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Volume III
November 16, 2012

Weekly Home / Cook'n & Eat'n

Simple Advice for Kicking Sugar Cravings!

By Alice Osborne

If you struggle with sugar cravings, here's some simple advice for kicking them: avoid acid-forming foods (pro-inflammatory) and choose anti-inflammatory foods instead.

Specifically, I'm talking about avoiding red meat. It is high in a pro-inflammatory molecule called arachidonic acid. Eating a lot of meat and refined carbohydrates tends to increase inflammation and acidity, causing the body to crave sweet foods in an attempt to maintain balance.

The encouraging news is that you don't need to avoid red meat totally - moderation works well. (The same thing can't be said for processed meat, though. No amount of processed meat is safe. So just decide to leave the hot dogs, bologna, Spam, sausages, etc. alone.) Here's a good "red meat in moderation" approach to take:

•  Replace the bulk of your red meat with organic vegetables, poultry and fish.

•  Relegate red meat to a weekly treat.

•  When you do eat red meat, remember to choose lean cuts and preferably, that of grass-fed animals.

•  To reduce the formation heat-generated food contaminants, don't overcook your meat; use moist-heat cooking (stewing and boiling) instead of high-temperature dry-heat methods (grilling and frying).

Then along with radically reducing your red meat consumption, deliberately choose anti-inflammatory foods. They are high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids, they are alkalizing to the system, and are antioxidant-rich. Specifically, I'm talking about fruits and vegetables - they are powerful in their ability to offset the damage and the cravings associated with eating red meat (and other pro-inflammatory foods).

I know - here I go again, beating the "fruits and veggies drum." Stick with me, though. I'm not just telling you what you already know, now I'm telling you how to sneak more of them into yours and your family's diet. If you've got "resistors" in the house, these 8 ideas might help:

1. Teach by example: Children and grandchildren will be heavily influenced as they see you eating and relishing these healthy foods. And this is important: today's children are the first generation in the history of this country predicted NOT to live as long as their parents and grandparents. We must gently lead them to a better way of eating, and the research says that your favorites often become their favorites!

2. Eliminate options: 9 out of 10 times we'll choose a cookie or cupcake over a piece of fruit or veggie sticks when the munchies or genuine hunger pangs hit. So get rid of all the empty calorie snack foods and replace them with healthier options. If some cut fruit or some sliced veggies with dip is front and center in the fridge, and there isn't a sugary snack in reach, chances are you'll opt for the produce rather than go hungry.

3. Make it part of the routine: And the best routine is serving fruits and veggies at every meal. Fresh fruit should complement nearly every breakfast, vegetables nearly every dinner (raw or cooked) and at lunchtime, both are satisfying (without promoting the afternoon fatigue that meat- and refined carb-loaded lunches create).

And fresh vegetables make a great between-meal snack. Pull from the fridge a dish of cut up peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, celery, baby carrots or snap peas when you're dying for something to eat. And keep a big bowl of washed apples and oranges on the table.

4. Mix them in: It's usually pretty easy to slide a serving or two of veggies into dinner. For example, fajitas do just fine without meat; just include lots of fresh peppers, onions, tomato wedges, and even shredded carrots as part of the recipe. Meatless lasagna is amazing - load up on mushrooms, spinach, zucchini, cauliflower, and black olives, and everyone is happy. The typical store-bought bag of frozen "mixed vegetables" - peas, beans, carrots and corn - make a great addition to pot pie or soup.

But actually, you can get creative and add veggies anywhere. One of our favorite meatless meals is "Spud Nest." This is mashed potatoes layered into a 9x13 buttered dish. Create a hollow spot in the center of the pan (push the spuds to the sides) and fill that with freshly steamed veggies of your choice. I sprinkle a smidge of grated Parmesan cheese over it all and put it all in a hot oven (425 degreesF) for 10 minutes. Delish!

If fruits are your challenge, there are also lots of recipes that include those. Our family loves a peach or mango salsa which nicely accompanies fish, for instance.

5. Fruit for dessert: You can make all sorts of deliciously simple desserts with fruit. Your own version of a sugar-free Popsicle can be made by freezing fresh fruit (chopped or pureed) mixed with juice, and homemade smoothies can be a sugar-addict's salvation!

And closely related to smoothies are the fruit "ice creams" that can be made from frozen bananas, berries, pears, peaches, apples or cherries. I blend them with unsweetened Greek yogurt and we're as happy as if we were indulging at Baskin Robbins.

Dried fruits make another great dessert. Just be sure to take them with plenty of water to make their digestion easier.

6. Be creative: Fruit and veggie kabobs are quick and yummy, as are veggie-loaded pizzas. And we love mixing finely chopped veggies into our cream cheese to use as a scrumptious bagel schmear.

7. Become an herb and spice master: Fresh herbs add so much pizzazz to foods that it's truly sad to overlook them. Chopped fresh basil added to any tomato dish is divine - fresh rosemary takes potato dishes from OK to outstanding. I love adding freshly grated nutmeg to steamed broccoli and cauliflower. WOW is all I can say here.

8. Develop the art of presentation: We eat with our eyes before we ever take a taste of something. So take a little extra time to present your meals attractively. Pretty and clever presentation is enticing. For instance, we bake and serve a rice and veggie casserole in a cleaned-out acorn squash. The squash makes such a fun and unexpected serving dish. I love stuffing hollowed out tomatoes with veggies and a little cheese, and garnishing them with fresh basil sprigs. Veggies stews and chowders are very tempting when served in a bread bowl.

And for a cool twist on an old favorite, the banana split? Slice the banana lengthwise, fill it with a mixture of chopped fresh fruits, and top with dollops of stevia-sweetened plain Greek Yogurt. Oh my!


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