Healthy alternatives to your food vices

Dr. Joey knows how hard it is to give up coffee and sugar! Instead of saying goodbye to all of our vices, here are some natural alternatives to try.

What is your vice?

Do you have a food vice you simply cannot give up? As a devoted coffee lover, I get it. I truly do not want to give up my one cup of coffee per day. So, instead of saying farewell to all of our vices, I am here to offer you some natural alternatives to eat and drink as substitutes or in addition to your usual choices.

Alternatives to coffee

Whenever I do a lecture, I always say, “Put your hand up if you are a coffee drinker.” Without fail, 80-90 per cent of the hands in the audience go up. When it comes to coffee, moderation is key. What I recommend is no more than 1-2 coffees per day, and watch the sugar and cream you are putting in. Try substituting unsweetened almond milk and coconut sugar.

Natural coffees substitutes include:

  • Dandyblend tea herbal coffee substitute: Made of dandelion, chicory and beets. Has a coffee taste without the bitterness. Available at most health food stores.
  • Yerba maté: No caffeine but has a stimulating effect.
  • Chai tea: Spiced concoctions of black and green, which contain caffeine, and red tea, which does not.
  • Rooibos tea: Also known as Redbush tea from South Africa. Like black tea, it is good with milk, but it’s caffeine-free and full of antioxidants.
  • Teeccino: Teeccino is the number one coffee alternative sold in the United States. This “herbal coffee” is meant to act as a replacement for anybody who is addicted to caffeine. Teeccino offers a great taste and none of the harmful side effects of coffee.
  • Green tea and/or matcha (high quality green tea powder): Green tea and matcha are two of my favourite alternatives to coffee. The active component EGCG in green tea appears to have the beneficial effect on weight loss. In addition, green tea also secretes an amino acid called l-methionine, which creates a feeling of calm alertness. In fact, green tea can be the ideal replacement for coffee and a little pick-me-up when experiencing the 3 p.m. slump.

Alternatives to wheat and gluten

If you have a sensitivity or allergy to wheat or gluten, try these alternative flours.

  • Almond flour: A gluten-free, wheat-free flour that is easy to bake with. For a delicious gluten-free cupcake recipe, click here.
  • Coconut flour: A low glycemic index flour that is gluten-free and wheat-free. Coconut flour can be used for pancakes, cookies, wraps, breads and other baked goods.

Alternatives to white sugar

White refined sugar is a big no-no as it causes blood sugar fluctuations, belly fat storage, fatigue and cravings. In addition to eating naturally sweetened, low glycemic index fruits such as berries, apples and/or pears, other natural sweeteners that can be used for baking or in your coffee include:

  • Coconut sugar: Coconut sugar is a nutritious sugar and has a low score on the glycemic index, meaning you will not experience a blood sugar crash from it. I use this sugar option for baking, in tea, etc.
  • Brown rice syrup: Gluten- and wheat-free, brown rice syrup is more suitable for cooking vs. adding to your tea. It has a slightly butterscotch flavor to it and can be used as a drizzle over health pancakes.
  • Honey: Honey is chock full of anti-oxidants and has been shown to be beneficial in lowering cholesterol. When selecting honey, darker honey has more nutrients and tends to be more flavourful. Substitute 1/2 cup of honey for every cup of sugar.
  • Stevia: Made from a plant found in Paraguay, stevia is often used as a sweetener in tea, coffee or baked goods. Stevia is 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar, so less is needed. Some brands of stevia has a slight “licorice” aftertaste to it, so experiment until you find one you like.
  • Apple sauce: Apple sauce is often used in replacement for oils in baked goods. You can reduce the oil and/or butter in your recipe by 1/2 – 3/4 and replace with apple sauce.
  • Maple syrup: Maple syrup is one of my favourite sweeteners to use for baking as it is naturally sweet and is an excellent source of manganese and a good source of zinc – which is important in maintaining a healthy immune system. To substitute maple syrup in your baking, you should use 1/3 less maple syrup than the amount of sugar that is called for (i.e. 2/3 cup maple syrup vs. 1 cup of sugar). You should also decrease the wet ingredients by approximately 2 tbsp for every half cup of maple syrup added.

Alternatives to salt

  • Herbamare salt alternative: This is a great product to replace conventional table salt altogether! It is a natural blend of sea salt, herbs, vegetables and spices, and enhances the flavors in any dish that calls for salt.
  • Herbs and spices: There are tons of herbs and spices you can use for cooking to help decrease the amount of added salt in your recipes. Cumin, turmeric, paprika, chili flakes, garlic, and onion powder are all great salt substitutions and provide your dish with some delicious flavours. I highly recommend removing the salt shaker form your kitchen altogether. If it’s not there, you will be less tempted!
  • Sea vegetables: Vegetables from the sea have a naturally salty flavour, and as an added benefit, they are filled with disease fighting antioxidants and minerals. If you find you are having a salty craving, try baking some sea vegetables to get that crunch texture and salty taste.


There is not a direct substitute for a good glass of wine. When it comes to alcohol consumption, the key is moderation (especially as we age!). Having a glass or two of wine or other alcoholic beverages per night can quickly turn into 10-20 extra pounds. While I am not suggesting giving up alcohol all together, I do recommend sticking to 2-4 glasses per week.

Do you have a health or nutrition question you would like answered? I want to hear from you! Simply e-mail me at