We all have a sugar craving from time to time. For some it’s early in the morning, in hopes that a caffeine fix or a sweet pastry will get us through the day. For others, the hankering pops up around 3pm when our blood sugar starts to drop off after lunch. Or perhaps some of us raid the fridge or pantry for a late night treat. These sugar cravings are simply our bodies asking for energy. It’s important to listen to these cues and provide ourselves with naturally sweet foods to help alleviate these intense cravings.
Reducing sugar in one’s diet can be quite challenging. According to the Wall Street Journal, the average American consumes up to 355 calories, or more than 22 teaspoons, of sugar a day. The biggest culprits - soft drinks, candy, and desserts like cookies and cakes. However, added sugars also creep up in many perceived healthy foods such as yogurt, fruit juices and whole-grain cereals. The American Heart Association recently released a statement, urging consumers to drastically cut back on the amount of added sugars in their diet – women should limit their sugar intake to 100 calories, or about six teaspoons, a day; men should limit to 150 calories, or about nine teaspoons. A 12-ounce soft drink can have up to 8 tablespoons of sugar!
Where should you begin? Look very carefully at the ingredients on a nutrition label. Sugar comes in many forms and can be disguised as corn syrup, fructose, dextrose, sorbitol or evaporated cane juice. Try substituting sugar with natural sweeteners like agave nectar, honey or brown rice syrup. Swap processed products for foods without a nutrition label attached – like whole grains, fruits and veggies, which contain high amounts of fiber to slow the digestion process. Finally, coach yourself to be more mindful and aware of your body’s messaging. If it’s energy you need, a chemicalized, sugary snack will only lead to a crash in a few hours. And if you’re satisfying an insatiable sweet tooth, enjoy a healthy treat. Your body will thank you later.