Silent killer MSG + knowing your nutritional needs

Do you find that you always overeat whenever you have tacos? Or what about that frozen pizza you thought you would never be able to get through on your own, all of a sudden disappeared? Or all those Pringles and Doritos, ever finished a bag of those on your own? I know I have. And not only once.

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) is a salt, chemically converted into a flavour enhancer. It is found in most processed food, and causes both weight gain and obesity as it damages the appetite regulation center in the brain by causing leptin resistance. Now, leptin is a hormone that controls how much you feel like eating. When eating products containing MSG, the urge to continue eating never stops. In other words; you overeat, your stomach hurts and you feel sick. In a way, MSG fools the brain by enhancing the flavour of the food, making you think it tastes amazing. It stimulates the excessive release of dopamine, which creates a drug-like rush providing a tiny sensation of well being, and it is obviously addictive. Which is why you keep coming back for more, and end up eating too much. In this process, brain cells are also being destroyed. MSG has also been found to cause inflammation and abnormality in the liver.

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I’m actually surprised by the amount of products out there, containing MSG. It’s pretty much impossible to escape, and I do therefore suggest you buy REAL food and prepare it at home. If you try a period without MSG in your diet, and get used to the taste and flavours of natural food, you’ll instantly notice when you go back to eating it. The taste is so chemically enhanced, and you’ll just never feel satisfied.

Instant soups and gravy, spice mixes, salsas, dips, sauces, sausages, processed cheese, chips, gelatin, yeast food, supermarket-breads, taco-kits, frozen pizzas, pre-made burgers, most restaurant food, take-away.. The list is again, endless.

As with anything, tiny bits in moderation does no harm. But if you eat tacos three days a week, have sausages every Saturday, eat lollies every day, and throw in a frozen pizza for your hungover-Sunday, then you’re not really having small amounts anymore.

These ingredients always contain MSG:

Autolyzed Yeast Calcium Caseinate Gelatin
Glutamate Glutamic Acid Hydrolyzed Protein
Monopotassium Glutamate Monosodium Glutamate  Sodium Caseinate
Textured Protein Yeast Extract Yeast Food
Yeast Nutrient

And these ingredients tend to contain MSG:

Flavors and Flavorings Seasonings Natural Flavors and Flavorings Natural Pork Flavoring Natural Beef Flavoring
Natural Chicken Flavoring Soy Sauce Soy Protein Isolate Soy Protein Bouillon
Stock Broth Malt Extract Malt Flavoring Barley Malt
Anything Enzyme Modified Carrageenan Maltodextrin Pectin Enzymes
Protease Corn Starch Citric Acid Powdered Milk Anything Protein Fortified
  Anything Ultra-Pasteurized  

I can’t stress the importance of knowing/recognizing the ingredients of what you eat. Eating healthy isn’t hard, it simply requires a little bit of planning, a little bit of effort and a little bit of will-power. If you want it bad enough you will find a way, if not, you will find an excuse. Whenever I eat unhealthy food, my body reacts within an hour. My stomach aches and I feel SO bloated. It’s usually not worth it.

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I was starving on the go this morning and ended up buying a protein smoothie and a müesli-bar due to lack of planning. Put it into my ShapeUp-app and woooow, 1000 calories. In a large smoothie and a müesli bar. Hidden, useless energy much? You could eat ten bananas for that! It’s okay because it was just a once off thing, but think of those people grabbing that as a “snack” on their way to work every day. Been keeping track of my calories lately to sort of make sure I eat enough on the days I do double gym-sessions, and for a good reason too – yesterday I was 1400 calories BELOW what I should have been. Now I don’t want food to become a crazy obsessive thing in my life, it is what it is; nutrition, but I’m not gonna force myself to eat another 1400 calories on top of the 4 proper meals I’ve already eaten. If you’re full, you’re full. It’s obviously not good to deprive your body of 1400 calories every day, so I will try to increase my portion sizes instead.

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I also just wanna remind people that obsessively counting calories and checking your weight is not the right way to go about things. It’s a great idea to calculate the amount of calories your body would simply to stay alive, aka BMR and RMR; BMR is your basal metabolic rate (during wakefulness), while RMR is your resting metabolic rate (during sleep). You can do that here. This is of course only a pointer in the right direction. And instead of obsessing with what you weigh, get your measurements and body-fat recorded regularly, it is way more accurate and way more motivating when you see that changing! Remember; muscles weigh more than fat.

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Everyday is pizza day vol. 2

I probably eat more pizza than anyone in my house. I typically make it once a week, and have leftover pizza for lunch the three following days. If I could choose, I would of course be drowning it in mozzarella cheese, but a tiny bit of parmesan and goats cheese does the trick for those poor little kids out there who has to refrain from too much dairy. Anyway, some people care more about the crust than the actual content of the pizza, I’m the other way around. This pizza has a soft base (so if you’re more into the crusty kind of pizza base, I’d suggest going for the one I make with oats and eggs) and tastes amazing. It requires a little more effort, and some hanging out with your blender, but it is still quicker to make than the average unhealthy pizza. I’ve tried making a cauliflower-crust pizza once before, but I failed because I didn’t have almond flour and sort of tried using rolled oats instead. Not to mention I wasn’t even following a recipe. Didn’t go quite as well. The recipe I used this weekend is, as always, stolen from Green Kitchen Stories (they never disappoint).

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You need:

1 cauliflower
80 g ground almonds (almond flour)
1 tbsp dried oregano
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 eggs

I also added some fresh parsley.

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Coarsely chop the cauliflower, place in food processor and blend until it is a fine rice-like texture. Measure 700 ml / 3 cups of the cauliflower ‘rice’ and place in a mixing bowl. Add the ground almonds, oregano and seasoning and mix with your hands. Make a well in the centre and add the eggs. Use your hands to pull the dry ingredients towards the middle until everything is combined and you can shape it into a ball. It should be more loose and sticky than a traditional pizza dough. Form into a pizza base by flattening the dough with your hands. Pre-bake for 25 minutes or until golden. Meanwhile, prepare the pizza topping. Remove the crust from the oven. Cover it with homemade tomato sauce, and whatever topping you want, and put it back in the oven for 5-10 more minutes.

My guilty pleasure/addiction the past few months has been pepperoni…. Such a sad thing to crave.

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Whenever I make tomato soup (garlic, ginger, chili, onion and some capsicum, chicken/vegetable stock, water, tomatoes and a box of canned tomatoes, salt, pepper, oregano and cinnamon), I always make sure I leave some that can be used as tomato sauce on pizza, with meatballs, on burgers, etc. Easy, healthy and cheap!

Sundays are typically my rest-days, but I like moving my body and working out. So even though you decide to take a day off bench-pressing in the gym, you might wanna consider doing something else to keep active. Of course lazy days are awesome now and then, but I love going for long walks with my incredibly random music (Justin Bieber heart heart heart) and as long as I’m not hungover, I try to start every rest-day with a long walk before breakfast. When my shoulders were inflamed and I was banned from the gym, I got out of bed and went for long walks every morning before uni. There’s always a way. In terms of walking, I’m always amazed by the people who drive to the gym, walk for an hour on the treadmill and drive back home again. Like, really? Who prefers the treadmill in a room over nature and fresh air?!?

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Thought I’d share my gym plans for the week. Now that it’s all a routine in my life, I just do it automatically, but when trying to implement something into your daily schedule, writing down what you are supposed to do really helps (list-making-freak right here).

Monday: 30 minutes of 4×4 Intervals (check, swollen ankle and massive blisters on my feet). 1 hour walk in the sun (had to buy fruit – might as well stop by the park).

Tuesday: Morning – chest/triceps, Evening – 45 minutes cross trainer (heart rate 150-160), 15 minutes abs.

Wednesday: Morning – legs, Evening – 60 minutes Body Balance.

Thursday: Morning – shoulders/back, Evening – 45 minutes cross trainer (heart rate 150-160), 15 minutes abs.

Friday: Either 1 hour of swimming or biceps/abs (I only ever bother doing biceps if I’m keen, it’s my weakest point in my gym program and there’s no point pushing through if my body is not there with me).

Saturday: Normally I’d be doing legs again, but I’ve got a group PT session booked this upcoming Saturday. Hoping I’ll crawl out of the gym after that.

Sunday: Rest rest and more rest. (I’ll probably be dead on the couch).

Now, I know it says ‘abs’ so many times here. But I’m lazy. 15-20 minutes is all I can do. And I tend to bribe someone to yell at me while I’m doing it. Tried something new this weekend; planking on a balance-board. Try it. It kills.

Obviously, things may change. Plans may change over the course of the week, that is however when you need to find a way to work around it. Class all of a sudden started early? Get out of bed an hour earlier. Have to go to a dinner in the afternoon? Do your gym session earlier. Have to be at uni almost until the class you wanna do starts? Bring gym clothes and go straight there. And it’s not the end of the world if you didn’t make it, there’s always tomorrow, make the best of it.

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Be the best version of you

I think it’s a natural thing for us to compare ourselves to other people, compare the money, compare the looks, compare the relationship, compare the education, compare the body, compare the diet. But why? We are all made up of different genetic combinations, we’re not all supposed to be doing and looking the same.

I’ve told you I’m easy to influence, and that I’ve taken my precautions to avoid falling into a pattern of destructive thoughts, but I still notice how easily affected I can become by little things. In the gym, see a girl doing supersets of chin-ups (my ultimate goal in life…. almost) and pushups, get pissed because I can’t do the same, and decide to give it a try. The result? Complete failure and an arm and a wrist in pain. The same story has happened with the squat rack, the treadmill, the hip-thrusts, the shoulder-presses. I’ve hopefully learnt now.

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I’m not saying we should instantly be satisfied with the level we are at, because there is always room for improvement, but I’m saying we should get there in our own time. I’ve learnt the hard way, trying to dead-lift an obscene amount of weight by myself in the gym, instead of slowly working my way there. Up until July I’d only ever done one complete pushup in my life, now I’m able to do 12×3 sets, and it burns. When I finish those three sets, I’ve given it my all. I’m slowly decreasing the weights on the assisted chin-up machine, in other words – I’m closer to be doing one single chin-up with my own bodyweight. I will get there, I just happen to have bumped into about three hundred obstacles on my way because I’ve not listened to the advice I’ve been given by professionals, or the signals my body has been giving me.

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I like the idea of being better versions of ourselves. Not better than our best friend, not better than the chick on the cover of the magazine, not better than the bloody fit girls in the gym. We can look at them for inspiration, but we’re all different and maybe we are better at something that they completely fail at. It is also a lot more fun working out, eating clean and working towards a goal like chin-ups, a six-pack or the feeling of a healthy body, than saying “I will lose x amount of weight in 4 months”, because trust me, that’ll just make you slightly depressed.

Either way, I’m finally back at the stage where I can do hip-thrusts properly again, and I had another personal best yesterday of 75kg. I still remember looking at those girls on Instagram doing 50kg about 6 months ago, not understanding how the hell they managed moving that much weight with their legs and ass, whilst I was struggling with my 17kg, but now I’m moving my old bodyweight. A whole person!

Yesterday was also my cheat-day and I enjoyed mountains of chocolate, and woke up with a mouth as dry as a desert this morning. We were meant to go for fro-yo’s yesterday too, but some silly Norwegian was trying to make peanut butter on her own, and decided to put her finger in the blender, so we ended up hanging out at the emergency room instead. Life in Melbourne.

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Got fro-yo today instead, and guess what guys, they had three flavours sweetened with stevia instead of sugar! Now, that doesn’t mean we should be eating it everyday, but every once in a while, the treat is great (ignoring that I’m not supposed to have dairy). If you top it with berries and nuts that is, not chocolate and cookies like a certain housemate did.

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Speaking of becoming a better version of myself, I am terrible at budgeting and have been dodging my account for the past two months. Line forced me to check it yesterday, and let’s just say that.. my lunch won’t be looking like this in the future.

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My dinners still will though. It is of course fully possible to eat healthy and work out on a budget (story of my life the last three months of every damn semester), and I’ll tell you how; prioritizing what you spend your money on. Don’t buy that chocolate, don’t buy that coke, don’t buy that special offer of ‘buy 3 pay for 2’ of the chips. Buy the real food that your body is in need of. Dodge everything else.

Protein-heaven

I have periods where I eat the same food over and over again, only to get sick of it and not eat it for months. That’s how I got fed up with broccoli last summer (still can’t really eat it cooked), and that’s how I got sick of protein-cakes. Just as if I have cheese in the house, I will make all my food with that cheese until it’s empty and my body says stop.

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Well, I have just re-discovered protein-brownies. When I was living on campus last year, a girl made us nutella-mug-cakes when we were drunk, and it is kind of the same concept. Except healthier. I just had a instant craving for it one night, and was forced to borrow protein powder from one of my housemates. I’ve ditched the protein powders because of all the added chemicals and artificial sugar, but to make a proper protein-brownie you need protein of some kind, and I’m not exactly gonna put chicken in it, am I? (Yes I know you can make it with chickpeas or beans, but that doesn’t go well in the microwave). So I went food shopping (sad to admit, but it is my favourite kind of shopping) and found the perfect option. It has three ingredients; whey protein, raw cocoa and xylitol. 45grams of protein per serving too. My old protein powder has about 200 ingredients that I’ve never heard the name of, it tastes so horrible, and I’ve only been using it when I’ve been out of other options. I will probably never go back to drinking protein shakes after gym sessions (that yucky cardboard taste is not for me), but if I can have it in a cake with pb2 on top, and fruit next to it, I am in.

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So how do you make one?

1 egg, 2 scoops of chocolate protein powder, 1 scoop of crushed oats, 1 scoop of almond flour (or any other flour), a tiny bit of baking soda, as much raw cocoa powder as you prefer, 3-4 drops of liquid Stevia chocolate (optional), and a little bit of water/milk of desire (I use unsweetened almond milk or coconut milk). Mix it until it looks like cake batter of some kind, and put it in the microwave for about 45 seconds. Mix two tablespoons of pb2 peanut/chocolate with one tablespoon of water, and use as icing on the warm brownie. PERFECTION.

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When I bought my protein powder, they also had some yummy-looking things on the counter and I had to grab one. Didn’t read the ingredients, but asked the lady if they were sugar-free and she said yes. I came home, and what do I see? Oh yes, first ingredient; Agave Syrup. Good thing it is Saturday tomorrow, hey! I won’t be going as crazy as I did last weekend with my cheat-day, though. I actually still feel quite sick thinking about it, and my body has just gone back to looking normal again. I sort of also think they recommend having a cheat-meal, rather than a whole day of eating junk.

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My physio has given me the go to slowly start running intervals again, and even though I have to start at 50% of what I used to, it means my ankle has been healing the way I hoped. I have for once been listening to his advice, and even done what I’ve been told. It works. Happy Marita. Particularly because we are going to Noosa in about a week, and the beach body prep should’ve started ages ago. Okay, I don’t prep for beach season, I aim for a body I can live in all year around.

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Also, a big thank you to my previous roomie, Ina, for photoshopping my new header, and a big thanks to Mari for doing the photoshoot with me.

Good girl syndrome

I keep getting emails, messages and comments from people saying that I’m so good at being healthy, like don’t I ever fail? Well, let me tell you about my weekend. Friday and Saturday. Fairly normal days. Had two smashing workouts, ate clean both days. No candy. Then. My housemate had his 21st Saturday night, so I had both wine and beer (and a shot or ten…) and I woke up feeling like shit on Sunday (as always). I then had a homemade pizza for breakfast (the only thing I can never justify buying, is a frozen pizza), chocolate and some other processed lollies in between, a whole litre of pepsi max (!!!!), ate cake straight from the box with a fork, had chips and dip, and then proceeded to order a chicken kebab plate with dips AND white bread.

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Dragged my sorry ass to the gym monday morning to get some cardio done, and boy did I look like shit. Even the guys in the gym had to point that out to me. My hair was one big dread on the top of my head, I really struggled pushing through 45 minutes with a steady heart-rate on the cross-trainer, and I swear I was sweating alcohol.

So no, I’m not always healthy. But I’m not always unhealthy either. There is a fine balance. And no need to go as crazy as I do every hungover-Sunday, that’s not particularly healthy either. And it made me feel really sick, in fact I’m still kind of suffering a tad from that food. The healthier you eat, the more you suffer when you once in a while decide to “cheat”, but I can assure you that whatever you crave tastes about 200 times better if you’ve avoided it for 6 days and finally get to eat it.

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When I quit sugar and all of a sudden had candy, my body responded by giving me a sick rash and the driest mouth ever. I remember telling Line, and she was like.. “yeah right”. Okay, she believed me, but you get the point. Then, Line quit candy on weekdays, and she has noticed her mouth becoming really dry when having candy too. Isn’t it amazing that the body can do that to you?

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And in terms of workouts, it is almost self-explanatory that when I workout nine times a week, I don’t aaaalways have a great workout. Some days I just struggle through, barely sweat and go home thinking I’ll do better tomorrow. Some days I have to lift the lightest weights, don’t even finish my sets and get a stitch just by looking at the treadmill. But then I have those days where the music is perfect, my muscles look defined, I increase my weights and I leave the gym drowning in sweat but with a smile on my face.

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There is a fine balance between everything, I don’t put all of my cheat-meals on Instagram and I don’t tell you when I completely fail in the gym, I’m trying to inspire – not to tell you everything I do wrong. And I don’t consider eating healthy to be annoying, I love eating the way I do, I love my vegetables and I love my regular breakfast of eggs and oats, it doesn’t feel like I’m sacrificing anything. I made the choice, I didn’t give up anything. I’m still living my life.

The hidden sugar

Knowing the different kinds of names for added sugar is a key to realizing what products to choose and what products to avoid if you want to “eat clean”. I went hunting for a substitute for wraps (or spelt wraps/speltlomper, in norwegian….) today and jeez, they all contain some kind of crap. One of them claimed to be yeast free, dairy free and contain no added sugar, and they were bloody expensive too. I usually always read the ingredients lists of new products (whatever is mentioned first, is what the product contains the most of), and this package of supposedly healthy wraps contained added concentrate of apple juice. Hidden added sugar right there! If you don’t pay attention when picking your almond milk, soy milk, rice milk or oat milk, you end up with added sugars again. You think you’re buying pure dried fruit, but instead it is covered in sugar. Coconut sugar, palm sugar, agave nectar, rice syrup, evaporated cane juice, .. this list can go on forever.

Bree-sweet-tooth-types-of-sugarI eventually found a package of gluten-free wraps, but oh my, the Norwegian spelt wraps are heavily missed. Making them into chips with heaps of spices in the oven did do the trick though, and I had super delicious tacos for dinner. Speaking of sugar and tacos, all the taco spices and sauces contain added sugar too. I know we have a stevia-sweetened sauce in Norway,  but that is yet to come in Australia. iHerb has a taco seasoning thing with no added sugar or salt from All Natural Frontier, and I rarely use anything other than that. You can also make your own mixture with garlic salt, paprika, cumin and such.

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I got a package from iHerb today (discount code: TBW611 to get $5-10 off your first order), and it was full of chocolate-ish-things (even the lipbalm was chocolate flavored). I have a thing for coconut and chocolate so when I found Raw Revolution’s chocolate coconut bliss, I had to order them. Now, these claim to be healthy, raw and all that, but they do in fact contain added agave nectar, and will therefore be a part of my cheat-day – NOT my normal everyday. They are for sure a better option than the average snickers-bar (favourite….), but should not be indulged all the time just because they claim to be healthy.

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I also ordered freeze-dried mango (with no added sugar), and oh my God – why have I never tried that before?! It is so so so delicious. My sister has always been a major fan of dried fruits like apricots and that, but I’ve never really liked it – until now. These little pieces of heaven will for sure be ordered again. When it comes to dried fruit and such, like raisins, dates and figs, it is important to remember that these are pretty high in naturally occurring sugar and therefore also more calorie-rich than your average carrot or apple. One big medjool-date contains about 110 kcal, which is more than a normal banana, so if you are trying to control your calorie-intake you might wanna not overdo them because just like with anything else, we should eat everything in moderation.

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I got to do legs for the first time since being stupid with my ankle this week, and I had forgotten how damn sore it is possible to get from a workout. Learning to not overdo things, I decided to ease off the heavy weights and did my hipthrusts with 65kg instead of the 75 I’ve been doing for a while, but Jesus Christ it still killed. I’ve also realized that I’m lazy doing my ab-workout, so after finishing my bicep/tricep workout this morning I asked one of the bored instructors in the gym to force me to do my abs. I swear, they are still crying. I asked for it, I complained whilst doing it – and I’m probably gonna complain even more tomorrow. But I did it. Happy Marita.

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Zero calories equals healthy.. or?

I am a stalker of nature, and it should not come as a surprise that I read any fitness blog I can possibly find. I’m also very easy to influence and even easier to sell things to. So when all these fitness bloggers are praising the Walden Farms series that iHerb sells, it should come as no surprise that I had to buy their products.

Chocolate, dips, mayo, sauces, syrups. AND ALL WITH ZERO CALORIES. ‘Yum’, they all say. So tasty, so healthy, and such a great replacement for whenever you’re craving sweets.

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Yeah, they lied. What do you think Walden Farms puts in their products when they are calorie-free? Certainly not anything that your body will recognize. And unless you really really REALLY love the taste of fake and artificial food, Walden Farms tastes like crap. In fact, it tasted so horrible that I had to throw it all out.

Here in Australia everything is practically gluten-free and fat-free. Buy a bag of normal lollies and it’ll say 99% fat-free, and buy a bag of sugar-free lollies and it’ll mention something about 70% less calories. 70% less than what, may I ask? And so what if the candy is fat-free, it is still packed with sugar and other artificial stuff.

The only way to create so-called “pseudo-foods” (as in food tricking you to thinking it is actually..food, when in reality it is only a bunch of artificial makeup) is to add tons of chemicals. Adding chemicals results in depriving the food of its nutritional value, hence leaving it calorie-free. Does that mean we should be eating it everyday? N to the O, we shouldn’t. I’ve quit crap food, sugar and candy for a reason – I want to take care of my health.

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I have friends who substitute their daily chocolate with sugar-free chocolate, “healthy” protein-bars etc. Doesn’t that sort of defeat the purpose? Yes, I stocked up on sugar-free chocolate when I was back home, but that doesn’t mean I justify eating it on a daily basis just cause I’m craving things and they qualify as “healthy”.

Eat the real food, and keep the chocolate (no matter if it is sugar-free, healthy, calorie-free or normal) for where it belongs – the weekends.