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.
Honey roasted peanuts.
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.
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 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?