When’s the last time you had a sweet tooth? Last week? Earlier today? A few minutes ago?
Sugar is in more foods than you might expect and should be consumed in moderation with a healthy diet.
Here are some tips from Jennifer Bailiff, registered dietitian at Novant Health Bariatric Solutions in Kernersville, North Carolina, about how to restrain your inner cookie monster.
Why we crave
Before you reach for that donut or other sugary snack, consider what’s causing your craving.
“One of the main things you need to think about is ‘Why am I craving?’” Bailiff said. “More often than not, a craving for sugar is actually a sign that something else in your body may be off. For example, thirst is often perceived as hunger or a craving. Making sure you are hydrated can help get rid of some of those cravings.”
Bailiff also mentioned getting enough sleep is fundamental when it comes to managing your sugar intake.
“A lack of energy may be a reason why you crave sugar, and sleep can give you more energy naturally,” Bailiff said.
When you eat sugar without the presence of protein or healthy fats, your hunger is quickly satisfied and you’re given a boost, only to be let down quickly. Sugar releases good chemicals in the brain, like serotonin and endorphins. This starts a vicious cycle where you are quickly satisfied from energy and then you lose that energy and want more.
Change your routine
One of the ways Bailiff suggests combating the cycle is to change the routine. Sometimes mindless activities like watching TV, grazing and chatting or sitting at your desk leads to excessive eating – especially those sugary snacks. It’s important to get up and take a walk. Doing something active can take your mind off the fact that you want sugar.
Another way to help is to have a good combination of food. Bailiff suggests pairing your sugar with a protein. The presence of a protein will help your food digest a little slower, preventing your blood sugar from going really high or really low.
What to eat
Bailiff said most people typically go for a piece of fruit or candy when they crave sugar. Instead, Bailiff suggests dressing up some plain non-fat Greek yogurt, which is high in protein. Adding a little almond or vanilla extract, cinnamon, nutmeg or pumpkin puree can go a long way.
For flavored Greek yogurts, added sugar could be an issue. Bailiff said some types can be OK, but first look at the label and make sure the sugar content is in the single digits per serving. She also suggested buying flavored yogurt over the kind with the fruit or jam on the bottom, as those contain extra sugar.
Another low-calorie and high-protein option Bailiff recommends to her patients is PB2. PB2 is a powdered peanut butter that can be mixed with water to form a paste. PB2 has less excess oil than regular peanut butter while still containing good protein. It also has 85 percent less sugar.
Granola and trail-mix seem to be popular recommendations when it comes to curbing a sugar craving; however, Bailiff said these can be tricky.
“These items are labeled as ‘healthy’ as they have heart healthy fat and protein, but they are also high in calories. Look for the kind with a variety of nuts and dried fruit.”
Bailiff also noted that you shouldn’t eat right out of the container. Instead, pull out a serving and put the container away.
Take it a day at a time
“The craving will win some days,” Bailiff said. “If you end up having a sweet treat, make sure it’s in moderation. Ask yourself why the craving happened and focus on trying to prevent it from happening again.”
Find additional health and wellness tips at NovantHealth.org/RemarkableYou.