My sweet tooth always seems to get the best of me
We’ve all been there – we promise ourselves that we are completely cutting out sweets, and we do so for a while, but then we get a small taste of a cookie or a piece of candy, and we binge. We think that the only way to manage our weight and our blood glucose levels is the “all or nothing” approach, which unfortunately, can often end in failure. One of our community members expressed her frustration with dieting and cutting out the sweet stuff. She reached out to us with the following question:
I constantly crave sweets! I’ve tried to stop eating any sweet snacks, but it seems to backfire when I end up eating several cookies, etc at once. Do you have any suggestions for managing my sweet tooth?
Response from Kelly
There are many reasons we want to reach for sugary snacks and treats. Eating sugar or foods with added sugar has a relaxing, feel-good effect on our bodies. The problem is that these foods are often nutritionally empty, meaning they don’t offer much more than calories. After the initial feel-good response we end up feeling lousy as our blood sugar dips back down, which may make us feel like heading right back to the cookie jar. Often times we have grown up eating sugary sweets and treats as part of a celebration or to reward yourself for a job well done or even to soothe our woes after a rough day. So how do we break the cycle? Here are a few tips:
- Remove the temptation! You are in control of what foods are in your home or workplace. Remove unhealthy, sugary treats and replace them with more nutritionally complete choices.
- Stock up on the good stuff. So now that your secret stash of candy bars and cookies has been removed, now what? It’s so important to have healthy snacks accessible to improve your success. Try keeping fresh, crunchy veggie sticks like cucumber, celery and carrots nearby. A handful size portion of fresh fruit can curb that sweet tooth as well. Fruit is a wonderfully packaged, healthy choice full of antioxidants, flavor, hydrating juices, fiber and is low in calories. Be sure to count fruit as part of your daily carbohydrate plan.
- Walk it off. When a craving strikes…go for a walk around the office or nearby park. If you are at home, get up and do something else. A change of scenery can help get your mind off of your craving.
- Hydrate. When a craving strikes, drink a full glass of plain water or make a soothing cup of unsweetened hot herbal tea. *If you have fluid retention, cardiovascular disease or decreased kidney function, talk to your doctor first about the amount of fluids you are to have each day.
- Eat every few hours. This isn’t a free pass to overeat. Instead, take the appropriate amount of foods you’d eat in a day and space them out every 2-3 hours. Split up your regular lunch into a light lunch and an afternoon snack. Eating small amounts more often will keep you from getting too hungry and stop you from reaching for a quick fix, sugary snack.
- Plan for it. Sometimes you just want some sugar. If you have a plan for a sweet treat it can be something to look forward to. Add it into your carbohydrates for the day and enjoy it with your meal. Opt for a high quality treat such as a small piece of dark chocolate instead of a giant vending machine candy bar. By savoring it as part of your meal the other foods you’ve eaten, hopefully including some protein, will help prevent your blood sugar from spiking.
- Give yourself grace. If you have a set back, or three too many cookies, don’t give up all together and throw your good eating intentions out the window. It’s never too late to start changing the way you eat. Remember this is not a diet. You are training yourself in a new way of eating for life. Seek positive and supportive friends and family and help hold each other accountable. Avoid meal-centered activities with people who may unintentionally sabotage your efforts and surround yourself with people who are going to help you on your journey to better health.
Response from Meryl
The more we tell ourselves a food is off limits the more we want it! If we limit our diet too much binge eating may result once we have grown tired of so many restrictions. Moderation is key. Using nutrition labels can assist greatly in portion control. I agree with Kelly in that sometimes it is easier to remove tempting foods from home. If you really want a cookie have it along with a meal instead of snacking on it in between meals. Another option is to cut the serving size in half. If the serving size is 2 cookies, have 1. Keeping a food journal can also help keep you on track and help you to identify times of day or moods that may trigger your sweet tooth.
Response from Joanne
I agree with everything Kelly said from points 1 to 7! To add to #3, Walking it Off is great advice. It’s possible a craving might be triggered by a stressor in your environment. If so, walking away will help counter the blood sugar raising effect of the stressor and reinforce a positive behavior change (walking).
To add to #6, Plan For It is also great advice. What’s your favorite? My favorite is a home baked good. I’ve adapted some of my recipes to lower the calorie content. That way, when I plan to eat a favorite cookie, it’s an improved choice over a typical store bought or bakery made food. An easy adaptation that makes quite a calorie difference is to replace 1/2 of the fat ingredients (butter, margarine, lard, oil) with unsweetened applesauce. So if the recipe calls for 1 cup of butter, instead use 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce. This works great in a cookie, quick bread or cake recipe and keeps the flavor, texture and yum factors I’m used to!
Lastly, to add to #7, Give yourself Grace. Are you doing the best you can? Most likely you are. Be empathetic and forgive yourself for not being perfect. Perfection is an unattainable goal. Setbacks are not failures. See them as learning opportunities to hone your goals that keep you moving towards health.
Do you struggle with managing your sweet tooth? What do you do to help fend off your cravings? Share with us in the comments!