I think sometimes when people think about a plant based diet they just imagine A LOT OF SALAD! Well… while that may be true that doesn’t mean we can’t have a sweet treat here and there! My friends and family who know me well know that I enjoy my treats. Although these days I have upgraded my treats to healthier ones. In honor of Valentines day, I wanted to share with you how I indulge my sweet tooth with whole plant foods!
The main principle behind a whole food plant based diet (WFPBD) is simply eat whole plant foods. Another way to look at this is to eat plant foods that are as close to their natural state as possible and packed with nutrients. Refined sugar is high in calories but contains no nutrients. However, the plant it comes from (sugar cane) is rich in antioxidants and polyphenols. Another example would be an avocado versus avocado oil. The whole avocado contains fiber, and vitamins such as A and C. Whereas the oil contains only fat and calories-no nutrients. So the point is to have your fat and your sweetness along with all of the good stuff that is naturally occurring in the plant as well. It is easy to adapt almost any recipe to turn it into a healthy treat that falls into the WFPBD parameters.
Oil in recipes can be replaced with equal amounts of apple sauce, any nut butter, or a mashed banana. When baking oil free you will need to line your pans with parchment paper or use silicone bake ware. All purpose flour can be swapped out with whole wheat flour. Ground flax seed or chia seeds can replace eggs.
My favorite sweeteners include dates, sucanat, agave nectar, maple syrup and molasses. Each of these have different “sweetness” levels so you’ll need to adjust appropriately.
When I don’t feel like baking I enjoy dark chocolate. Two of my favorites are the Endangered Species brand and the Ghirardelli Intense Dark. You need to read the ingredients when picking a dark chocolate to avoid milk fat which is in a lot of chocolate. I aim for 70% cocoa or higher. Also, check you labels because the amount of flavanols can be decreased depending on how the chocolate is processed. If the label says “processed with alkali” then there will a lot less flavanols. The high flavanol content in dark chocolate is why you often hear that it is good for you. Flavanols are also found in red wine, grapes, apples and tea.
I cannot talk about my favorite sweets without talking about finding sweetness in your life. If you’re like me you might find yourself looking for sweetness when you’re bored, stressed, or sad. Often we reach for food to fill a void. We feel good temporarily then as soon as that short lived “goodness” feeling fades we are left with feelings of guilt, shame or are angry with ourselves for what we’ve done. Has that ever happened to you? (Hope I am not the only one!) Cravings like these usually come when we are not actually hungry, are intense and can only be fulfilled with something specific. The best thing to do in these situations is try to ask yourself “What am I really hungry for?” I often encourage clients to create a list of non-edible forms of nourishment for these situations such as a bubble bath, a massage, a fuzzy blanket or manicure. We all deserve a little sweetness in our lives without feeling like we are giving up our health plan. So enjoy your sweetie on Valentines Day!
Written by: Amanda Laukaitis