Words of Wellness: Sweet Smarts
Americans today consume, on average, 42.5 teaspoons of sugar per day. The recommended amount? Less than 13 teaspoons per day (based on a 2,000 calorie diet). That adds up to about 6 cups per week or 312 cups of sugar per year, yikes! Sugar-sweetened beverages (soda, flavored waters, etc.) account for over 1/3 of our sugar intake. One 12 ounce can of soda alone has about 11 teaspoons in it which is almost your entire days’ worth.
Ready to get smart about your sweets? There are many different approaches to decrease your sugar consumption, the biggest thing to keep in mind is that it will not happen overnight and quitting cold turkey will likely make you crave sugar even more. Take it one day at a time and make changes you know you can live with. The top two recommendations are drinking more water and getting enough sleep. What else can you do to keep cravings at bay? Eat real food. This includes high quality protein sources, fruits, vegetables and whole-grains. Include carbohydrates, fat and plenty of protein in a meal every 3-4 hours to keep you satisfied and away from the M&Ms.
Know your triggers. Crave something sweet every night after dinner? Go for a walk instead. Reach for chocolate during your afternoon slump? Drink tea instead. Knowing what triggers your cravings can help you to overcome them.
Plan ahead. Keep your kitchen full of healthy meals and snacks so you can eat every 3-4 hours. Remember: out of sight, out of mind. By not keeping sweets in your house you will be less likely to seek them out.
As much as I want to recommend ‘nature’s candy’ aka fresh fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth, I just know it won’t cut it. If I’m craving a piece of chocolate cake eating an apple isn’t going to satisfy me. Combining fresh fruits with something more substantial though will help to squash those cravings. Try a banana or apple with peanut butter for example.
Getting the support from family and friends is also essential to cutting back on sugar. Make a deal to skip the dessert next time you’re out to eat with someone. It will be much easier knowing you aren’t the only one making the healthy changes.
Better for you options….
Fresh strawberries dipped in 1-2 ounces of melted dark (at least 70% cacao chocolate) or in whipped cream
Plain Greek yogurt w/ a few table spoons of cocoa powder
Banana Ice cream: Peel and place bananas in the freezer overnight. Place frozen bananas in a blender (you need a good blender for this!) and blend until the consistency of soft-serve ice cream. It may take a minute to get things going but I promise it will turn out, sometimes I add a splash of milk to get it started. Top with peanut butter or a few chocolate chips.
Dessert hummus: Puree 1 can chickpeas, ¼ cup pure maple syrup, ¼ cup natural peanut butter, ½ Tbsp vanilla in a food processor until smooth mix in chocolate chips and serve with graham crackers or another cracker of choice!