Kitchen Confidence: Substituting healthier options for sugar cravings |

Kitchen Confidence: Substituting healthier options for sugar cravings

Uncle Sam bran flakes can be added to oats for an extra fiber boost.
Courtesy Tom Castrigno |

If you are like many people, you often choose sweet foods for breakfast, such as muffins, cereal or even traditional pastries. The choices for quick, easy breakfasts are dominated by sweet fruit profiles. Consider bagels with cream cheese and strawberry jam or even your favorite smoothie. When we are in a hurry or stressed, we crave sweet foods for their quick spike of energy and the familiar feelings they create.

We all know that having a diet dominated by sweet foods is problematic. Nonetheless, we continue to crave these foods. We can rationalize by substituting healthier versions for yogurts, waffles or even soft drinks. But what if you could reduce the cravings themselves rather than simply substitute a “healthier version”?

Ultimately, all cravings stem from addictions that are emotionally and chemically based. We feel an emotion, our bodies produce powerful chemicals in response, and we end up addicted. This can happen when the foods we eat lack a variety of flavors. How many times have you reached for a food that you know is a poor choice, but ate it anyway because it is familiar to you? That is your addiction in action.

The first step is becoming conscious and noticing these cravings. You will have to own up and accept that you have an addiction. The next is to short circuit them by making a better food choice. When a meal is dominated by one or two flavors, say a bagel with cream cheese and glass of OJ, the brain keeps thinking, something is missing, but may not be sure what. Often people will just have another helping of the same thing and get that crazy, “I’m stuffed, but I still want something more” sensation.

Basically it works like this: There are five flavors among food and when all are present in a meal, your brain gets the signal that everything is A-OK and it is satisfied. Even if only three to four are represented, this is a step in the right direction and can reduce cravings or feelings of still being hungry in spite of eating sufficient calories.

Can you name the five flavors? They are sweet, salty, savory (spicy), sour and bitter.

Getting back to breakfasts, introducing a savory profile can help reduce cravings for those sweet-style meals. A simple way to do this is with super-charged oatmeal. Start by preparing basic oatmeal using steel cut, rolled, or even instant if you have to.

Now for the supercharge part. While the oats are cooking, stir in 1/2 teaspoon of curry powder. Giving the oats a savory flavor profile will not only help cut down your sugar cravings, but turmeric, the main spice in curry powder, also has anti-inflammatory properties. Next stir in some unsweetened shredded coconut. This healthy medium chain fat will help slow down the absorption rate of the oats. At serving time, stir in some walnuts for added protein, a bit more shredded coconut, and for crunch and a super extra fiber boost, some Uncle Sam bran flakes. There you have it. Fast, easy, supercharged, craving-busting oatmeal.

Tom Castrigno lives in Frisco, Colorado where he is known as The Mobile Chef. Visitors to Summit County can enjoy one of Tom’s delicious meals prepared right in their condo. Learn More at

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