This is an article that I wrote this winter for “Remedy Quarterly”, a quarterly magazine based on health, wellness, and awesome recipes. I added a recipe at the bottom for a guilt-free sweet treat. This is Anel’s favorite thing in the world and he actually had me make it for him instead of a birthday cake!
As a health counselor, people often ask me what to do when they want chocolate. When I throw out the shocking response, “Well, when I’m craving chocolate, I eat chocolateâ€. What results is generally a small gasp or a blank stare. I go on to explain that I substitute organic dark chocolate in place of Hershey’s but I also teach my palate to savor whole, unprocessed food. Then, I ask myself the larger question: Why do I search for comfort in food? Psychology can answer this question and its theory has allowed me to think more honestly about my entire being, not just my stomach.
Last year I developed a severe sweet tooth. I had never craved sweets, and often skipped dessert for something salty. My new found love for cookies and ice cream was intriguing to me until the sugar began to take a toll on my body and I was forced to pause for a moment to deconstruct this craving. Instead of thinking of it as a weakness, I considered what my body was trying to tell me. I spoke with my health counselor at the time who suggested that I start spending more quality time with my sister and close friends to balance out my “primary food.” “Primary food” is a concept nutritionists use to explain the importance of healthy relationships, physical activity, career and spirituality. It does not consist in the food that one puts in her mouth for sustenance; rather, finding balance in your primary food hungers makes what you physically eat secondary.
I reflected on my life events of that year: I graduated from college and moved away from all of my friends, entering the cold dark world of corporate America where most of my day had been taken over by computers and solitude. Around the same time, I broke up with my boyfriend and my parents finalized their divorced and sold my childhood home. I craved the sweetness that I used to get in the form of affection from my friends and family.
Once I started cultivating loving relationships more carefully and taking care of myself, my cravings slowly lessened. I trained myself to incorporate more sweet vegetables like squash and onions into my diet so that when 3:00pm rolled around, I didn’t feel an insatiable need for a cookie. My sweet tooth still remains but I’ve reformed my habits: a brown rice cake with almond butter and raw honey now tastes better to me than a cookie. When I get the urge for chocolate, I treat myself with organic dark chocolate infused with mint in smaller doses.
What I’ve realized is most important when I start to crave something, is to listen to what my body is asking for. Is it something sweet or salty? Crunchy or creamy? Hot or cold? But then a larger consideration also applies: food aside, I think about what is missing.
Healthy Rice Krispy Treats (for the days when primary foods don’t cut it!)
– 3/4 cup cashew butter (you could use almond or peanut too depending on your style)
3/4 cup agave nectar
1 teaspoon sea saltâ€¨
2 1/2 teaspoons butter or earth balance
4 cups unsweetened crisp brown rice cerealâ€¨â€¨
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
-Heat up the cashew butter, agave, salt, and earth balance in a large saucepan
-Stir it constantly until it is melty and smooth
-Add the cereal and stir until well coated
-Take off heat and add the chocolate chips (or nuts, you can get creative!)
-Place mixture in a glass baking dish and refridgerate for at least an hour, covered
-Take out of the fridge and eat!