Let’s face it: we all eat too much sugar, and not just on Halloween. It’s basically in everything – even foods you don’t consider particularly sweet, like bread or salad dressing.
According to the American Heart Association, women should have no more than six teaspoons of added sugar per day and men no more than nine teaspoons of added sugar per day (equals about 100 calories for women). or 150 calories for men). As a general rule, I advise my clients to aim for zero added sugar.
However, most Americans consume about two or three times that amount. And since many of us are gearing up to make sweets, it’s even harder to resist snacks and packaged candies when the craving strikes.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for conscious indulgence here and there (hello, fun Snickers!), but our everyday habits, like adding sugar to coffee or having ketchup with your burger, can really add above. If your sugar intake has spiked this week, here’s what to do:
Related: A dietitian shares tips and tricks for identifying sneaky sugars in your food and drink — and consuming less.
1. Eat your sweets, naturally!
When you avoid unnecessary sources of sugar, your body will crave it less and your palate will change to recognize and appreciate more natural sources of sugar. You might be surprised when an apple, carrots, and beets taste perfectly sweet to you. Cashews and pecans are even great “sweet” nuts.
2. Make sure you’re getting enough calories.
Sounds like a joke, right? But often when we diet, we restrict too much and end up with cravings. When you don’t eat enough or eat the wrong things, your body begins to quickly seek energy to catch up. So what does it do? Craving for sugar! Sugar gives you quick energy, even if it’s not quality energy.
The only way around this problem is to eat whole foods and break the cycle of sugar cravings once and for all.
3. Add protein to every meal.
When you eat a heavy, starchy meal, like a giant bowl of spaghetti, you’re setting yourself up for a guaranteed gelato craving. All that fiber and protein free pasta is like a big bowl of sugar.
These calories are absorbed quickly and they don’t leave you feeling full or satisfied. What’s a pasta lover to do? Try a big bowl of veggies, with lean protein added and topped off with a bit of pasta rather than the other way around. This also applies to salads – load up the veggies first, then add a protein or carb on top.
4. Reduce added sugars.
The slice of multigrain toast you eat for breakfast and salad dressing labeled “light” can be loaded with added sugars. That’s why it’s so important to read, read, read labels! Avoid sneaky ingredients like “dextrose”, “fructose” and “maltose” in your packaged foods, or skip all packaged foods. A drizzle of cold-pressed olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon is the perfect mix for a light vinaigrette.
5. Just run away from your cravings.
For this trick, you can do two healthy things at once: quell the urge and exercise. A study published in PLOS One showed that short bursts of physical activity (such as a 15-minute walk) reduced cravings for sugary snacks in overweight people. I also see clients taking a mental advantage here. When you’re proactive about doing something good for yourself, what’s not good for you suddenly becomes less appealing.
Related: Like any other room in the house, our spice cabinets may need a good cleaning and a makeover in the new year.
6. Replace sugar with spices.
Know your spices! Upping the flavor of your meals and experimenting with spices could make you crave less sugar. Cinnamon and nutmeg are perfect touches for plain yogurt or oatmeal. They will enhance the flavor of any dish and provide their own unique health benefits.
7. Ditch the salt shaker.
When you dine out or eat packaged processed foods, you are probably consuming too much sodium. This is often true even when eating something “clean” like grilled salmon and sautéed spinach from your favorite “healthy” restaurant.
Mix the shaker. When you satisfy your salty cravings with more naturally salty foods like olives, your sweet cravings will decrease and you’ll tend to opt for naturally sweet snacks like herbal teas or fruit when that craving kicks in. Choosing clean foods leads to choosing cleaner foods, regardless of the craving.
Related: Looking to Reduce Your Sugar Intake? A dietitian explains what you need to know about the different types of sweeteners and how to choose them wisely.
8. Talk to yourself.
When it comes to breaking a sweet habit, sometimes it helps to sit down with yourself. Ask yourself, “Do I really crave that bag of candy or is it just a habit?” If you have a real craving, you may be able to avoid it with a sweet (sugar-free!) herbal tea, a naturally sweet snack like an apple, or you should have a better portioned option, like a 70% square. dark chocolate. If there’s no real craving at all and it’s just a habit, well, replace that activity with a new one, like reading a book, going for a walk, or taking a hot bath.
This article originally appeared on TODAY.com
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