How to Overcome Your Sweet Tooth

Starting with mother’s milk, we are drawn to sweet foods because sugar is necessary to feed our brains, and eating sugar temporarily increases our feel-good hormones. It was not a problem when our sugar intake came from fruits we picked off trees, and no one felt the need to eat every fruit. But with the advent of processed foods and sugar, all this has changed, and empty calories dangerously drive up sugar levels and play havoc with our bodies.

Unfortunately, most of us find it hard to avoid eating processed sugar. It is everywhere. Even the better food choices, such as some whole-grain breads and supposedly healthy spaghetti sauces and breakfast cereals, are often loaded with sugar. Since the early 1990s, we have increased sugar consumption in the U.S. from 26 pounds (11.7kg) to about 135 pounds (61.2kg) per person per year. In the late nineteenth century (1887–1890), the average consumption was only 5 pounds (2.26kg) of sugar per person per year. Obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer were rare in those days.

There are many things you can do to avoid the sugar seesaw:

  • Eat whole, natural foods: Focus on the natural sugars in whole, real foods, such as fresh, seasonal fruit. They offer natural sugars (fructose), but they are also nutrient-rich foods, high in fiber. Follow these guidelines: Eat two or three servings per day of fruits lower in sugars, such as apples, peaches, grapefruit, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries and oranges. Eat one serving per day or less of fruits higher in sugars: all dried fruits (a maximum of one tablespoon), mangoes, watermelon, papaya, bananas, kiwi fruit and pineapple.
  • Modify your selection of sweet treats: In place of a chocolate brownie or ice cream, drink a fresh fruit smoothie or choose hot chocolate prepared with hot water and a touch of nonfat milk. Suck on a teaspoon of organic almond butter or peanut butter. At the same time, coach yourself to resist the urge to binge.
  • Don’t store sweets at home: Make it more difficult to eat bad sweets by not keeping them in your house. But if you must have a few occasional indulgences, keep them well hidden in a secure container. And before you even open it, say an affirmation out loud, e.g., “I deserve only the best fuel in my body and sugar can make me unhealthy and sick.”
  • Avoid soft drinks: Soft drinks have no nutritional value and are high in refined sugars. Most popular 12-ounce (340g) soft drinks can contain as many as 40 grams of sugar, which is about ten teaspoons of sugar! The “diet free” options can be harmful to you health. Avoiding soft drinks is a necessity for weight and health.
  • Drink fruit juices in strict moderation: Although unsweetened fruit juices offer numerous valuable nutrients, they contain as much sugar (in the form of fructose) as soft drinks! For instance, 12 ounces (340g) of 100% unsweetened orange juice, is rich in vitamin C, but contains 39 grams of sugar, giving you 8 teaspoons of sugar. Unsweetened apple juice is a good source of iron and potassium, but contains 42 grams of sugar, giving you ten teaspoons! This is a good reason to drink fruit juices in strict moderation and eat the whole fruit instead.
  • Watch alcohol: Most alcoholic beverages have as many calories per ounce as sugary soft drinks and generally don’t contain any nutrients. For example, a regular small 5 fl-ounces (147 ml ) glass of wine, gives you around 150 calories; 12 fl-ounces (354 ml) of light beer, 100 calories; 12 fl-ounces (354 ml) of regular beer, 150 calories; 1.5 fl-ounce (44 ml) shot of vodka, 95 calories; and 8 fl-ounces (236 ml) of the popular sweet cocktails, such as a margarita and pina colada offer anywhere between 310 – 530 calories. Whereas, the medium 12 fl-ounce (354 ml) soft drink generally has between 124-182 calories.

So, if you are going to enjoy alcoholic beverages, as I do, drink it in strict moderation and be sure to follow these guidelines:

  • Have one low-calorie, non-alcoholic beverage, such as water or sparkling mineral water laced with fruit juice, in between each alcoholic drink.
  • Always eat a nutritious meal or snack before you have a drink. This will help curb hunger and prevent binge eating on sugary or fatty foods.
  • Select light versions whenever possible, they have fewer calories. But remember, these products are not calorie free, and you still need to limit your intake.
  • As often as you can, replace alcohol with appealing and nutritious beverages, such as fresh, thick fruit smoothies. Drink them out of a favorite wine glass or goblet, while visualizing your new, healthy body and repeating the affirmations, My body is important to me and I will nourish it with nutritious beverages and foods.”
  • Select your drinking buddies carefully, as research shows your friends influence how much you drink.

Read labels of packaged foods carefully: Most packaged foods, even if organic, generally contain significant amounts of sugar and should be purchased in strict moderation. Fresh is always best.