Sugar in the diet is the culprit for so many health issues. Its a big topic these days in the discussion about several chronic illnesses, including inflammation (which is the source of many serious underlying problems in the body). The science today screams at us to get sugar out of our diets – especially the stuff found in processed foods. Natural sugars, like fruit, can still play a great role in a healthy diet. But, it’s the packaged and processed “goodies” that cause our bodies so much trouble. You know what I’m talking about – the cookies, the cakes, the frozen meals, the boxed dinners, etc. These things are full of preservatives for a longer shelf life and tons of high fructose corn syrup.
But, “Shannon”, you say, “I crave something sweet all the time! I go crazy in the late afternoons and have zero energy if I don’t get my fix of sugar.” I hear ya. Craving sweets is a real physiological reaction and everyone is different for how sugar is metabolized and the speed it enters and exits the bloodstream. But thankfully, when you are trying to take steps for a healthier lifestyle and make a weight loss plan – there are a few things you can do to combat the cravings.
- Eat enough of the right stuff during your meals. If you are trying to lose weight on a calorie restrictive diet that is too low, your body is going to naturally seek fast energy and bring on the sugar cravings. Even though sugar gives you quick energy, it’s not necessarily good energy. Maybe you are thinking, “I’ll just go for something with an artificial sweetener, like a sugar free cookie.” Wrong. Artificial sweeteners just trick the body for a short time. It’s not really fuel for the body and soon thereafter, the body is on the look out again for some quick energy. Real calories in the form of whole foods provide the body what it is seeking. Eat the good stuff consistently and you will find the cravings really do go away.
- Think about the mix of foods you eat at meals. If you eat too much starch and not enough fat and/or protein, then get ready for cravings. For example, the giant bowl of pasta at your favorite Italian restaurant, is the perfect set up for the wonderful tiramisu for dessert. It seems impossible to resist ordering the dessert, because you have now programmed your body to need it. That giant bowl of noodles is going to break down similarly as a bowl of sugar in your digestive system and once again, the calories are just not satisfying and the energy not sustaining because of the rapid absorption into the body. I love pasta too. Don’t despair totally. Just add some protein and fiber to the meal and be smart about the amount of pasta. A serving about the size of your cupped hand is appropriate for most women. Normal restaurant sizes are much bigger. Add some grilled fish or chicken and plenty of green vegetables on the side. I would say, pass on the bread when having pasta – it’s just too much of a good thing at once! One last tip on pasta – if you haven’t tried substituting the spaghetti squash, I encourage you to do it. I really enjoy it! No, it doesn’t taste like pasta – but it is still tasty and if you have a healthy flavorful sauce to spoon over it, you are all set.
- Watch your salt intake. Processed foods have lots of sodium and so does the food in restaurants. The more salty your meal, the bigger the sweet craving afterward.
Try to arm yourself with knowledge about what triggers your sweet tooth and make plans to do things that help you stay in control of cravings before they sneak up on you.