Raise a hand if you have ever meal prepped for the week ahead, only to cave when your friend offers you a slice of their Canadian Pizza loaded with cheese, bacon, sausage and pepperoni. If your mouth watered a little bit while you were reading that, you weren’t alone. We all have our own guilty pleasures, some are worse than others, but everyone has a weakness when it comes to their favourite food! But what if there was a way to eat your favourite foods while staying on track and avoiding the pattern of eating foods you love and then feeling ashamed for consuming them afterwards? Food is meant to be enjoyed, savoured and even celebrated. Every meal is an opportunity for you to nourish your body from the inside out. In today’s blog post, we are going to be sharing our best tips for turning your “cheat meal” or “unhealthy meal” into an everyday occurrence, it's that healthy! Grab a pen and paper, you’ll want to write down these five ways to make your comfort foods something that you can feel good about eating! We’re going to healthify them to boost your energy, improve digestion, balance your blood sugar and design them to help you not eat the entire batch or pan!
Comfort food - what exactly are we talking about? These words mean different things to different people. Comfort foods for one individual could be food that they grew up with such as curries, ramen, sushi...you get the gist of it. But for most of us, comfort foods are usually our favourite sweets and treats. These being ice cream, cookies, candy, chocolate, chips, nuts, burgers, fries, pizza, tacos… are you drooling yet? We thought so. Stay with us! We promise you’ll get as excited about these healthier versions as you do for the real thing!
5 Tips To Make Your Favourite Dishes Healthier!
Tip #1: Skip the Simple Carb
There are simple and there are complex carbs. Both of which are wildly different! Simple carbs are white pasta, bread, potatoes and sugar, while complex carbs are whole grinas, beans, legumes, fruits and vegetables. There is a world of a difference, especially when it comes to your blood sugar. Our pancreas, a small organ located on the right side of our body under our ribcage, is responsible for secreting insulin to help us store the sugars that we consume from the sources above. This little organ only has so much power before it has to rest. Which means that if we’re still consuming sugar even after our pancreas has capped out, it’s insulin producing abilities and diminished and we have moved into fat storage mode!
Skipping the simple carbs simply means to reduce or eliminate your consumption of white bread, potatoes, rice, chips and refined and/or processed foods. If it's offered as a side, pass on it and load your plate with colourful vegetables. Or better yet, make a healthier alternative such as whole grain or brown rice, chickpea pasta, beet chips or sourdough bread. This rule does not have to be ingrained in stone. It can be flexible. If you’re celebrating a special occasion such as a birthday, eat the cake. Eat until you feel satisfied (which is likely before your plate is clean!) and ensure that you eat plenty of healthy foods to get your nutrients for the day. This rule is not meant to make one feel restricted to a list of foods they can or cannot eat, but rather help them see a completely different list of foods they can eat that are more nutrient dense and healthier for them in the long run.
Tip #2: When In Doubt, Add More Fibre
There is a reason Bran Buds were a best seller! Everyone knows the importance of fibre, but no one knows why it helps you feel fuller for longer!
Fibre is found in all of the healthy alternatives listed in point number one; whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables. These plant-based foods are loaded with high amounts of fibre that help you fill up faster and assist in the detoxification process. As you consume more fibre, more water will also be stored with it, making you feel fuller for longer. This is also the reason why you feel bloated after having a ton of carbohydrates - for every gram of carbohydrates that you eat, you store 4 times that of water. So when the scale spikes after a high carb weekend, rest assured that it is almost all water! This dynamic duo between fibre and water is key to helping signal your brain that you’ve had enough to eat. As we start to fill up, our body releases the hormone, leptin, our hunger satiating hormone, which triggers a neuronal reflex back through our bodies where we then choose to stop eating or push past that comfort point. Combine this fibrous tip with intuitive eating and you have an eating plan that you can follow for the rest of your life!
Tip #3: Limit the Sugar
Numerous studies have shown the effects that sugar has on the pleasure centres in our brain. Imaging also shows that it is as addictive and powerful as cocaine in exciting our brain reward centres. What does this mean? The more we have of it, the more we want it. It’s a dangerous relationship really - destined for failure from the get go!
Maybe you’re reading this and you’ve found yourself saying, “but I don’t use any sugar in my recipes or meals.” Where the real heavy hitters are hiding is in the drinks, sauces, condiments, seasonings and the obvious, the candy. The next time you reach for one of your comfort foods, start to peel back the label - literally, sometimes they hide the ingredient list! Look at the number of grams of sugar in one serving, knowing that we often eat more than what is recommended and count how much you are consuming. In an ideal world, women consume 6 teaspoons of added sugar daily, while men consume 9 teaspoons.
If you’re feeling a little guilty for consuming foods that have been secretly packed with sugar, or angry for being duped by some “so called health foods” claiming to be a more nutritious alternative - you are not alone. Nowadays, there are thousands of healthy foods available to us. Ohh! Foods has created Cookie Dough and Bites that are made from whole, plant-based foods that taste delicious! Their cookie dough is made from rolled oats and just enough natural cane sugar to make it sweet enough to love, but not too sweet that you can’t stop yourself from eating the entire tub! Their energy bites are even better - made with dates, apples, raw cacao and shredded coconut, it doesn’t get realer than that!
Tip #4: Portion Control
Of all of the points, this one is the most effective because you can visually see how much food you are consuming. Gone are the days of guessing how many tablespoons of Cookie Dough you have. This tool gives you a fast and easy way to catch yourself in the moment, pause and choose to keep eating or stop all together. Start with your health food alternatives; your Ohh! Foods Cookie Dough and Bites, coconut oil popcorn, sugar-free candies and nut/seed mix. Portion single servings into small plastic bags that are labelled and easily accessible. The next time that a sugar craving hits you, reach for your pre-portioned serving and you’ll discover how quickly it really goes! If you want a second serving, you’ll have to physically get up and get it, versus reaching further down the bag. Seeing your wrappers and having a visual cue of how much food you’ve consumed so far, is an easy way to prevent yourself from overeating even on the good stuff!
Tip #5: Intuitive Eating
Intuitive eating is exactly as it sounds. Eating when you’re hungry, stopping when you’re full and not feeling an ounce of guilt for what you consumed. Most individuals are used to sticking to a meal plan or food routine that determines their portion sizes for them. We’ve become accustomed to being able to clear our plate because it “fits our macros” or because we had a hard workout. But what if, what if we ate until our body said, “hey friend, I’m good now! Thanks for the food.” It’s a crazy idea right? Except for the minor detail that we used to follow intuitive eating for years before technology and dieting apps evolved.
The next time you’re in a situation where the elements are beyond your control, take a deep breath and begin. Listen to your hunger cues, take small bites and chew until your food is the consistency of applesauce. If you’re hungry, have a second serving or scoop, if not, politely pass and carry on the conversation that you were having during your meal. If you’re hungry when you get home, make something else! When you wake up the next morning, don’t automatically jump back into your food routine. Wait until your body gives you the cue that you’re ready for more food and then get right back into your normal way of eating!
There you have it! Five tips to help you healthify your favourite comfort foods simply by swapping the starch, scaling back the sugar, adding some fibre, portion controlling yourself and learning to eat intuitively. No one is a perfect eater, even if they say they are! So cut yourself some slack as you adjust to your healthier way of eating - these are habits you will keep for a lifetime!
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