Spending the past few weeks in Italy hasn't been great for my diet (or my waistline). I've teamed up with the wonderful Jenna from Foods To Love (here) and grilled her on healthy alternatives for cravings.
Here Jenna tells SLSStyle the best alternatives for the following cravings:Chocolate…To my mind, nothing can replace chocolate when you are craving that 'hit' from the cocoa. You'll see people suggest something called carob as an alternative, but it isn't enough of a convincing alternative for me. I also refuse to give up chocolate because it has so many healthful benefits. I'd advise you to opt for healthy versions of chocolate where possible, which does exist - so switch from milk to dark, then dark to raw, and choose the ones that aren't sweetened with sugar.Sugary sweets…More and more, there are some great healthy sweets brands available that don't use any E numbers or artificial dyes in their products. There are tons on Amazon too, which strangely is one of the places I shop for healthy foods the most.Fizzy drinks…I had a hard time with this one myself. But it's worth making efforts to cut these out of your life as they're one of the worst things for you. All sodas, including diet sodas, are the most acidic foods you can put in your body. I switched to sparkling water with lime and stevia - its not only yummy but also made the transition pretty easy.Ice cream…This is the easiest thing to substitute for, so if this is your weakness you're in luck. Peel and freeze two bananas for at least a couple of hours, then place in a food processor with either some vanilla extract, cocoa powder or a few strawberries. Readers would remember this from an earlier post.A full English breakfast…Eggs in moderation aren't so bad for you, so you can absolutely still have your english breakfast! The most important switch I would recommend about the full english is not to start your day with it - it's better for your body to have these kinds of denser foods at night rather than first thing in the morning. I would do poached or boiled eggs with wholegrain toast, sautéed spinach and baked beans - look for the ones in glass jars rather than cans, and versions with no added sugar too. Baked beans are surprisingly one of the most common places that white sugar lurks.Crisps…Kale Chips! They're the new big thing. You can buy them at most health food stores now, or else you can make your own: pre-heat your oven to 175C, tear one bunch of curly kale into tiny bite-size pieces, coat it with desired seasonings (try olive oil and salt, simple white miso paste, or garlic and apple cider vinegar), and bake on a lined tray until crisp (between 6 and 8 minutes)Hamburger and French fries…The thing about this kind of craving is that there isn't a realistic enough substitute for a big juicy burger, if you love it. I advise people to allow themselves this kind of blow-out treat once in a while, but when you have it, splurge on a really good one, and fully concentrate on enjoying every bite of this meal. Treat foods like these feed your soul and should be appreciated to the max when consumed. That way, you can fully satisfy your craving and then move on.Having said that, for more day-to-day needs I am a big fan of Dragonfly's range of veggie burgers, which I serve with baked sweet potato wedges and a green salad. To make the sweet potato wedges, cut sweet potato into inch-thick strips, coat in a little olive oil, salt and paprika, and bake for about 15 minutes until slightly crispy. To make this even more authentic you can buy a crinkle-cutter to cut your wedges to look more like cheap fries!A big coffee from Starbucks…My main issue with Starbucks is that they don't provide good milk options - it's either cow's or sugar-filled soy. If you want to healthify your daily coffee, add 1 shot of espresso, 1 cup (250 ml) almond milk, a handful of ice, a dash of vanilla extract, and a small teaspoon stevia to a blender and whizz until your desired consistency is reached. For an even more authentic Frappuccino, try also adding a pinch of xanthan gum to the mix, which will make it more milkshake-y.Pizza…Like with the burger, when you are TRULY craving an authentic italian pizza, nothing else will fix that - but to make a healthy version at home, buy gluten-free tortillas, top with marinara sauce and your toppings of choice, and bake in the oven for 15 minutes at 175C. If you can avoid using cheese, great, but if you're not there yet and need your dairy fix, opt for unpasteurised goat or sheep cheeses, such as pecorino, feta, or parmesan, which are much easier on your system than cow's dairy.Fried food…The reason fried foods are so damaging to our bodies is because when we fry at high temperatures, the nutrients in food break down and free radicals are formed. These are compounds that attack our cells and wreak havoc on our bodily functions. If you have heard of how important it is to consume antioxidants before, it's because antioxidants sweep away these free radicals which are in our system at all times.There are ways to mimic the taste and mouthfeel of fried snacks with clever cooking treats - I have a whole chapter devoted to this in my cookbook which is out in September.Cocktails…To say that you should opt for a soda water with lime when you want an alcoholic drink is just unrealistic. However there are ways to minimise the effects of alcohol on your body and more specifically to give your liver an easier time of processing the alcohol. The most important switch you can make is to stick to the same kind of drink all night. Also, watch what you are combining the alcohol with. It's better to have things neat than to mix them with artificially-sweetened or sugary mixers. Another trick to give your body a slightly lighter toxin load when ordering wine is to opt for New World wines from places like America, South America, Australia and New Zealand, because they have tighter regulations on sulfites and other additives that are allowed into the wines. Often, if you get headaches or hangovers from wine it will be because of the additives rather than the pure alcohol itself.Lots and lots of dairy…This is perhaps the easiest thing to substitute for - there have never been more amazing options for non-dairy products than today. I love Ecomil and Almond Dream for milks, Vitaquell for non-dairy butter, and Booja Booja for great ice creams. I have to say the one product I'm not a big fan of in the dairy category are fake cheeses - they are either made with soy protein isolates mixed with MSG, or there are raw versions made with cashews. The former is a load of processed junk and the latter can be very heavy on the stomach. As I mentioned earlier in this post, if you are trying to wean yourself off cheese, switch to raw and unpasteurised goat and sheep cheeses. A little of these is absolutely fine, especially when you are transitioning from a standard diet.