Bunnies and Jelly Beans and Peeps…Oh My!

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By GW Director Tom Buescher

It is now spring, and Easter is upon us!  Chocolate eggs and bunnies, and jelly beans, lurk behind every corner, often in shamelessly seductive clothing.

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We are genetically programmed to respond to sugar so strongly that it could be considered a drug, and “addiction” is an apt term for so many of us. I think we all have that reaction, and manufacturers of processed foods know more about this than most of us ever will.

Because I have mostly eliminated sugar from my diet, my taste buds are very sensitive to it, and I can always tell when it is in a packaged food like salad dressing or crackers (read the label of Wheat Thins, for example).  There is a unique and very recognizable reaction in my brain that happens when I eat sugar, even in small amounts.  To be honest, I like that feeling, and I indulge in it more days than I don’t.  Here is how I do it without feeling guilty.

When I decide to consume sugar, it REALLY has to count.  I do not drink sugar in any form.  If you drink coffee or tea with sugar, gradually reduce the amount you add, until you don’t add any.  Trust me, after a while you will prefer those beverages unsweetened.  Enough has already been said about the eight teaspoons of sugar in a can of soda pop.

If you are not in the habit of reading labels, give it a try.  You will be astounded how many foods contain sugar.  Look for low or no versions, or make your own.  Many pasta sauces contain sugar, for example.  It’s often not a lot, and maybe not enough to cause great concern.  Sometimes a small amount of sweetener can pull flavors together, but the point to keep in mind is that re-educating our palates is just so key to having the power to choose, AND enjoy, eating a healthy, plant-based diet.  My experience has been that the more I treat the sugar experience as a chosen event, not a passive part of most meals, the more control I have over that substance.

So guess what?  I eat candy!  And dessert, on special occasions.  Here is how I control my indulgences.  Sometimes after eating a meal, my brain tells me it would like something sweet.  In my opinion, the biggest bang for the buck is chocolate, especially dark chocolate.  And cacao is full of very healthy phytonutrients.  So I have a few nibbles of dark chocolate.  The key is slow, mindful eating.  I take that nibble and roll it between the roof of my mouth and my tongue, letting it slowly coat my tongue as it melts, savoring every taste sensation.  I focus closely on the experience.  I make it count.  This works with jelly beans too, by the way!

I have found that slow, mindful eating, not just of sweets, but of everything, is so important to a healthy relationship with food.  Eating this way also allows development of an appreciation of what we are eating, and what we are doing for ourselves by eating wholesome, healthy foods.  For me, knowing that I am honoring myself by choosing to eat foods that nourish my body, nourishes my state of mind.

Happy Easter!  Revel in the magic of spring that people in some parts of the country thought might never come this year.  Get ready for summer’s abundance of scrumptious fruits and vegetables.  Chocolate is great for nibbling, but feasting on stone fruit, vine-ripened tomatoes, sweet corn, snap peas, and…well, you fill in the blank…is an even sweeter indulgence.

Tom Buescher is the San Francisco Get Waisted Director.  He has been passionate about all aspects of healthy eating for most of his life, partly due to being the son of a farmer’s daughter. He also was an apple grower for ten years.  He is excited to have the opportunity to share his passion through the Get Waisted support program.

Posted on by Mary Clifton, MD

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