Chocolate. Cinnamon buns. Ice cream. Let’s admit it, we all have sugar cravings.
When striving towards a healthier lifestyle the first thing we think we need to do is cut out all sugary foods from our diet...which is not entirely true. We don’t need to deprive ourselves of the foods we love, we just need to be smarter about how and when we eat them. There are ways to enjoy yourself and reach your goals simultaneously. A balanced diet is extremely important when trying to achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle. That being said, if you find yourself eating a whole container of ice cream every night and calling it balance; that probably isn’t setting you up for success. It’s important to learn how to identify your cravings, indulge when you need to and learn to show your sweet tooth who’s really in charge.
Don’t deprive yourself. Completely avoiding foods that you don’t consider ‘healthy’ is not going to last very long. This isn’t a diet or a short term fix. This is a lifestyle and therefore you have to be realistic about these changes. Having food that is off limits most of the time results in craving that food even more. Remember that balance is not eating a pint of ice cream every night, it’s having a reasonable portion of something you enjoy every so often. Food is fuel but it is also meant to be enjoyed.
Meal prep. Often times we’re so busy with life that we tend to want to grab the fastest and most convenient options when we start to feel hungry. Setting aside a few hours to prep your meals and snacks for the week is the key to staying on track.
Don’t skip meals. Having healthier snacks to eat throughout the day will ensure that your blood sugar levels remain stable. It’s when your blood sugar levels drop that you will feel tired and flat and crave sugary foods to give you a short burst in energy. It’s important to not skip meals either as this will cause your blood sugar levels to drop and increase the risk of you overeating at your next meal or making poor food choices.
Try an alternative. If you love eating chocolate, instead of reaching for a sugary chocolate bar you could opt to make a healthier alternative like chocolate covered strawberries. This way you still have the sweetness from the strawberries and you can still get in your chocolate fix. There are always healthier ways to satisfying your sweet tooth and the internet is full of recipes.
Hydrate. Often times we search for food when we are actually just thirsty. Staying hydrated is so important to not only feel good but to keep your body from knowing when you’re hungry or just thirsty. If you keep on top of your hydration then when you do get hungry, you will know that it is food that your body wants and not just your body’s reaction to dehydration.
Eliminate temptation. If you know that buying a bag of chips results in eating the entire bag in one sitting then being smarter about the serving size you purchase is going to help you. Instead of buying the family size opt for the smaller snack size option. It’s important to be honest with yourself - if you can’t trust yourself around certain foods then not having them in your pantry is probably a smart idea. The easier access you have to food the more likely you are to eat it. Try keeping healthier foods right where you can see them, and hide away sugary ones. This goes back to the saying, out of sight out of mind.
Identify your triggers. The next time you feel your sweet tooth going into overdrive ask yourself a few questions - Are you bored? Upset? Is it just a habit? Your brain loves routine and if you’re normal routine is to grab a bag of chips to snack on while watching TV then your body is going to automatically expect that every time you sit down to watch TV.
Another reason we crave foods are because of emotions. Cortisol is a chemical in your brain that causes you to seek out rewards. When you’re sad and reach for that pint of ice cream, the next time you feel that way your brain will want the same thing. We associate food with comfort and this can lead to indulging too often. The habits you create shape who you are so being aware of them and working on making healthy habits is important.