There are memories to contend with; thinking back to the good old days, remembering loved ones long gone can be difficult. We often wish that we could have those people back, that we could relive the good times just one more time. I can almost perfectly recall Christmas dinners from my early childhood; most of the family with whom I listened to and laughed with have passed, and I miss them all. Trying to honor memories instead of mourning them can be a difficult task, to say the least.
For a person who wants to get on a healthier track, the holidays are doubly hard. There are amazing food and beverages that are easier to find at this time of year: the Caramel Apple Cider, the Coquito (Puerto Rican Egg Nog, basically), the Pernil, the perfect Baked Ham... the feasts. Damn it, the feasts!
Being from a Sicilian (Mom)/Puerto Rican (Dad) background, it almost goes without saying that I grew up among a family of cooks and foodies. There were at least three members of each side of the family who claimed the title of 'Best Cook' for themselves; and if you weren't cooking, you were eating someone's culinary creation while being forced to confess who you thought the title belonged to. Indeed, a lot of my best memories are entwined with food. My drug of choice. It's scary when I think about it.
I think that this holiday is the first to ever truly present a challenge for me. Around Thanksgiving and Christmas, I've always been able to explain away the cookies, candies and other sweet treats that seem to float around in excess during this time of year. I'd even, like many of you I'm sure, call it my 'winter weight'. Why wouldn't I want a hot chocolate in this cold? And what's a hot chocolate without whipped cream? Or marshmallows? The possibilities are delicious, endless, and ultimately dangerous. I put an ominous tag on it because it's the only way I can even begin to control myself. Amirite? How many of you have stared at a caramel apple cheesecake or a white chocolate peppermint toward like it was threatening to grow arms and choke you to death? We've all been there.
For some, it's easier to walk away than others. Those are the people I sometimes think I'd like to torture - "Oh, I've just never been into chocolate" - "I've never had a sweet tooth" - BAH. Bah to all of you. (smile) Just kidding of course, but you don't know the struggle! For some of us, the food meant family, togetherness, comfort, and even love. A lot of us were raised in an environment where the masses came together around good food - which meant good times.
This holiday, I've challenged myself to come together based on other things: friendship, love, and laughter. I've challenged myself to take responsibility for my health and let go of the ties that have previously bound me to these bad habits. Have I failed already? Yeah, a little. Am I bashing myself? Nope, not this time! I just have to remember how far I've come, how far I have to go and wonder if the salted caramel brownie in front of me is worth the feelings of guilt, knee pain and swollen appendages. And while it's decadent and delicious, the truth is that it's so not worth it. Remember, babies: you can't out-exercise a bad diet.
SO! The point of this post is that I want to help you guys (as well as drive myself) combat all of those holiday cravings. If you've got a wicked sweet tooth/connection to baked goods and desserts like I do, stock your fridge with sweet treats that will satisfy your craving without destroying your diet (ssh! it's called a life change!). My inspiration, of course, comes directly from Evolution, and they do help curb your cravings if you hold on to your determination to be a healthier you (Joe's Tip: When reading labels, aim for less than 10g of sugar per serving):
'Sugar Free' Treats Guaranteed to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth:
1. Sugar Free Popsicles/Fudge Pops (My favorite? Enlightened Frozen Bars - 70 Calories, High Fiber, 3g Sugar, 0 guilt)
2. Homemade Fruit Pops (If you have a blender, these are actually fun to make! It may be a little higher in sugar, but it's clean and natural - and let's face it, any snack that will result in a leisurely trip to Bed Bath & Beyond is fine by me.)
3. PB2/Fage Greek Yogurt (This combination has made me so, so happy. I'm a huge fan of puddings and mousses and rich desserts, and I absolutely have to credit Joe for putting me on to PB2: it's a a powdered peanut butter made by a company called Bell Plantation; the nutritional facts, in my head, are staggering! Each 2 Tbsp serving contains 45 calories, 1g sugar, 1.5g fat, nearly 0g cholesterol and 5g protein - these two items together make for one hell of a mousse or frozen yogurt when blended with a few slices of banana, and I use one or both of these items in my smoothies. Check out the link above for more recipes!)
4. Sugar Free Pudding (My lazy girl go-to. Nothing beats a sugar free Snack Pack at the end of a long day -except maybe a well deserved glass of wine- they're also great after spending a little time in the freezer!)
We're all in this together - we're riding the same train, on the same tracks, headed for the same station. Get yourself above the cravings and realize that your end goals are much more important than a moment's satisfaction! Also, did you know that 2 tablespoons of Redi-Whip is only 10 calories with 1g of sugar? I'm not saying that you can certainly keep a little 'sin' if you exercise a little control but... you totally can.
Enjoy your family, enjoy yourself, and enjoy your holiday!