Nutrition Articles

Smarter Ways to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

Simple Tips for Mastering Your Sugar Cravings

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.

Cleveland Clinic. ''Heart-Health Benefits of Chocolate Unveiled,'' accessed May 2012.
Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine. ''Gain weight by ''going diet?'' Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings,'' accessed May 2012.

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Member Comments

  • My sweet tooth is one of my biggest challenges. Last night I managed to stave it off with a piece of a candy cane. Not what I wanted, but I was proud to except a moment of step at a time.
  • Yes, like everyone else I enjoy the gratification of a sweet treat! Am constantly trying to find alternatives.... In the UK, I suppose we have different products which amount to the same thing!! I'm not a chocolate person, but I really enjoy a hot pudding with fresh cold Custard... Unfortunately, that comes in at a whopping 800 calories lol! I've started getting tinned rice pudding (portion 190 calories) and the occasion egg Custard tart (approx 240), I'm trying not to feel deprived and atm, that's working x
  • The smart options seem to contradict the premise of eating whole foods.
  • Great ideas to satisfy my sweet tooth!

  • Good sweet snack suggestions. Am posting these on my frig at mom's house also.
  • Instead of cocoa powder, I mixed a pkt of instant hot chocolate with vanilla Greek yogurt....OMG....
  • good information....
  • While I do enjoy sweets, I no longer crave them. Like another reader, I allow myself a piece of cake on Friday night (and only if I've done well all week). Frozen grapes satisfy my sweet tooth other times. 10 grapes eaten slowly are yummy.
    It helps, but it's a life long thing, and sugar craving will be replaced by some other craving that will bug you, too! Maybe control for awhile but no cure.
  • Great article with good suggestions. I am amazed at all the place sugar hides in.
  • 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!

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

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