Do you have a sweet tooth? If so, you’re not alone. Americans consume 94 grams of sugar every day. That’s nearly 400 calories and more than triple the recommended daily sugar intake.
Meanwhile, The American Heart Association recommends that men eat no more than 150 calories (37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons) of added sugars — that is, sugars that do not naturally occur in a food itself — per day, and that women consume no more than 100 such calories per day (25 grams or 6 teaspoons).
With the Easter holiday just around the corner, resisting the temptation to indulge your sweet tooth can be tough. Here are 11 tips to help you curb your cravings during this season of chocolate bunnies and candy eggs.
1. Know your triggers. What causes your cravings to kick in? Possible triggers include blood sugar imbalance, stress, mood (and other emotional factors), hormones and/or hypoglycemia. Listening to your body and identifying your triggers are the first steps to taming your appetite for sweets.
2. Start your day with protein. Eat a high-protein meal first thing in the morning to help reduce cravings throughout the day. Protein helps keep you feeling full, so a protein-rich breakfast such as an egg-white omelet or a cup of low-fat Greek yogurt can help you push through the cravings and eat less throughout the day.
3. Skip the sweet drinks. Beverages like soda, specialty coffee drinks, juice and sweet tea contain high amounts of sugar and artificial sweeteners that spike your blood sugar and leave you craving high-calorie foods all day. If you want to beat the cravings, stick with water.
4. Balance your blood sugar. Eating small, frequent snacks such as a piece of fruit or a serving of nuts can help keep your blood sugar in check. These healthy snacks can also help prevent a sudden crash that can cause cravings for high-calorie foods.
5. Don’t give in. The more you eat the foods you crave, the stronger and more consistent your cravings will become. Break your cravings by sticking to a balanced, nutritious diet every day of the week. Avoid “cheat days” if at all possible. If you do need the occasional reward, exercise moderation and make it special. Treat yourself to a single scoop rather than digging into that pint of ice cream.
6. Purge your pantry. Avoid keeping tempting “danger” foods in your home. You’re less likely to eat junk food (or eat less of it) if it’s not easily accessible. The more you resist the unhealthy foods you crave, the weaker the link between environmental triggers and that particular food craving becomes.
7. Distract yourself. Cravings generally last 10 minutes. As soon as you feel the craving coming, pick up the phone and make a call, go for a walk or run an errand — anything to occupy your mind until the craving passes.
8. Have a plan. Prepare yourself for the moment when the craving is at its most intense and find some alternative to satisfying it. For example, chew a piece of gum if you know they’re going to be cutting the cake at this afternoon’s office party. Should the temptation prove too much for you to withstand, then leave room for it in your daily calorie count.
9. Journal. Keep a food journal. Every time you experience a craving, write down what you’re craving, what you ate and how much you ate. Include the time of day and any emotions you may be feeling at the time: sad, angry, tired, etc. Journaling can help you identify individual triggers as well as important patterns that influence your cravings.
10. Workout. Not only is exercise a natural stress reducer, but it also boosts production of endorphins to give your mood a lift. If negative emotions and stress trigger your cravings, exercise can help.
11. Be mindful when you eat. Eliminate distractions when you eat so you can truly savor every bite. Watching TV or playing on your phone while eating can easily lead to overeating and ultimately to weight gain.
Whatever your weakness, you don’t have to lose control of yourself this Easter season. Arm yourself with these tips so you won’t go down without a fight the next time a craving hits.