A cucumber is not a substitute for a chocolate bar.
Let me repeat that: a CUCUMBER is not a substitute for a CHOCOLATE BAR.
This may seem like an obvious fact – we’re not even comparing “apples and oranges” here (at least they are part of the same food group). No we are comparing two completely different things, each on a completely different side of the taste-o-meter.
Yes, I did just make that up – savoury is on the one end, sweet on the other. Here, allow me to show you:
As you can see, the two do not come close. Maybe I’m not giving Cucumber enough credit – it is possible he should be closer to the sweet side of things; but in my experience finding an oh-so-perfect sweet cucumber is not as common. And with things like gummy worms and apple juice to contend with, I rest him on the sweet side of savoury.
You will note – there is nothing wrong with the cucumber, nor is there anything wrong with the chocolate bar; they are just different.
And thus, they do not make a “legitimate” substitute.
I am using these two as a comparison because in my speaking endeavours I did come across a nemesis (albeit a short-lived one since I never had to see her again) who argued: “If I want a chocolate bar, then I will consciously make the ‘healthy’ substitute of eating a cucumber instead.”
To which I replied: “Well, you only live once, and I’d rather live knowing that for the next 70 years of my life, if I want a Coffee Crisp I don’t have to naw away at a hunk of watery vegetable.”
Cheers erupted – the crowd was on my side – if you’re wondering.
Anyways, back to the point: Substitutes. There are substitutes that count, and substitutes that don’t. The main thing to focus on is your craving. Because the truth is, we all know there is a lot of junk food out there. And by “junk food” I don’t mean anything with the dreaded sugar. I mean food sweet and savoury alike that is loaded full of chemicals and ingredients we can’t pronounce let alone understand. And so we do owe it to ourselves to make wise choices. But these choices should still fit in with the Intuitive Eating principles that our cravings are allowed to be honoured, and that there is no such thing as “good” and “bad” food. But there is some food that is “better.”
So for example, if I am craving chocolate (and this happens often), chomping on some dry seaweed (blech!) is not going to cut it. Why? Because I am craving chocolate! However, this doesn’t mean my only option is to run for the cheapest, no-name brand, highly processed sugar and corn-syrup filled chocolate-chemical-hybrid. (although even at times, if this is truly what you want – go ahead!) In the longterm, I don’t want to be eating that. So what do I do? I still honour my chocolate craving, but I opt for something a bit “wiser” instead – perhaps an all natural/organic 90% chocolate bar. Or maybe those tasty, all natural two-bite brownies – something that is a “better” option while still maintaining a similar position on the taste-o-meter.
Because, as we all know, if we don’t truly honour that craving to begin with, we’re going to do it eventually – and often the “eventually” comes in the form of either a) cleaning out your cupboards until you ultimately still end up eating the chocolate, or b) bingeing on the next poor, innocent batch of chocolate-anything that crosses your path.
And the same goes for savoury. If I am craving gooey, cheesy nachos and salsa, eating an apple is not a valid substitute. However, opting for those tasty multigrain chips, some organic dairy cheese, and fresh salsa (I love the Newman’s Own black bean one!) is a “better” way to honour that craving than to slap some salty Tostitos on your plate and splat some artificial cheese sauce on top (and often it tastes better, too!)
All that being said, sometimes you just crave that unnatural, cheap, nothing-resembling-real, bag of gummy worms or box of cookies or fast-food burger or whatever – this is totally OK. Remember, it it still not about restricting. If you are craving “unnatural” then the only way to honour that is to eat something incredibly unnatural. Finding substitutes is more about your long-term health goals and eating habits – it’s about making wise choices overall to contribute to a healthy, balanced life – physically and mentally.
I hope you found this article helpful, and I hope this inspires you to start reconsidering some of the “substitutes” you may be making that possibly don’t quite hit the mark.
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Note: these principles also work if you are basing your food choices on ethical standings i.e. if you are vegetarian or vegan OR if you are dealing with food allergies/intolerances.