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We constantly hear about the negative health impacts of sugar, yet we still often find ourselves overindulging and eating more sweets than we know is healthy.
Some of the side effects of eating sugar include weight gain, and inflammation. Sugar is also known to increase our risk for diabetes, contribute to low energy levels and skin problems such as acne.
Even though we're aware of these issues with sugar, we still struggle with craving the sweet stuff. There is no magic bullet to make those cravings disappear, but here are some very helpful strategies to help keep those cravings at bay:
1. Eliminate artificial sweeteners.
Splenda, aspartame, saccharin, and acesulfame potassium are all so much sweeter than sugar that they can actually increase sugar cravings. The more accustomed you are to eating overly sweet foods and beverages, the more you crave sweet foods. These artificial sweeteners have unknown health effects and increasingly the research points to negative health consequences. Stevia is your best bet for a non-caloric sugar substitute, but it's still so much sweeter than sugar, and thus may increase your cravings.
2. Say no to sweets for one week.
Yes, this is a tall order but it is entirely achievable and a powerful way to decrease those cravings. It's also the single most effective way to reduce cravings. We crave what we eat regularly. If you’re constantly wanting sweets after both lunch and dinner, it’s probably because you’re in the habit of eating sweets after meals. Breaking the cycle isn’t easy, but you'll get used not having those sweets and your cravings will diminish.
3. Eat a piece of fruit or a fruit smoothie when you’re craving a sweet.
I know that fruit doesn’t sound like something that will satisfy that urge for chocolate or a cookie, but I would urge you to try it out. Most of the time, if you do have that piece of fruit, it’s all you need. For those really stubborn cravings, eat tropical fruits like mango or banana, which are naturally quite sweet. Try a banana or apple with natural peanut butter or almond butter for stubborn cravings or this banana ice cream with no added sugar. Alternatively, puree strawberries and raspberries or any other fruit of your choice for a naturally sweet and surprisingly satisfying treat. If you really need something sweet, try some plain yogurt with a small amount of honey, a piece of dark chocolate or some energy bars sweetened with honey or maple syrup.
4. Don’t keep any sweets at home.
If you do, you will eat them. Not because you have no willpower, but because when the craving strikes it’s too easy. If you actually have to walk or drive to the store for sweets, it’s much more difficult and lessens the likelihood that you’ll get your hands on anything sweet.
5. Find what motivates and nourishes you.
If reducing sweets is something you are working on, write down a list of reasons why you’re limiting them and go back to that list as motivation. Are you trying to lose weight, regulate your blood sugar, improve your mood or prevent energy slumps during the day?
Make sure you make your reasons personal and specific to you. If you’re only avoiding sweets because someone said they’re “bad for you,” that won’t get you very far. Be specific in how limiting sweets may help you achieve your own health and personal goals.
When you’re really craving sweets, it’s often because you’re craving something that feels comforting or like a pleasant disruption from everyday life. Discover a new favorite unsweetened tea like lemongrass ginger, peppermint or hibiscus that is pleasing without being sweet. Instead of eating or drinking anything, spend some time reading a book you enjoy, call a friend, go for a walk, hug someone, or listen to a favorite song. Often sweets aren’t what we need; it’s some sort of spiritual or emotional nourishment.