The Sweet Life of a Junkatarian

As a kid, I wouldn’t have considered myself to have had a massive sweet tooth. Okay okay, I did enjoy my fair share of cake, cookies, brownies, and ice cream. However, I am happy to say that you would not have seen me having a sugar fest unless circumstances deemed it appropriate (Halloween and birthdays).

During my early days of vegetarianism, around three years ago, something strange happened. I felt empty and I had a craving. No, I was not craving meat. In fact, it was very easy for me to give that up; it was great, all smooth sailing. But I found that by cutting out an entire food group, I began craving other things. I was hungry for something familiar but still within the bounds of my dietary preferences. I was hungry for sugar.

Both unknowingly and intentionally, more and more carb-heavy and sugar-laden foods crept into my diet. Sure, I still ate my veggies like any good vegetarian, but that didn’t stop me for reaching for the more-than-occasional cinnamon-raisin bagel or giant chocolate Costco “muffin.” (Those seriously should not be called muffins…)

I felt that my consumption of those foods was justified because they were certainly not as bad as bacon and steak. They had to be okay; they were vegetarian! A little sweet treat here and there? No problem. So long as my lips never touched dead animal flesh, everything else, no matter how sugary, was acceptable.

I was becoming a junkatarian–an avid eater of sugary processed “vegetarian junk food”–and it was not pretty. I would get hungry, eat a bowl of Special K Red Berries cereal (hello sugar overdose!), and an hour later, munch on two 90-calorie granola bars. As time passed, I found myself eating because not my stomach, but my tastebuds craved the sweetness of these goodies. My tastebuds were being altered and distorted by these processed sugars! (Looking back, I bet I wouldn’t have been able to even taste the natural sweetness of an apple anymore.) Yet I allowed myself to continue because I saw nothing externally wrong with what I was eating. But as expected, some weight gain followed, and I grew frustrated with myself and my eating habits.

This “junkatarianism” dominated my first year or so as a vegetarian. Luckily, since then, as I’ve done more research and become more health conscious (blogs helped!), I have realized that being a vegetarian/vegan is not an excuse for perpetual unhealthy eating. The former does not negate the latter, if you will. (Likewise, exercising is not an excuse for such.)

To the average person, foods like Special K cereal and granola bars would be considered harmless, even “healthy”, snacks. Certainly they are better than cookies and cake, right? The truth is,they are still processed convenience foods with some form of refined sugar as one of its first three ingredients. They are marketed as good-for-you, but inherently they are not. Sure, eating them in moderation won’t kill you, but their addicting sweetness can sabotage even the cleanest of diets.

So where do I stand today?

Recently, I have embraced cleaner ways of getting my sugar fix.

Enter Green Smoothies, the perfect post-run energizer. Enjoyed one morning in a mug…

…and the next morning in a square bowl, semi-frozen.

(1 banana, 3 handfuls of baby spinach, flaxseed, cinnamon, 1 cup almond milk)

Cramming in more veggies has never been easier…

(banana, spinach, golden beet and beet greens, flaxseed, cinnamon, soy milk)

…and neither has drinking it, just for funsies as dessert.

Sugary cereal for breakfast? So 2008.

Hot oatmeal? Not in the summer.

VOO in a bowl? Quite frequently as of late.

VOO Parfaits (a la Angela or Katie)? Sounds dangerous but I’ll take my chances…

(layers of overnight oats, blueberries, chopped pitted cherries, and strawberry-banana coconut milk yogurt and topped with almond butter, crushed walnuts, and cacao nibs)

No cherries or yogurt today?…

Sigh. I guess this’ll do.

(layers of overnight oats (no banana), blueberries, strawberries, hand-mixed banana soft serve, crushed walnuts, and almond butter and topped with almond butter, berries, and cacao nibs)

Waiting an hour for the oven to crank out some baked goods? No thanks.

2 Minute Cinnamon Apple Surprise

* 2 strawberries, chopped
* almond butter
* 1 braeburn apple (or your semi-tart apple of choice), sliced
* cinnamon
* unsweetened shredded coconut

Step 1: Place chopped strawberries at the center of a microwave safe bowl. Cover with a dollop or two of almond butter.

Step 2: Layer apple slices around and on top of the strawberries. Dust each slice with cinnamon as you go.

Step 3: Finish off with a generous sprinkle of shredded coconut in the middle and around the top.

Step 4: Microwave for 2 minutes. Apples should be soft when poked with a fork or toothpick.

Step 5: Find the surprise inside! Dig for the treasure, baby.

Have a lovely Friday, everyone! And thanks for the feedback on my last post; I’ll be sure to continue posting loads of pictures for your viewing pleasure. ;)

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9 Responses to The Sweet Life of a Junkatarian

  1. Jessica says:

    Oh, that apple surprise looks incredible. I have found myself enjoying fruit much more after I kicked the sweets habit, too. And reading blogs has raised my awareness of new foods and dishes to try. In fact, I think I’ll have to try the warmed apple dish…. I like Angela’s blog but I don’t read it every day, my reader is exploding!

    • Diana says:

      I agree!! Fruits have such a delicious sweetness, and the really sweet ones like bananas, dates, and figs do so well to replace white sugar in a lot of foods.

  2. Andrea says:

    Lots of yummy breakfast ideas here, but I have to tell you, I still can’t get myself into green smoothie mode. Pink, purple, peach, cream — but not green. I should just take myself to a smoothie bar, order one and drink it. Then maybe I’ll get over my aversion and start making them … or not.

    • Diana says:

      The thing is, I really cannot taste the spinach at all! The way I make it, even with 3 heaping handfuls of spinach, pretty much all I taste is a PB & banana flavor (from using just half a banana and a tablespoon of almond butter). The green smoothie is not bitter or raw-tasting; it’s actually rather creamy, nutty, and just sweet enough!

  3. Nicky says:

    I am going through this way of eating at the moment of just craving sugary things ALL the time despite trying to eat healthy with balanced meals with protein, carbs and lots of fruit and veg and also vegetarian and I just hate then eating all this junk! Do you have any tips on how to start cutting out all the candy, baked goods and sugary cereals in between the healthiness of my meals?

    • Diana says:

      I first convinced my parents to stop buying all the bad sweets, and when I would do grocery shopping by myself, I would not put them into my shopping cart. Have lots of fruits around to reintroduce and readjust your tastebuds to the delicious, natural sweetness of fruit again. Now, even with cake and cookies lying around, I really have no interest in eating them. (You’ll find that they taste overly sugary and maybe even kinda nasty…) Also, eat more filling meals. This doesn’t necessarily mean eating more in terms of quantity, but rather eating more nutrient-dense foods (squash, sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens, etc etc). Finally, the most important thing is to eat out less and make more meals at home so you can control what exactly you want to put in your food!

  4. jenny says:

    Oh, you are making me think of how I used to eat bagels smeared with canned frosting in college…and I gained a good 10-15 pounds. All of your oatmeal and apple dishes are just bursting with the look of health. And you did a great job of making it all pretty, too.

  5. Amber Shea @Almost Vegan says:

    Mmm, this makes me wish it were morning again so I could eat breakfast!

    The same thing has happened with me, i.e. trending away from processed sugars. I think it’s a natural transformation as people learn more about what they’re putting in their bodies…luckily!

  6. Pingback: Stove-less and Starving « VEGeneration

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