Confession: I’ve been battling an un-diagnosed sugar addiction since I can remember—in other words, I have an insanely huge (and slightly debilitating) sweet tooth.
Sugary sweets are my vice. While others are at work daydreaming about vacations, past lovers, future lovers, and taking money baths—you can find me at my desk daydreaming about stuffing my face with endless amounts of cheesecake (or any cake), chocolate chip cookies and brownies.
But I’m not naive about it—I’m fully aware that added sugars, like white granulated sugar, are kind of evil. Not only does white sugar have essentially no nutritional value (note: there aren’t many foods that literally have nothing to offer—but white sugar is one), it’s also linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and a whole lot of other health issues. To put it bluntly, too much added sugar is terrible for us. The worst part? Most of us don’t realize how much added sugar we’re consuming.
And last summer, in the midst of getting my fitness back on track, I realized added sugar was the number one culprit holding me back. I was working at a vegan restaurant and I deemed it necessary to eat delicious, free desserts every day. Eventually, although I was exercising 4-5 days a week, my fitness progress reached a halt. I realized that as long as I continued eating those desserts, I could never really know what I was consuming.
The desserts came to the restaurant from vegan bakeries around the area, and one day, when our dessert orders were dropped off, my similarly health-conscious Virgo coworker decided to take a look at the ingredient list of our all-time favorite cake: Cream cheese substitute (made from soybeans), granulated sugar, powdered sugar, corn syrup, milk substitute (made from soybeans), shortening, margarine, solid soybeans, egg replacer (made from soybeans). Those were among the first listed ingredients. WTF.
When I say I was bummed…I was BUMMED. It was confirmation of something I pretty much already knew: My favorite (and very gluttonous) peanut butter-chocolate cake could no longer be a regular part of my diet. Eating this all the time would not only sabotage my fitness progress, consuming this stuff almost daily would 100% render negative effects on my health.
But I wasn’t down to “quit” dessert and I never will be—that sh*t brings me too much joy! Instead of trying to stop myself from eating sweet treats, I became more mindful about it. I decided that for the time being, every “sweet” or dessert I ate would be one that I made myself. That way, I’d be aware of what was in them and I could control the amount of sugar in them.
I knew that a single cake didn’t need to have three types of sugar in order to taste good, and I always felt like most of the sweets I bought went overboard on the sweetness, anyway. So I took to the internet and looked up easy, healthier recipes for my favorite sweets.
And ya’ll, I’m pleased to announce this new effort was super easy, super cheap, and way delicious. I think anyone who has a major sweet tooth should consider making some of their own sweets, because it’s so cheap and so simple. I looked for recipes that included minimal ingredients and minimal steps. I made things like ricotta cheesecake, banana bread, peach cobbler, red velvet brownies and tres leches. The best part? None of them cost over $15 and none of them took over 15 minutes to put together.
The great thing about baking is that once you purchase a few standard essentials (flour, eggs, vanilla extract, etc.), you’re set for a while and you can pretty much make anything with the addition of say, bananas for banana bread, or lemon for lemon loaf, or cocoa powder for brownies. On Sundays, I’d take 15 minutes to make a chosen treat and put it in the oven for 20-60 minutes (whatever the recipe called for), and I ate it for dessert throughout the week.
Making my own desserts all summer changed the way I look at sweets—they can seriously be nutritious, depending on what ingredients you use. Any in a way, I enjoyed them more than the non-homemade varieties I was used to eating. They had just the right amount of sweetness and they didn’t give me that weird nauseous feeling I used to get after eating sugary things. It made realize that nothing(!!) in the kitchen has to be complicated. It also just felt good knowing what was in my beloved treats and making them for myself. Every time I ate one, it was like giving myself a pat on the back.