There are very few things I love more in this world than a heaping bowl of ice cream. Close runner-ups might be puppies, heavy power cleans, or a nice long hike in the woods. There’s something about the chilly, creamy texture that makes me incandescently happy. Oh, and the sweetness. I have a raging sweet tooth to rival Cookie Monster’s.
However, I am also an athlete and I care about my health. While I would love nothing more than to eat ice cream every day of my life, I would not only die of happiness, but also maybe heart disease. I train CrossFit five or six days a week and have found that I perform best when I eat clean, time my carb intake around my workouts, and nine times out of ten ignore my emergency pint of Ben and Jerry’s that I keep in the back of my freezer.
For years I struggled with extreme exhaustion that no doctor could really explain. It wasn’t until I cut out added sugars, preservatives and heavily processed foods and switched to a more whole food Paleo diet, that I finally came out of my fog. Now, I get my carbs from fruit, potatoes and other starchy carbs like squash. I’m currently on a spinach kick and eat an enormous bowl of it for lunch every day (ask my co-workers about my special salad bowl).
I take my training very seriously. I fuel my body in such a way that will optimize the 20+ hours I spend in the gym every week. I would be lying if I told you that I felt my best after housing a pint of ice cream.
Sometimes though, my sweet tooth kicks in. Fortunately for me, I really like bananas and when you freeze them and then blend them in a food processor, the result is shockingly similar to my favorite frozen dairy dessert. It’s probably the closest I’ll get and it really does squash my craving. I love topping it with our PaleoKrunch (hellooo, Maple Bacon!) or Cinnamon Paleo NutButter, which freezes on the pureed frozen fruit like the chocolate shell syrup I loved as a kid.
I like to think I inherit this love of ice cream from my father. Last summer we took a cross-country road trip and told all of our family members about how we “ate ice cream across America.”
On our 3,615 mile trip from East to West we ate Dairy Queen in Iowa, pulled a two-a -days at an ice cream shop in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, slurped down a gigantic scoop of mediocre-at-best Dryers while taking in the Grand Canyon, and drove 10 hours to reach Doc Bernstein’s Ice Cream Lab in San Louis Obispo, California before it closed at 10 pm. That night, we magically found a spot right out front and giddily ordered our dinner–a chocolate mass of fudge, brownie bites and coffee ice cream in a chocolate waffle cone for me, and vanilla with M&M’s for my dad. When it comes to ice cream we don’t mess around.
My point is, make your health a priority but leave a little room for life, too. If you’re like me and don’t really have any major food intolerances, it’s okay to have that little treat every now and then. You are not a more virtuous human if you eschew every single gram of sugar or non-Paleo food that comes your way.
Ninety percent of the time, I make sure to fill my meals with whole, healthy foods, and know that micronutrients are just as important as macros. But, in the grand scheme of things I also know that I never want to look back on my dad’s 65th birthday party with a cupcake cake in the shape of an alligator and think “I missed out on that.”