Nutrition Articles

Smarter Ways to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

Simple Tips for Mastering Your Sugar Cravings

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If you’re watching your calorie intake, the most problematic part of your anatomy may be your sweet tooth. Our bodies are hard-wired for an attraction to sweet foods since sweetness signals that we’re taking in the calories (energy) needed for survival. The problem arises, of course, when we’re not burning those calories. But we can take steps to moderate those sweet cravings and choose the right foods to satisfy them. Here are some tips to show your sweet tooth who's boss:
 
Don’t deprive yourself. Allowing yourself a small serving of dessert or an afternoon snack can help you stay on track and prevent full-blown sugar binges. Savor your treat, and then even it out with a little extra exercise. Moderation and balance are the keys here!
 
Eat whole foods. If you’re hankering for a cookie, then eat a cookie—but make it a good one. Don’t reach for sweets that are artificially low in calories, sugar or fat like diet cola or ''lite'' yogurt. It's better to have a real cookie made with whole ingredients than a low-calorie or low-fat snack that’s full of artificial ingredients and flavorings. The artificial version might temporarily satisfy your sweet craving, but it will make you even hungrier in the long run since it's made with fake ingredients. Plus, studies suggest that artificial sweeteners may actually contribute to weight gain. A report in the Yale Journal of Biology & Medicine explains why: The taste of artificial sweeteners, coupled with our perception of fewer calories, causes us to overeat. When we eat something that tastes sweet but is artificially low in calories, it doesn’t fully signal the same reward/satiety response in our bodies and brains as the full-calorie version would. Since we’re not biologically satisfied by that food, we’re triggered to eat more of it. Take control of your own well-being and eat real foods whenever you can.
 
Watch your portions. Because we have a natural preference for sweet foods (and because they’re just so yummy), we tend to overeat them. One cookie suddenly becomes three or five. As with any high-calorie food, pay attention to portion sizes. Take two cookies from the bag and put the package away. Cut a pan of brownies into 16 pieces instead of eight. Choose kid-sized portions at the frozen yogurt shop. Individually-wrapped granola bars and other treats can also help keep you from overdoing it on the sweets. But don't give into your cravings right away! See if you can wait them out: drink a glass of water and give yourself 10 minutes. If you still want the treat, then indulge, but go for quality over quantity. One really high-quality chocolate truffle is going to be so much more satisfying than half a bag of mediocre chocolate.
 
Make it a treat, not a daily eat. Seize the power that comes from control, and make it work for you as a motivator. You can have dessert—just not every day! Have a piece of cake on a special occasion, or savor a decadent splurge once a week. Own your decision to eat what you want, in moderation. Additionally, don't settle for eating something that you aren't really craving; it may only set you up for a binge later on.
 
Make sensible sweet swaps. Many people tend to crave sweets in the afternoon, after dinner and before bed. If your sweet tooth regularly strikes mid-day or late at night, then choose healthy snacks (around 150 calories) that not only satisfy your craving but also have nutritional value. And if you simply must have something sweet after dinner, then choose a dessert that’s naturally low in calories—and preferably homemade. Here are 10 smart options:
  1. If you’re craving a rich chocolate dessert, satisfy the craving with this chocolate mousse, made with Greek yogurt, at 150 calories (vs. 380 for regular mousse).
     
  2. Instead of a large slice of chocolate cake with chocolate frosting (which packs 350 calories), go for a piece of light and flavorful chocolate cherry angel food cake at just 105 calories per serving.
     
  3. If you’re dying for a brownie, try this homemade brownie recipe packed with black beans (you’ll never know they’re there), whole grains and dried fruit, with just 146 calories, 6 g fiber, just 3 g of fat per serving.
     
  4. If you HAVE to have a piece of cheesecake, make it a piece of homemade light classic cheesecake, made with low-fat cottage cheese and fat-free yogurt. You’ll spend 263 calories (vs. about 400 for standard cheesecake).
     
  5. If you need to nibble, take caution: nibbly sweets like M&Ms can be dangerously easy to eat mindlessly. Instead, make a healthy-sweet cereal trail mix. Combine 1 cup of bite-sized whole grain cereal (frosted wheat squares or oatmeal squares), 1/4 cup of dried cranberries and 1/4 cup of chocolate chips; one 1/2-cup serving has 130 calories.
     
  6. If you love yogurt, watch out for the super sweetened or ''lite'' products, which can pack a lot of calories or artificial ingredients. Instead, make your own fruited yogurt. Try 1/2 cup of nonfat Greek-style yogurt with 1 teaspoon of honey or real fruit preserves, for about 100 calories.
     
  7. If you’re craving something sweet and frosty, skip the high-calorie frozen coffee drinks (a Starbucks Grande Iced White Chocolate Mocha has 450 calories) and whip up a quick smoothie, instead: Blend 5 frozen strawberries, 4 ounces of nonfat plain yogurt, 1/3 cup skim milk and 1 teaspoon of sugar, and you have a nutritious snack that packs 150 calories and 10g of protein.
     
  8. If you love fruity candy, try homemade fruit leather instead of fruit-flavored hard candy.
     
  9. If you’re craving a candy bar, indulge your craving by eating a sensible portion of chocolate instead of gobbling a bar loaded with nuts and caramel. Choose antioxidant-rich dark chocolate; two squares of Ghirardelli dark chocolate have just 115 calories.
     
  10. If you have a taste for salty-sweet peanut butter, recognize that your body probably could use a bit of protein, so forget the peanut butter crackers or peanut candy. Instead, spread 1 Tablespoon of natural nut butter on half of a sliced apple. You’ll get protein and fiber in addition to about 150 calories.
 

Sources
 
Cleveland Clinic. ''Heart-Health Benefits of Chocolate Unveiled,'' accessed May 2012. http://my.clevelandclinic.org.
 
Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine. ''Gain weight by ''going diet?'' Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings,'' accessed May 2012. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.

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Member Comments

  • I went cold turkey on sweets and I'm OK with it. My dietician allows me a piece of unfrosted cake for the Friday night Sabbath meal and one for the Saturday lunch Sabbath meal. That's it for me, for the week, and it's OK. It gives me something to look forward to. I might eat a piece of fruit for the sweetness, coupled with a dozen raw nuts for the protein. I might eat a plain rice cake for something to crunch on. But I certainly am able to totally ignore Drake's Cakes or Entemann's now. I save my cake quota for my own home-baked cake on the weekend.
  • Some truly helpful ideas here - not exactly what I was expecting (an apple instead of ice cream sort of thing). I'm saving this article!
  • The suggestions ARE good ones but I have to tell you - there ain't nothing like the real thing and that's is WHY we crave it. It's not XXX just because we choose to call it that. I do better to buy a piece of REAL cheesecake for an outrageous price - take two bites and toss the rest down the disposal. I hate to waste money so that is more of a motivator for me to stay away from it in the future. Wrong motivator? Maybe, but it works for me most of the time. Same is true for turkey "ham" "bacon" etc.Those meats come from pig-not a bird. I found I am happier doing without than eating fake whatever.
  • These suggestions were good ones. Another treat I like comes from my run on the South Beach Diet: 1/2 cup ricotta cheese, 1 tsp. cocoa, 1/2-1 Tbl. honey (to taste, I like mine less sweet) and about a Tbl. of sliced almonds. I also add 1/4 tsp. of almond flavoring, but I couldn't find nutrition info for this. The best I could do on the tracker was 300 calories, but since I use less honey, cocoa and fewer almonds, I suspect it's closer to 200. Either way, it's delicious and keeps me from feeling deprived of my chocolate fix!
  • Thank you for a great article. Before I started this program I had a huge sweet tooth. I am happy to say that with a lot of determination and willpower, I now reach for fruit and veggies and am completely satisfied and no longer crave sugar. I keep lots of fruit on hand including bananas, mango, frozen raspberries and blueberries and also mix them into healthy weight loss shakes. I also snack on fresh broccoli, cucumbers, tomatoes and olives which fill me up in a healthy way. I am on day 19 and I'm feeling great!

  • MACKIE46
    I do not agree with this article . First it tells you not eat artificially sweetened foods, then on # 4 it tells you to use fat free and lite foods in a recipe .
    I try to limit my calories to 1000 a day ., and if I didn't eat the light and fat free foods I would get hungry .. I know from my own experience that whenever I get used to eating fat free, and sugar free and artificial sweeteners that I no longer care for the foods that are sweetened with sugar . They all taste too sweet . Thanks for letting me put my 2 cents in .
  • When craving soda, I put 1 tablespoon juice into a glass and add seltzer water and ice. But replacing gummy worms with Hoody's - Deep South Praline Pecans is slowing my sugar cravings. Next I want to make my own with cinnamon. https://recipes.s
    parkpeople.co
    m/recipe-deta
    il.asp?recipe=1105505
  • My sugar cravings have greatly diminished since I joined Spark several weeks ago. They get really bad though when I'm really hungry. I have to plan now when I go out and take a snack with me or I will crumble. So far so good!
  • I like the hint about drinking a glass of water and waiting 10 minutes before indulging. Thanks!
  • My doctor said one oatmeal chocolate chip cookie a day won't hurt me -- so I bake them myself and freeze them and eat one a day -- and always include in on my tracker. I ate an orange today, and it made me very, very hungry -- that was just wrong!
  • Completely agree, sugar can be an addiction. Get away from refined sugars, and not only will you not crave them as much, you will begin to really appreciate the natural sweetness of whole unsweetened fruits and veggies.

    Try to eat local, in season vine ripened fruits an veggies to appreciate their sweetness. Try fully ripened sweet corn straight out of the field, or tomatoes right off the vine.

    My personal favorite treat is fresh strawberries, dipped in just a little dark chocolate.
  • Once you stop eating products with sugar, you will lose your sweet tooth, and sweet treats will taste too sweet!
  • Great suggestions. I gave up pre made desserts and love the homemade from scratch I find I do not eat as much. It is fun the make and healthy to eat.
  • The strawberry smoothie sounds like a good idea definitely going to try it, it sounds delicious.
  • I just read a study that was done at the Anshutz Wellness Center that states that diet drinks are NOT an evil but in fact can help you lose weitght.... Sp published it!

About The Author

Bryn Mooth Bryn Mooth
Bryn Mooth is an independent copywriter and journalist focused on food, wellness and design; she's also a Master Gardener and enthusiastic green thumb. She shares seasonal recipes, kitchen techniques, healthy eating tips and food wisdom on her blog writes4food.com.

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