Post by: Carina Morgan MSN, PN1, Whole30 Certified Coach DFW Culinary Manager Territory Foods
I’m a firm believer that it’s pointless to make “healthy swaps” if the food you’re swapping in doesn’t taste nearly as good as the real deal (I’m looking at you Arctic Zero - you aren’t even close to real ice cream). I don’t believe in cheats, treats, or guilt associated with food consumption. Life is too short for that!
Somewhere along the line, food became a moral value to people, and they started characterizing themselves as “bad” or “good” depending on the types and quantities of food they consumed. The reality is that even if something is considered healthy, doesn’t mean it’s good for you, ESPECIALLY if your eating habits have an impact on your self-esteem, identity, and sense of self-worth. I would argue that a good relationship with food is healthier overall than an obsession with health foods. I wish I had this mindset six years ago where I’d eat half a jar of almond butter to tame my ice cream craving (and trust me, eating the dang ice cream would have been a WAY healthier option - nobody needs half a jar of almond butter).
That being said, I do also believe there is a time and place to make some substitutions for foods that you may love, but that don’t make you feel your best. We all want to feel good, and if there’s a food you really enjoy but that you know makes you feel sub-par, it can be worth searching for an alternative that actually tastes comparable.
I have compiled a list of 5 sweet swaps you can make in your diet that actually taste good and similar to the food you’re trying to replace. Try one out and let us know what you think!
If you love fruity candy - try Smartsweets
To be honest, I’m not much of a fruit candy person. I very rarely crave anything fruity or gummy; usually the only time is when I’m going to the movies. SmartSweets has created products that taste virtually identical to the gummy bears, sour patch kids, and swedish fish you may have grown up on. However, while the originals I listed contain tons of sugar and weird added ingredients, SmartSweets clocks in at 3g sugar for an entire bag and no funky preservatives. Made from prebiotic fiber and sweetened with stevia, these little guys will definitely give you the chewiness and sweetness you crave in a fruit snack, without overloading your body with sugar.
If you want to find healthier coffee creamer - try canned coconut cream + maple syrup
Coffee is my spirit animal. I have gone on tons of different dietary protocols due to an extensive list of autoimmune conditions, and at this point, I remain fairly unattached to specific foods...except coffee. Once upon a time, I would get a grande cinnamon dolce latte EVERY DAY from Starbucks with a slice of their pumpkin bread. Talk about sugar overload.
These days, I try to steer clear of super sweet stuff in the morning, because it makes me feel awful a few hours later. I needed to find a coffee creamer option that tasted amazing and didn’t cause a crash mid-morning. I’m also super sensitive to dairy, so I searched for a dairy-free option.
I stumbled upon the combination of coconut cream and maple syrup, and I’ll never turn back. To clarify, I use coconut cream, NOT coconut milk. The cream is more solid, and when blended with coffee and a touch of maple syrup, you end up with a creamy & frothy cup of joe that gives more steady energy throughout the morning.
If you want to upgrade your chocolate - try Hu Kitchen chocolate bars
I have a couple of squares of dark chocolate 90% of my evenings after dinner. I’m a moderator - I do much better having a small amount of things I love regularly rather than abstaining all together (If you’ve never heard of moderators and abstainers, check out the concept by Gretchen Rubin here - it can give you amazing insights as to your food habits/preferences).
Some chocolate is crafted better than others, and I prefer to go the sustainable, bean-to-bar way. Many chocolate bars have dairy added (and not great quality dairy at that), soy, and some other sketchy ingredients. One rule of thumb I maintain when it comes to nutrition labels - I want to be able to pronounce everything and know what it is.
Hu Kitchen blows me away with their chocolate bars. A little on the pricier side, but well worth it if possible. Dairy free, soy free, and refined-sugar free, these chocolate bars are delicious and relatively low in sugar content (sweetened with coconut sugar). You won’t be disappointed, and I think they have a better flavor than their commercial counterparts.
If you love baked goods - try Hail Merry & Treasured Earth products
Both companies knock it out of the park when it comes to healthier, real-food treats. Hail Merry is known for their tarts and bites (hellooooo dark chocolate almond butter cups), while Treasured Earth focuses on traditional baked goods such as cookies, brownies, and muffins. Both companies steer clear of gluten, dairy, soy, and refined sugar, so they are very allergen-friendly. I love these companies because I can eat one of their products, it tastes incredible, and I don’t feel weighed down or lethargic afterwards.
If you want a cereal that doesn’t lead to a 10:00 AM sugar crash - give One Degree Organics cocoa crisps a shot.
Let me tell you something - as someone who has Celiac’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis, I’ve been gluten free for almost a decade, and not having a tasty cereal option has bummed me out big time - that is, until I discovered One Degree’s cocoa crisps and my life was forever changed. These truly taste like cocoa puffs in the best way possible, but they are gluten free (rice-based) and sweetened with coconut sugar. They’re delicious, not too sweet, and don’t give me a sugar hangover two hours later. They have a variety of other awesome cereals and oatmeal products too, yet these have always been my favorite.
Hopefully this gives you some ideas to try out. To reiterate, choosing a few smart substitutions to help you feel your best without sacrificing taste does NOT mean that you always have to pick the option with the least amount of sugar. Sometimes a slice of cake is 100% worth it, and in no way should you feel guilty for enjoying those experiences. These are best used for more regular daily/weekly swaps to help you stay on track with your health goals while continuing to enjoy a dessert at night or a treat when you’re craving something sweet. Enjoy!