Trying to cut out all sugar from your diet isn't realistic. In fact, it's probably near impossible, and honestly might be quite stressful! Cutting out all sugar will probably lead to a sugar binge or overeating at some point. That's why it's recommended to limit sugar intake.
As a Registered Dietitian, I've been fortunate to research and learn about the effects of sugar on the body. Over the years, this knowledge has helped curb my appetite for sugar. There are still some days, however, that I crave a sweet treat. Often, I find people asking what to eat when they are craving sweets. Luckily, it possible to get your fix in ways other than candy or cookies, which can be loaded with saturated fats and added sugars.
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Recommended daily sugar intake
The 2015-2020 Dietary guidelines recommend about 12 teaspoons of added sugar per day if you are someone following a 2000 calorie diet. When looking at the label, this is 60 grams added sugars per day. While this sounds like a lot, you may be surprised how quickly it can add up. Sugar isn't only found in the common culprits such as snickers and soda. It is often hidden in foods that we may think are "healthy".
Foods that can satisfy a sweet tooth
There's plenty of foods that are sweet, yet won't exceed your daily sugar limits. These are great way to satisfy your sweet tooth.
- Choose Fruit
Fruit contains sugar, however it's a natural sugar source. In addition, fruits are loaded with vitamins and minerals. Often when fruits are heated up, they become even sweeter.
- Use Greek Yogurt
Substitute plain Greek yogurt in place of a regular sugar loaded yogurt. Greek yogurt is great because it's so versatile- you can pretty much make it taste any way you want, based on what is added to it. Try adding a small spoonful of honey and mixing in fruit. Or make a mock banana split, and sub the greek yogurt in place of ice cream!
- Consider Dark Chocolate
Dark Chocolate gets a lot of discussion in the health realm for being healthy. Look for a dark chocolate that has a higher cocoa percentage. While this means that the chocolate will be less sweet, research shows that it may have more health benefits. Dark Chocolate has flavonoids, which are known for the anti-inflammatory properties. Check out this article for more information on the benefits of dark chocolate!
Snack idea: Pair your dark chocolate with some fruit. However, use caution when eating the store bought chocolate covered fruit (chocolate covered cherries). Depending on how they are made, they may have a lot of extra added sugars. Make your own treat by slicing a piece or two of chocolate and combining with a bowl of fresh or frozen fruit. I love pairing it with raspberries, blueberries or strawberries.
Healthier Snack Options for When Craving Sweets
Here's a list of what to eat when craving sweets!
3 Minute Apple Pie
Slice an apple into 8 wedges, using an apple slicer or knife. Sprinkle with cinnamon and any other desired spices (apple pie spice, nutmeg). Microwave on high for 3 minutes or until tender. The sugar from the heated apple provides extra sweetness without requiring additional sugar.
Fresh Fruit with Dark Chocolate
Combine strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, bananas or your other favorite fruit with a 1 ounce serving of shaved dark chocolate. For an extra tasty treat, try freezing the fruit and thawing 10 minutes prior to serving.
Heart Smart Trail Mix
Combine ½ cup Cheerios, 1 tablespoon walnuts, 1 tablespoon cranberries and 1 tablespoon of chopped dark chocolate. The walnuts provide Omega-3’s, a healthy fat, and the dark chocolate is a great source of flavones.
Mock Carrot Cake Parfait
Place ½ cup of vanilla or plain flavored, low-fat Greek yogurt in a bowl. Top with ¼ cup shredded carrots, 1 tablespoon of raisins, 1 tablespoon of chopped walnuts and 1 tablespoon of shredded pineapple. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
Healthy Chocolate Sundae
Combine ½ cup vanilla Greek yogurt (or low-fat vanilla frozen yogurt) with 1 ounce dark chocolate and 1 tablespoon of chopped walnuts. Freeze for 20 minutes before eating for a frosty treat.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Popcorn
Pop a small bag of popcorn (look for the “natural, no added butter version”). Melt 1 tablespoon of peanut butter and top the popcorn. Sprinkle with cocoa powder.
Homemade Banana Split
Slice a banana in half-length wise. Top with 2 spoonful’s of vanilla, non-fat greek yogurt, a sprinkle of cocoa and a cherry if desired.
Putting it all together
Recognizing the your body is craving sweets is the first step! If you are to this point, that's actually a good thing! It means your not mindlessly eating, and now have the conscious decision of what to eat. Hopefully the healthy snack ideas will help you to make a good choice of items to eat when craving sweets!