot of sweet vegetables will satisfy your natural cravings for sweet foods, and reduce your cravings for sugary, processed junk food.

2. Eat fruit. At times, fruit can get a bad rap, as it does contain natural sugar (fructose). However, the fiber and water found in whole fruit increase satiety, which makes it less likely that you’ll go into caloric excess.

As Chris Kresser writes, “For most people, 3-5 servings of fruit per day is perfectly fine, although certain people with insulin resistance, diabetes, or metabolic syndrome may see improvements by restricting fruit intake to one to two servings a day, and by choosing fruits that are lower in sugar.” (High-sugar fruits are the tropical fruits (bananas, mangoes, pineapple, etc. and the fruits lowest in sugar are berries – you can eat these to your heart’s content.)

3. Substitute with a natural sweetener. Natural sweeteners can also help with sugar cravings. My favorites are maple syrup or raw honey. Jill G.’s favorites are date sugar and coconut sugar. Other popular alternatives are brown rice syrup, barley malt, dates, molasses, and stevia. All of these can be found in your local health food store. Try them and find the ones that work best for you.

4. Quality over quantity. If you choose to indulge, really go for it and choose the best quality you can buy. Chances are you’ll be satisfied with much less! 

Take chocolate for example. Rather than popping open a package of M&Ms or eating your kid’s Easter candy, indulge in a small piece of organic dark chocolate. Eat it thoughtfully and intentionally, savoring every last bit. Likewise, if you’re an ice cream lover, I also recommend really going for it here, and get an organic, full fat variety and enjoy!

Posted by Healthful Elements Staff


What about Xylitol - sugar coming from birch tree? It has also germicidal and antifungal properties.

Hi Agniezka, great question. Many say that it’s fine, but to be careful because too much can cause diarrhea or intestinal cramps. For a different point of view, please take a look at this article written by a researcher/blogger that the Healthful Elements gang likes.

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