Warning that this post may sound slightly melodramatic.
I was on the phone with my friend Stacey last week, talking about some of my food choices, and she laughingly asked if I still eat syrup. Stacey knew that my love for Aunt Jemima syrup ran deep. Growing up, “syrup toast” was my breakfast of choice and I had a ferocious passion for pancakes – pancakes absolutely drenched in syrup.
It was so funny to me that she brought up the syrup, because a decade ago, I dreamed of having only food in my pantry that you could buy at Whole Foods. And so slowly over the years, I’ve worked towards that.
Agghh, but syrup! You cannot buy Aunt Jemima at Whole Foods (gasp!) and real maple syrup just didn’t do it for me. So in an effort of compromise, I gave myself complete and total permission to keep my Aunt Jemima syrup (as well as a few other “i can’t give that up” items), in all its high fructose corn syrup and preservative filled glory. All this while still basking in my success of mason jars filled with quinoa, flax seed, and unsweetened coconut flakes.
I often see people getting stuck in an “all or nothing” mentality trap. They want to eat healthier, but their mind immediately turns to all their favorite foods that would be sacrificed in the name of health. But here’s the thing: eating well doesn’t equal a ban on every single food that brings you pleasure. Whatever your Aunt Jemima items might be – keep them around – just slowly begin crowding them out.
The idea of crowding out simply means that you start eating healthier foods IN ADDITION to what you’d normally eat – just opt for the healthier food first, and then allow yourself to have the less-healthy food afterwards.
The easiest and best things to start crowding IN are water, veggies (leafy greens especially!) and fruit.
It sounds simple – and maybe a little counterintuitive. Eat even more? Yes! Because here is what happens when you use the crowding out approach:
- Your body will get loads of added vitamins, minerals and nutrients from the healthy foods you are consuming first
- The more you eat nutrient dense foods, the more your body craves them (I promise!)
- Your taste buds actually start to change and the processed stuff slowly becomes a little less appealing (yes, I promise that too)
- The more foods you add to your diet, the more chance you may actually decide you like some of them
- At the end of the day, your stomach can only hold so much. If you fill up on more healthy food, you just don’t have as much room for the unhealthy stuff.
Eat some pineapple before you reach for a cookie after dinner. Drink a big glass of water before you quench your Diet Coke craving. Munch on carrot sticks as you go through your day. Just add in the good stuff and don’t worry about the bad stuff. Try it out.
SO – back to Aunt Jemima and my ultimate “I am so over you” moment.
In the spirit of my picture-perfect natural pantry, I slowly began to incorporate real maple syrup into some of my cooking. When I felt ready for the plunge, I tried it on my pancakes and decided I could make the switch for good. But the TRUE test was a pancake breakfast at my mom’s, where my beloved Aunt Jemima was the only option. I drizzled it on. It tasted horrible. Way too sweet and way too processed.
I opted for butter only and our relationship was officially over.
What are your Aunt Jemima foods? Are they keeping you from fulfilling health goals because you see it as an all or nothing? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
To adding in the good stuff,
PS. if you’re curious as to why Aunt Jemima is NOT synonymous with real maple syrup, click here.