When people ask me the number one thing I’ve done to make myself healthier I always respond with, “give up sugar.” The automatic response is, “I could NEVER do that. You just don’t understand how much I love sugar.” Oh believe me. I get it! I get it more than most people. I LOVE sugar. And not the kind of love that is uplifting to both parties, but the kind of love that is a sick relationship cycle. I want the sugar and it comes. I indulge and then feel horrible. Sugar and I have a rough break-up and I’m left irritable and emotional. A few weeks later I’m depressed and lonely and I invite the sugar back into my life. Really, we could make a Lifetime movie out of my relationship with sugar.
A false impression most people have is that when you give up sugar, you never want any again. Your body responds completely and any desire for sugar is gone. Nope. That’s not how it works. I still want sugar and still have to fight the cravings. Yes, you get stronger. I now have the ability to fight the cravings for the most part because my body has realized sugar just isn’t the one for me. But… when I do get a craving that could have me spiraling head-first into a bucket of cookie dough, I turn to these quick fixes.
1. Dark Chocolate – I’m not talking semi-sweet. I’m talking DARK chocolate. These Lindt 90% cocoa chocolate bars are GREAT for cutting the craving. One square has less than a gram of sugar and helps to satisfy those cravings. I eat one after dinner as an end to my eating day. To be honest, my usual go-to dark chocolate is a bit of unsweetened baker’s chocolate. If you want to try it, go for it! If it’s too dark, stick with the 90%.
2. Fruit – Yes, fruit does have sugar. But I feel better about eating a strawberry than I do a maple-glazed donut. If I’m really craving sugar, a few berries does the trick. I lean toward blackberries, but try eating a few raspberries, strawberries or blueberries. They have enough sweetness to get you through the rough times.
3. Cinnamon – Cinnamon has the ability to make things taste sweet without actually adding sugar. It’s kind of like its own little miracle. I add it to a glass of warm almond milk for a sweet treat, put it in stews and chili and even put it over a little plain yogurt. It’s also great for your heart which is an added benefit.
4. Sugar-Free Sweet Treats – And by “sugar-free” I don’t mean added, crappy, artificial sweeteners like aspartame. I mean no sugar at all. Check out the 21-Day Sugar Detox. This woman is a genius. She includes recipes for sweet treats that don’t actually use sugar. These two are my favorites: Lemon Vanilla Meltawaysand Chocolate Almond Butter Cups (without the maple syrup)
5. Vanilla Extract – Like Cinnamon, vanilla gives the impression of being sweet without containing sugar. Add it to almond milk or yogurt for a sweet treat.
6. Nuts – You have to be very careful with nuts as they pack a punch (a punch of fat and calories). If I limit myself to 5-10 nuts, I feel satisfied and can talk myself off the sugar ledge. I lean toward almonds, pecans, macadamia nuts and pistachios. I personally have to stay away from cashews because I can eat a bucket full without batting an eye. I’m not trying to replace on addiction with another.
7. Sugar-Free Gum – This is an old trick but it really works. I stick with minty or cinnamon gum. I’m not a big fan of the sweeteners in sugar-free gum, so I don’t do this often. But it’s a rather small amount of sweetener and again, probably better than a Snickers bar.
9. Coconut – Coconut is a beautiful, delicious, healthy, wonderful, sweet (okay I’ll stop) thing. It contains no sugar but has a sweet flavor. Make sure you get it unsweetened as it’s one of those things companies think they need to sweeten, which makes no sense to me. I use coconut chips, shredded coconut, coconut oil, coconut butter and coconut milk. If it says “coconut,” I’m going to stop and check it out. Plus coconut is extremely healthy for you. Another added bonus.
10. Give yourself time and be patient – Sugar is a real addiction. Deciding mentally to give up sugar doesn’t mean your body will automatically comply. It takes time to break those cravings but DON’T GIVE UP! If you struggle after one day, don’t assume it will always be so. Your body will evolve if you are persistent. This will get better. I find arguing with myself is also effective (you know you occasionally talk to yourself too). I try to think how I’ll feel in half an hour if I give eat and eat that sugar. I’ll feel like crap. My pants will feel tighter (even if it’s only psychologically), and my mind will feel defeated. You generally don’t regret resisting food, but often feel guilty for giving in and eating that treat.
That said, I’m not one for suggesting you give up sugar 100%. If I told myself I’d never eat sugar again, I’d eat the entire candy isle of Target. Set rules for yourself but allow yourself opportunities to indulge. Still limit yourself on those indulgences to one serving (an entire pan of brownies is not a healthy indulgence), but choose something you can stick with. A crash diet isn’t going to change your life, but a healthy lifestyle will.