the sweeter side of life.

This is Part XIII of the “31 Days of Healthy Living” series.

Some people crave savory things.

Some people crave salty olives and chips and cheese.

Me?  I dream in sugar.

 

Dark chocolate.

Honey roasted peanuts.

Sweet cornbread.

You name it.

If it’s sweet, I love it.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with craving sweet things, you know.

Nature’s dessert, aka the fruit, in conjunction with a diet rich in vegetables, can protect us from things like diverticulosis (little pouches in our colon which can become painfully infected!) and various forms of cancer.  It’s one of the many health attributes that the Mediterranean Diet and vegetarianism have to offer us.

But.

Let’s face it.

“Sweet” can get a little out of hand.

According to a 2009 news report by MSNBC, the average American is eating 22 teaspoons of sugar a day.  22 teaspoons.  A day.  This is not counting the natural sugars found in things like fruit.

Soda has lots of sugar and tends to be the main target due to its high popularity.

But sugar also finds its way into seemingly otherwise healthy foods like granola, cereals, breads and yogurt, which can have up to 6 teaspoons of added sugars!

Just so you know, I’ll be the very last person to say goodbye to sugar.

(I love cupcakes too much for that.)

(And dark chocolate has antioxidants…it would practically be a crime to give up this daily heart health perk, you know?!) 😉

But there are plenty of ways we can cut back on our daily intake of sugar, which will give us more room to fill up on the nutrients that our bodies need for energy and overall health.  Just as a forewarning, though, cutting back will most likely feel very tough at first.  Sugar is literally addicting, so unless you’re made of steel, I wouldn’t recommend ridding your life of sugar all at once, cold turkey.

Little steps, big results!

Tips To Cut Back On Sugar (while still remaining sane)

1. Eat more natural sugars.

One of the easiest ways to cut back on the refined sugars found in cereals, yogurts, sodas, baked goods, etc., while keeping your sugar cravings at bay is to introduce more natural sugars.

Fruit is the obvious choice.  Choose your favorite varieties and save them as a special dessert.  Strawberries, chilled mango slices, warmed apples with cinnamon and vanilla, cantaloupe, pineapple, etc.  Or serve up a couple of special medjool dates with a cup of tea…they taste like candy!

Vegetables served at lunch and dinner can also help to keep the sweet cravings at bay.  Various varieties of quash are some of my favorites, as they taste deliciously sweet when roasted or blended into a pre-dinner soup!

2. Make sugar count.

Don’t get sucked into the 100 calorie packets of sort of, kind of, almost tasting like oreo (but not really) cardboard!

If you’re going to have a dessert, make it count!  A little bit of something you really love will curb the cravings for wanting more, more and more all throughout the day.  I almost always have a piece of high quality dark chocolate in the afternoon and I’m left feeling completely satisfied.  Or, if someone brings in cheesecake squares, take a small piece for your afternoon cup of coffee or tea and enjoy every morsel (instead of finding a billion other foods in order to try and pacify…been there, done that!)

3. Stay hydrated.

Ever notice how feeling thirsty can make cravings feel 100 times more intense than they actually are?

Be sure to drink up and stay hydrated throughout the morning and afternoon!

4. Find new alternatives to old favorites.

Yogurt IS very healthy for you!

Many are full of probiotics, which are healthy bacteria that support a healthy gut.  And yogurt is high in protein, which keeps you full and satisfied (especially the greek varieties!)

Just pay attention to the sugar content by looking on the back of the container first.  Mix some plain yogurt with fresh fruit and a tsp of your favorite sweetener.  Or choose a variety that has a lower amount of sugar and pump it up with some natural sweetness and fiber in the form of fresh berries!

Same goes for things like granola and cereals and things like that.

My best advice is just to start looking at the food labels of the products you eat a lot of and to see if you can find alternatives that you love just as much, only with less sugar.  Just be sure that the product doesn’t sacrifice FLAVOR or FIBER as a compensation for the reduction in sugar!

And, of course, you can always increase the sweetness factor of any of these things yourself, with your favorite fruit!

I could never say goodbye to sugar completely.

I love cupcakes.

And frosting.

And basically anything sweet.

But there really are so many ways to cut back on how much of it we consume.  Little steps, big results. 😀

QUESTION: Are you like me in loving all things sweet?  What are some of your favorite naturally sweet foods?

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19 comments on “the sweeter side of life.

  1. What’s a reasonable amount of sugar for yogurt? Or granola? Is there an amount you would say, “dear god, don’t eat that!!”:)

    • Sarah says:

      Haha…good question!

      There is this awesome granola that I make every year for Christmas that has buckets of sugar in it. It’s ridiculous and I love it. But it’s not exactly “every day” material for good health. 😉

      So. That being said. If I’m eating the food every single day (or a few times a week,) I like to keep the yogurt plain with added fruit. Plain yogurt has naturally occurring “lactose” sugars which comes out to be about 12 grams or so for many yogurts (these don’t count towards ‘added sugars.’) Sometimes I like it sweet and I’ll buy the flavored chobani yogurts too. They’re a little higher in sugar but not dramatically so like some of the other brands (some of up to 32 or more, which I think is just ridiculous!) And they’re high in protein, which keeps me full AND satisfied.

      For granola? I tend to not eat a lot of it. Just a sprinkle here or there on top of yogurt. So I buy the brand I love the most, sugar and all. But if I want a bowl full (because sometimes you really can’t beat a bowl of granola!) I like to make my own because I can easily control the amount of sugars and oils that go in it. Kashi and Bear Naked make some decent ones with 12 grams of sugar per 1/2 cup serving (plus 7 grams of fiber in kashi.) Cascadian Farms Organic Granola has one with 13 grams of sugar per 3/4 cup but it also has less fiber…it’s a toss up!

  2. Evan Thomas says:

    I’m a glutton for sugar. Could never give it up.
    Please tell me there’s a recipe for that top picture? I’m dying here.

    • Sarah says:

      Sadly, the recipe didn’t make the cut, as the frosting didn’t turn out as planned. BUT, now that I feel guilty for taunting, I’ll make another batch very soon and share all the yummy details. 😉

  3. sj4nz says:

    Oh my. I’ve had to abandon one food I used to love: peanut butter cookies. But that’s not really naturally sweet. Since switching over to paleo, I find bananas and pears are now shockingly sweet. You really don’t realize how desensitized your taste buds become when you’re eating the SAD (Standard American Diet) until you cut out all refined sugars.

    Until later, I’m going to have to figure out if there’s a paleo-alternative to peanut-butter cookies to get my fix, I won’t eat them anymore.

  4. Becky Sue says:

    I am a freak without a sweet tooth. I like an occasional sweet but really I’d rather eat something salty. Not sure what’s worse. However, I do love maple syrup and my absolute favorite sweet is sugar on snow but since that’s not readily available I don’t eat it often. I like real maple sugar candy, too.

    • Sarah says:

      I’m such a maple girl too! I grew up on Light Syrup and thought nothing of it until I tried the “real stuff” at a local pancake house. It was love ever since. 😀

  5. Kristin says:

    I love sweet things too, but I am glad you wrote this post. It seems that sugar is becoming the new culprit in recent research (rather than fats!) as a huge contributor to heart disease, obesity, and all those things we want to avoid.

    I cut back on added sugars in a few ways.. I sweeten my plain oatmeal with a banana smashed in while it’s cooking. I mix a cereal that has hardly any sugar (cheerios, brown rice crisps, etc) with a little bit of a sweeter cereal (+ fruit!), and I also use plain yogurt sweetened with fruit. If I am having pancakes or waffles on a non-special occasion (i.e. on a random Tuesday, haha), I will keep the syrup in a small dish and use it for dipping. I’ve found that a little real maple syrup goes a long way, and when you dip it seems you don’t use as much as when you pour.

    Also, I know it is a bit pricey, but Siggi flavored yogurts have much less added sugar than most brands, and the ingredient list is pretty short! 🙂

    • Sarah says:

      I’m a big fan of Siggi yogurt too! I love that the sugar content is low but the flavor is all there.

      I love all your tips! I completely agree that dipping pancakes/waffles in a little bit of real syrup really goes a long way. Thanks for sharing all of your great ideas! 😀

  6. Evan says:

    Haha, this is post is perfectly timed. I’m just waking up now from a sugar-induced coma from going to town on all of the dessert menu at TALDE last night (a restaurant my work team is opening in New York). I think I ate more chocolate coconut layer cake last night than I have in my entire life…

    But yeah, I don’t stuff my face with cake very often, so when I indulge (even if it’s for…ahem…working purposes), I just embrace and enjoy it. Chances are I’ll be running or going to yoga or eating something green the next day 🙂

  7. I love sweet things! (I actually just posted a blog about it, haha). To satisfy my sweet tooth, I like to eat gala apples or mangoes. But then, I love chocolate! We always keep a tub of semi-sweet chocolate chips, raisins and walnuts so we kind of graze on that throughout the week.

    • Sarah says:

      Mmm…I love trail mixes like that! So delicious, especially with a nice addition of healthy fats from the walnuts. So tasty! 😀

      Mangoes are one of my favorite fruits to satisfy the sweet tooth as well! 😀

  8. I am literally crazy for sweets all of the time! My mom on the other hand could live off of salt haha
    Thank you for the tips and tricks here Sarah 😀

  9. Totally with you there – I have a massive sweet tooth that I probably indulge too much. However, I have been trying to cut down on sugars in things like yoghurt (I’ve developed a taste for plain with a teeny bit of agave) and cereal (I mainly eat unsweetened multigrain or Bob’s hot cereal).

    Your suggestions are super helpful! And I agree – never give up cupcakes for good 😉

  10. Emily says:

    I totally lost my sweet tooth!!! I just don’t like sweet things. Like at all. Part of it is under doctor’s recommendations that I cut out sugars because of some blood sugar wackiness. But honestly I think the reason why I ‘lost my sweet tooth’ is because I ate only sweet (we are talking really sweet) stuff for 6 weeks traveling in South America three years ago. I came home and haven’t craved sweet stuff for a long, long time.

  11. berrypetite says:

    I am definitely addicted to sweets! It’s hard not to be… like you said- sugar is actually been proven to be addicting! Instead of telling myself I can’t have sweets at all (so unrealistic!) i’ve been cutting back. I need to break this “sweet addiction” I’ve gotten… I like how you talk about focusing in on natural sugars and also if you are going to have a sweet to make it one you really want! There’s no point in eating a ton of “okay” desserts or snacks when you will never actually satisfy the hunger for that one food! I try going on a walk or drinking water to curb the cravings! It sure is hard though, I’m workin’ on it! Anyways, I wanted to comment because I have been following your blog for a while now and I enjoy it so much- you are a great writer and are so encouraging! Also- I am a nutrition science major right now at University of Georgia so I love all you insights into nutrition! Take care!
    -Shelby

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