I’m a die-hard sweet tooth, it’s true. I love dessert. I love sweet snacks. I love a real-deal Coca-Cola every now and then. I love savory treats, too, of course, but more often than not I’ll gravitate to a piece of chocolate over a potato chip.
That said, I feel like lately I’ve been consuming way too much sugar. It really hit me on Valentine’s Day (which, admittedly, could also be called “Day o’ Sugar” and is not indicative of the amount of sugar I eat on a given day, but that’s beside the point). After a so-bad-it-was-good doughnut for breakfast, some Sweethearts as morning snack and half a large cupcake as an afternoon one, I got home from work feeling sluggish and awful. Not good. (Side note: Is this also a sign that I’m getting old? Ten years ago, I could have added another cupcake to that list and been fine. I mean, relatively speaking.)
I originally thought that the aforementioned inherent sugar consumption that comes with V-Day was the culprit, but nope: Last week I found myself with another cupcake in front of me, and after eating it, I got the same yucky feeling–to a lesser degree, but still it was there–that I had on Valentine’s Day. Again, not good–well, except for the fact that it led me to not want sugar again that day, and also that it made me seriously start rethinking the way I consume that granular white stuff.
Here’s the thing: Sugar is really bad for me (and you), but for the most part I’ve chosen to ignore that fact and eat it when I crave it. But I don’t want to do that anymore, especially if it means feeling gross and lethargic in the short-term and experiencing serious unhealthy side effects down the road. So I’m starting–slowly–to make some healthy swaps. For example: Unsweetened almond milk and agave nectar or honey in my morning coffee and evening tea, as opposed to artificially-flavored, saccharine-y creamer. Maple syrup swirled into my oatmeal instead of brown sugar. And, to add into the breakfast rotation, my new favorite smoothie: the banana-almond-date shake pictured above (discovered via the lovely L.A. in Bloom blog).
I’ve read about dates being great natural sweeteners for years, but honestly, their color, shape and texture reminds me of a certain kind of bug common to Florida (sorry), so I’ve always had an aversion to them. But this smoothie just sounded so good that I decided to put aside my prejudice and buy some (it helps that they’re labeled “fancy” on the box). Once they’re pitted and blended in with the other ingredients, you don’t have to worry about the texture and color and shape–instead, you get a smoothie that’s perfectly sweet, without sugar. Consider me a date convert. (It doesn’t hurt that, thanks to the addition of cinnamon, almond milk, tons of ice and a tablespoon of raw, unsalted almond butter, this drink basically turns into a breakfast milkshake, albeit a healthy one.) Here’s the recipe:
Adapted slightly from this recipe on L.A. in Bloom
1 large banana
2 fresh, pitted dates (I bought them unpitted, at Trader Joe’s, and then did it myself)
1 Tbsp. raw, unsalted almond butter (I used the crunchy kind, also from Trader Joe’s, because that’s what was available, and it was fine)
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
Pinch of cinnamon
1 cup, more or less, ice, depending on your taste (I like a lot)
Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a big glass and serve immediately.
And tell me: What’s your relationship with sugar? Do you think about it? Do you not care? Have you eliminated it from your diet? Please share; I’d really love to hear your thoughts.