I mentioned in my last post that I’m working on kicking my sweet addiction. If you’re reading this right now, chances are good you have an interest in healthy eating and have already heard that sugar is one nasty little shush-your-mouth and contributes to all kinds of problems. Diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and even some types of cancer have been linked to high sugar consumption. Sugar wrecks our teeth, overworks our liver, messes with hormones, and causes inflammation throughout the body. Now being that I’m in pretty good shape and currently have no health problems, it can be hard to use these facts as motivation for giving up the sweet stuff. Not to mention, sugar causes major dopamine release in the brain making it highly addictive. So how about these facts?
- SAGGY SKIN, AND
- CONTRIBUTES TO ACNE AND THINNING HAIR
I thought that might get your attention. One of the reasons I started this blog was to share information on how to look lovely without shelling out hundreds of dollars on expensive skin creams or treatments. The best way to have gorgeous skin and hair, and a slim figure is to feed your body (and beauty, wink, wink) with the most nutritious foods out there, and follow a healthy lifestyle. This includes limiting sugar, even the “healthy” sugar alternatives. So, I’m practicing what I preach. I’ve set my intentions on finding new ways to satisfy and outsmart my sweet tooth that do not involve added concentrated sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, or coconut sugar.
I know some folks out there even avoid dates and fruit because of the natural sugars found in these foods. I happen to think that a few servings of fruit a day is a great way to get many beneficial vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber, and will always include them in my diet. Although dates are high in natural sugars, studies have determined that they do not cause significant spikes in blood sugar, and are actually considered a low glycemic food. Obviously, if you have diabetes or another health condition that requires monitoring sugar intake, you may want to talk to your doctor or nutritionist about including dates and other fruits in your diet.
It’s been over a week now, and I haven’t made any cookies, chocolates, or any other treats with added sweeteners. I’ve also been cutting out processed and simple carbs, like crackers, tortilla chips, white rice, and breads (for example, the huge, fluffy pretzel buns my husband brought home the other day for our veggie burgers!). I’m still enjoying my favorite sprouted whole grain bread, oatmeal, buckwheat and quinoa. I have to say, I feel great! My skin looks clear and smooth and even my eyes look brighter. Below are some of my favorite ways for satisfying or outwitting my crazy sweet tooth.
1. Avocado and Orange Segments with Lime
This simple fruit salad is so good and so easy to throw together! I segmented about half a large orange and chopped half of a small avocado, grated some lime zest over it, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Some fresh chopped mint leaves would have been fabulous too! Avocados have been shown to lower the risk of metabolic syndrome, lower insulin resistance, and improve fasting and average glucose.
2. Apple Slices with Nut Butter
This is a no-brainer, but happens to be one of my favorite snacks! Go with a natural nut or seed butter with just one ingredient: raw or roasted nuts or seeds (like my homemade Toasted Coconut and Cashew Butter or Homemade Peanut Butter). Monounsaturated fatty acids, like those found in nut and seed butters, help produce feelings of satiety, as well as lowering blood pressure and inflammation. Recent studies done at Harvard Medical School show that eating tree nuts such as cashews and almonds helped lower fasting glucose levels in individuals with type II diabetes.
3. Mixed Berry Sundae
Eating a bowl of fruit is often recommended by health experts and nutritionists to satisfy sugar cravings, but adding some unsweetened coconut yogurt and small sprinkling of shaved dark chocolate makes it feel like a special treat. This fruit sundae will only get better as berries come into season. I love our fresh-picked Michigan berries! Berries are an exceptional source of antioxidants and they are low on the glycemic index, to boot!
4. Medjool Date and Almond Butter Dreamboats
Need to squash a sugar craving riggghhhhtthissecond? These are a super easy one-minute treat to throw together, yet taste like a nutty caramel truffle. Simply split a large medjool date in half, fill both halves with roasted or raw almond butter, and sprinkle with raw cacao nibs. Delicious, nutritious, chewy, and perfectly sweet!
Smoothies are not only one of my favorite breakfasts, they are also one of my top go-to desserts! There are so many amazing ways to combine frozen fruits and veggies, non-dairy milk, and other ingredients like cacao, mint, vanilla and other flavors that you’ll swear that you’re sipping on a rich, decadent milkshake. All of my smoothies on the blog are in my regular rotation: Pear Vanilla Mint, Blushing Beauty Berry-Beet, Orange Gingersnap, and Green Apple Pie. I love them all! Some other smoothies and shakes I love:
- Kathy’s Secret Ingredient Vanilla Shake (tastes like an ice-cream milkshake!) and Banana Island Spirulina Shake (the perfect shake to try out spirulina – you can’t taste it, promise!). Neither of these has added sweeteners, just fruit! Check all of her other amazing smoothies and shakes at healthyhappylife.com!
- Ashley’s Creamy Cashew Caramel Smoothie from Blissful Basil, and basically all of her other mouthwatering smoothies (I pretty much love ALL her recipes)
- Chocolate Covered Katie has loads of healthy milkshake and smoothie recipes, and I’ve practically made them all, but I especially like her Creamy Vanilla Frosty (it can be made sugar-free, as well as soy-free, and is seriously amazing)
6. Healthy Puddings
Now I know when a lot of you hear “sugar free pudding” an image of artificially sweetened chocolate Snack Packs pops into your head. Well, I’m here to tell you there’s another way. Actually there’s a few different ways. My Carob Banana Chia Pudding is creamy, sweet, and luscious and doesn’t have one lick of sweetener in it, thanks to ripe bananas and naturally sweet (and low in natural sugar) carob powder. If chocolate pudding is your scene, let me introduce you to my Four Ingredient Raw Chocolate Pudding. It’s the dreamiest raw pudding I’ve ever met, and it’s sweetened only with dates. Last but not least, if you’re a peanut butter lover, give my PB+J Chia Pudding Parfaits a whirl, I’ve successfully subbed 2-3 dates for the maple syrup and it’s every bit as delightful.
7. A Warm Drink
Sometimes, a craving for something sweet originates from a place of stress and anxiety, and we are really just craving comfort. Lately, I’ve been making myself a nice hot cup of tea every afternoon and evening, and that really seems to curb my typical need for a treat at those times. The warm beverage helps me feel calm and comfortable, as well as hydrated. It’s common to mistake thirst for hunger, when all we really need is to drink more water. Try having a tall glass of lemon and lime water, sometimes shocking my taste buds with a sour flavor also helps ease a sugar craving. My homemade Cinnamon Turmeric Tea is not only a sugar free beverage, it is also anti-inflammatory, and great for improving your skin from the inside out. Although they contain small amounts of natural sweeteners, my Gingerbread Steamed Milk and Calming Pumpkin Vanilla Steamed Almond Milk are sensible choices for a low-sugar evening sip.
8. Prevent the Cravings
I mentioned in my last post that during the days I was snacking on my rice vinegar Quick Pickled Jicama with Ginger, that I had almost no sugar cravings to speak of. What I didn’t mention is that it happened to be a very susceptible time (ahem) for me to crave sugar, carbs, and chocolate. Researchers studying the health effects of vinegar found that on the days that subjects consumed small amounts of vinegar (in the form of pickled vegetables or drizzled over their food), their overall calorie intake and blood sugar levels were lower. Subjects also reported feeling more satisfied after meals. Furthermore, vinegar (especially brown rice vinegar) lowered the glycemic response to foods high in carbs, in essence converting a typical high GI food to a low GI food. Keeping blood sugar steady is one way to possibly help prevent sugar cravings. Eating a small serving of veggies pickled in rice vinegar at each meal and for a between meal snack might be a tasty way to help prevent sweet cravings.
9. Go For A Walk
If you’re having a hard time resisting sweet treats in the house, it’s time to lace up the sneaks and get out of there! Then, when you come home, bag up those treats and take them to a friend or give them to someone in need. Honestly, the first step should be to rid your cabinets of the candy, cookies, and other tempting snacks. Since I like to make my own goodies, I am tempted even by my own imagination and the ingredients in my pantry! I’ve been taking full advantage of the gorgeous weather we’ve been having in our area the last couple of weeks and getting outside with my daughter for plenty of walks and jogs. Activity of any kind can help reduce stress, which is often a trigger for sweet cravings. Also, getting fresh air and employing all of your senses is a great way to connect with nature, stay in the moment, and get those dancing sugar plums out of your head.
10. Take it Step by Step
And day by day. Ok, I’m pretty sure that’s a theme song from a 90’s sitcom. What I’m trying to say is that it might be a good idea to reduce the sweets gradually. A couple years ago, if I had went straight from Twix Fridays (my husband bought me Twix bars every Friday while I was pregnant with my daughter), not to mention Cinnamon Roll Mondays and Chocolate Everydays, to facing the prospect of having zero treats any day, I would’ve failed in about 24 hours. I started out by saying adios to good old Twix and his candy bar friends. Eventually I decided no more bakery pastries and other white sugar/white flour-laden treats. In fact, I got rid of the white sugar in my pantry and switched to using maple syrup, coconut sugar, or coconut nectar. Pretty soon I was happily choosing my own maple syrup sweetened homemade chocolates, cookies, and whole grain or gluten-free baked goods over anything I could find in a store. If you’re looking to improve the types of desserts you have in the house, consider baking a batch of my Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Oat Cookies (they are sweetened only with banana and dates) and stash them in the freezer for a healthy treat. If you’re just starting out, and don’t think berries and yogurt are going to do it for you, check out the dessert section on my Recipe page for more healthier-sweetened treat ideas.
One last note, do not beat yourself up if you give in to that cinnamon roll or candy bar. Sugar is strongly addictive, and it can take time to kick the habit. Stick with it and remember how gorgeous and glowing your skin will be and how much better you’ll feel without that old sugar beast bullying you around.
I’d love to hear from YOU! What are some of your favorite ways to satisfy a sweet craving or stop it in its tracks? Please share in the comments!