Note: To learn more about the Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating program, visit www.AmIHungry.com or the AIH page on my website.
Last week l wrote about how much l dislike the idea of forced deprivation and saying some people shouldn't have sweets. So it only seemed fair to write about the opposite extreme that also has me concerned – a focus on too much sweetness.
This came up recently when I was looking at protein bars, specifically Luna bars. I don’t eat them often, but when I travel, I find them handy for emergency eating – i.e., if I'm stranded somewhere without any food options and I'm really hungry. In looking at the flavors, I couldn’t help noticing how many of the them sounded super sweet: S’mores, Caramel Walnut Brownie, and Chocolate Cupcake among them. Even the Blueberry Bliss, one of the very few without chocolate, has a drizzle of something sweet.
Similarly, I was surprised recently to see some specialty flavors of Bigelow Tea, in honor of Girl Scouts: Thin Mints and Caramel & Coconut, promising all the sweetness without the calories.
My concern with this has nothing to do with sugar, per se, but instead goes back to one of the basic principles we discuss in the Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating program: variety.
We are capable of recognizing five basic flavors: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami. lf we overwhelm our taste buds with just one of these, it becomes that much harder to distinguish and appreciate other tastes and complexities of flavors. The food becomes one-note.
This is something I never considered when I was younger and obsessed with sweets. Only when I started changing my eating habits did I discover that my tastes had changed. Things I used to hate – fish, any seafood, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, asparagus – I liked, and some foods I had liked – including certain candy but also things like red delicious apples – seemed too sweet and l didn't want as much.
So for me, it's not about the amount of sugar or carbs or anything like that. I simply want to be able to enjoy food in all its options and intricacies, and I find l can do that best if I balance sweetness with all those other options. Variety is, as they say, the spice of life.