Sugar addicts come in all shapes and sizes. Yogis, vegans, Paleos, athletes — anyone can be drawn to the sweet stuff.
I should know: I was a total sugar addict. In the height of my full-blown habit, I popped hard candy and lollipops like a chain smoker with a pack-a-day habit. Five lollipops eaten one after the other? No problem. It took me over 10 years to end the addiction, mostly because I didn't understand why I was so addicted and how to move beyond it.
I thought giving up sugar was all about willpower. I didn't consider how my stress levels or diet factored into my cravings. I didn't understand how much of my sugar addiction was driven by habit. I didn't realize that by shifting the focus to what I could add to my diet — rather than focusing on what was taken away — my sweet tooth would be much easier to manage.
When I learned how to reduce my cravings for sugar, I saw so many positive changes. I had more energy, I needed less caffeine to get through the day, and I even lost a few pounds.
If you have a wild sweet tooth like I once did, or if you just want to manage a small sugar habit better, there are a few foods that I found really helped me curb my cravings. Here are nine items to add to your cart next time you're at the grocery store:
Some bacteria in the gut thrive on sugar and could be driving your cravings. But fermented vegetables, like sauerkraut and kimchee, help bring the gut microbiome into balance by introducing more probiotics — the good bacteria.
Buy sauerkraut or kimchee in the refrigerated section for the highest amounts of beneficial bacteria or make your own. Sauerkraut not your thing? Try plain yogurt or kefir.
2. Leafy greens
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, leafy greens are thought to lighten up the spirit. If you eat sugar when you're feeling stressed and depressed, experiment with adding more leafy greens like Swiss chard, kale, mustard greens, beet greens, spinach, and collards to your everyday diet.
3. Coconut oil
When you reduce or remove sugar from your diet, try bringing out flavor in your food with a little healthy fat. I like coconut oil because it has a slightly sweet taste and medium-chain triglycerides, which are thought to provide the body with energy.
If you have a hard time leaving sugar out of your morning coffee, try blending coconut oil with your coffee for a rich-tasting energy boost.
4. Sweet potatoes
This sweet and starchy root vegetable is a great snack when you're craving a sugary treat. Try roasting a sweet potato and top it with coconut oil and a little cinnamon.
5. Herbal tea
Keep some strongly flavored teas like ginger or peppermint, or a naturally sweet one like licorice, in your drawer at work for a sugar-free pick-me-up. If your sugar cravings are brought on by stress or poor sleep, choose a tea blend that will help you relax and wind down before bed.
6. Epsom salt
Feeling stressed? Instead of reaching for ice cream or a cookie, draw up a relaxing bath with Epsom salts. Not only will the time out allow you to process your feelings and revel in a little "me time," but your body will absorb some of the magnesium, a powerful relaxation mineral, and sulfur in the salts.
While any fruit can be considered nature's candy, starchy bananas are great to have in your kitchen. Use them to naturally sweeten smoothies or make banana ice cream (aka nice cream).
These fatty little fruits are a great addition to the diet, helping you feel satisfied longer. Add them to smoothies to create a creamy concoction with serious staying power. Or, salt half an avocado for a delicious afternoon snack to help you power through the last bit of your workday.
Keep a few dates in your desk at work and get ready to slay that 3 p.m. candy craving. I recommend dates over most dried fruits because they're intensely sweet and rich, plus ground dates can be used in place of sugar in baked goods.
Katie Haines is a Maryland based integrative health coach specializing in clean eating and helping women free themselves from food guilt. Her online coaching programs, the 30 Day Clean Eating Challenge and the free 10 Day No Sugar Challenge, help busy women get clear on what they need to eat to thrive-- every day. Grab a free clean meal plan at her site www.simplycleanmeals.com or connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.