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6 Healthy Swaps for Your Favorite Treats

Eating your feelings in good times more than bad? Reach for these healthier swaps instead of your celebratory treats
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When you hear the term "emotional eater," what do you usually picture? Probably something straight out of a romantic comedy: A sad sap who just went through a bad breakup, blaring depressing music in the background and shoveling heaping spoonfuls of ice cream into her mouth (straight out of the tub). A good friend may come over eventually, equipped with even more junk food, and the "eat your feelings" mentality continues while the rain pours outside.

Surprisingly, a recent study out of the Netherlands proves that we may have it all wrong. Emotional eating has long been linked with negative feelings (depression, loneliness and anxiety), but Dutch researchers found that emotional eaters (about 75 percent of us) are more likely to overeat when we're happy. Yep, all the celebratory toasts and "Job well done!" dinners are also contributing to the obesity epidemic. The problem is these often social settings only make us more likely to over-indulge. When you're in a good mood, it's hard to step on the brakes and realize that you're overdoing it. Think celebratory drinks after a big promotion, cupcakes at the office for a co-worker's birthday or endless plates of fries after your hometown sports team takes home the championship title.

Now, we're not against indulging once in a while, but if you're worried about sabotaging your diet, completely falling off the wagon, or simply want to work toward a healthier lifestyle, it's a good idea to have some healthier options up your sleeve. To help you stay on track during the best of times, we rounded up some nutritionist-approved swaps that you can make for the usual "I'm celebrating!" treats.

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Brownies
Chocoholics may find it hard to give up this crowd-pleaser, but with a few tweaks, you may not have to. Boulder-based nutritionist Ann Aubin Gibson, M.S., CHHC suggests giving traditional brownies a makeover by "super-sizing" with your favorite protein powder (whey, pea, hemp, rice) to offset the sugar. "Replace grain flour with almond or coconut flour, and use half a cup less than the recipe calls for. Then use protein powder to make up the difference." She also recommends swapping regular milk for coconut milk and swapping vegetable oil for coconut oil. "You can even reduce the sugar by replacing a portion with mashed ripe bananas, apple sauce, or even xylitol," says Gibson. If you're feeling extra adventurous, Yuri Elkaim, nutritionist and author of "Eating for Energy," recommends giving this healthier brownie recipe based on black beans a go.

Ingredients:

• 1 can of black beans, well rinsed and drained
• 3 large eggs
• 3 tbsp olive oil
• 1⁄4 cup cocoa powder
• 4 pinches stevia
• 1 tsp baking soda
• 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
• 1⁄4 tsp sea salt
• 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
• 3 tbsp dark chocolate chips

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Rinse and drain the black beans well
3. Add all ingredients except for chocolate chips in blender and blend until very smooth
4. Stir in chocolate chips
5. Pour batter into an 8-inch square buttered baking pan
6. Bake at 350F for 30-32 minutes
7. Brownies are ready when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean

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Cookies
Whether they come pre-packaged on a dessert tray or freshly baked on a platter, cookies are bound to be present if there is a celebration in progress. Elkhaim recommends swapping your usual chocolate chip cookies for these light coconut truffles the next time you're required to bring dessert for the potluck. Not only do they completely cut out the butter and lower the high sugar content found in traditional cookie recipes and store-bought options, but they're also super easy to make (no oven required!).

Ingredients:

• 2 cups dates, pitted
• 2 cups pecans, presoaked
• 1 tbsp cacao powder
• 1 tsp vanilla
• 1⁄2 cup dried shredded coconut

Directions

1. Throw all ingredients into a food processor and blend until the mixture becomes smooth and forms a ball.
2. Roll mixture into small balls (should yield about 36) and roll in shredded coconut for coating.

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Happy Hour Fare
Whether it's celebrating the win of a championship sports game, a co-worker's promotion or just the end of a stressful workday, salty happy hour staples like French fries can quickly add up -- especially when they're half off regular price. And while you're watching the slow-mo replay or catching up with friends, it's hard to keep track of -- or stop -- your intake.

Before you fall into the trap, simply swap your usual order of regular fries for sweet potato fries, which are full of vitamins A, B6, and C. The best part about this swap is that this option is readily available in most restaurants and it's still crunchy and fried -- all the characteristics of the perfect happy hour plate!

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Ice Cream
If you're craving this frozen dessert, Gibson suggests making a homemade sorbet instead, by processing 2 cups of frozen berries of choice in a blender with 1 cup of filtered water, 2 tbsp. of flax oil or coconut oil, 1/4 cup of a berry blend antioxidant powder (optional) and 1/4 cup of walnuts or pecans. Add a teaspoon of vanilla extract, lemon extract, ground ginger or cinnamon to give your dessert more flavor, then pour into ice-cream cups and freeze.

For a chocolate craving, Gibson suggests making a health-packed chocolate mousse by blending the following together in a food processor: 3 ripe avocados, 10 soaked and pitted dates, 1 cup raw cacao powder, 2 tsp. vanilla extract, and depending on the sweetness you prefer, either 1/2 cup maple syrup or 1/3 cup honey, or no sweetener at all. To loosen consistency, add almond, hemp or coconut milk as needed, then refrigerate or freeze and enjoy!

DEC 23, 2014 | SHARES
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