February often brings boxes of mystery chocolates and other treats that break the monotony of winter. Sweet treats are fun, and no one avoids them completely (despite those still-fresh New Year’s resolutions). So how can sweets fit into a healthy diet and not wreck it?
1. To start, choose sweets that are less junky than others. There are many ways to substitute your sweet tooth, but one way is to avoid hydrogenated oils. So what’s so bad about them? They are made through a chemical process where hydrogen is blasted on vegetable oils to make them more shelf-stable, but they are completely artificial and not found in nature. So flip over your treats and other foods before you buy and look for “hydrogenated” anywhere on the ingredient list; if you see it, put that product back and look for another option.
Luckily, different brands and food manufacturers make similar foods without hydrogenated oils, so there are better options for most things. Examples of choices without hydrogenated oils are Reese’s peanut butter cups, most truffles, and plain (unfilled chocolates). These are just a few that I’ve tried out, but it’s a good idea to check the label of any product if you are unsure. Your local Brookshire Brothers store has plenty of high quality options to choose from to find an option that works for you.
2. The second way to make treats better is to choose chocolate over other types of candy. What you hear about chocolate is true — it does have antioxidants that bring some health benefits, but remember that chocolate also has sugar, so keep a cap on the total amount you eat each day.
3. And, finally, keep tabs on your sweets intake by setting limits for yourself. Decide in advance how much you will eat rather than indulging mindlessly. For instance, decide to eat no more than three or four pieces of chocolate a day and leave the wrappers there as a visual reminder of how many you’ve had. We all know it’s easy to lose track of that whole bag of chocolate. Setting limits also encourages you to savor every bite, so you can eat less and enjoy what you eat more.
Remember, life is like a box of chocolates — you never really know what you’re going to get. So don’t waste your life on the kind of chocolates that will make it shorter. Indulge your sweet tooth this month, but keep hydrogenated oils out, choose chocolate over other sweets, keep tabs on how much you eat to keep those New Year’s resolutions going strong, and finally, savor every last bite.
Angela Larson is a registered dietitian (RD) who works with Brookshire Brothers promoting real fresh, real delicious healthy foods and providing nutrition education to the community. She is also a clinical dietitian representing Woodland Heights Medical Center in Lufkin where she does community education on food and nutrition. Food is her passion, so Angela loves trying new recipes and exploring the more holistic side of nutrition. Angela loves to cook, garden, and spend time outdoors. Look for Angela's monthly articles in Charm East Texas.