I often say that I would be about 5-10 pounds lighter if I didn't have a sweet tooth. Sugar. It's my nemesis. Being a professional in the health and fitness industry, I feel my clients always assume that I eat right all of the time, don't cave into my cravings and always make the right decisions when it comes to eating healthy. I do admit to being a health conscious individual, and do watch what I eat and exercise regularly. I am here though to let you in on a little secret of mine. I have a sweet tooth. Always have, always will. Now, I'm not talking about these individuals who SAY they are addicted to sweets and then follow it up by saying, "I usually allow myself one dessert a week." WHAT? You call that being addicted to sugar and sweets? I call that, having it under control! When I say, I have a sweet tooth, it means that I PREFER the sweet to the savory. I WANT something sweet after dinner EVERY night. When I do eat 1/2 cup of almonds, I want dried cranberries with it or chocolate covered soy nuts. For breakfast, I prefer oatmeal with brown sugar and cinnamon to eggs and toast. After dinner I crave something sweet all the time and God help me if I have ice cream in the freezer. I also have always loved to bake. I will bake cookies, brownies, cupcakes, you name it! Maybe it started at birth? Maybe it started with always being offered a dessert, 'if I finished my dinner' as a child? Or maybe, I just have a taste for the sweet stuff. Whatever the reason, there is no denying that I am a sugar addict. It can be a dangerous game especially since I have a history of diabetes on my fathers side. However, I am aware of this, acknowledge it and respect it. In my 38 years, I have learned though how to keep these cravings at bay, or at least find alternatives and other ways to satisfy them. I don't kid myself and know that I may always be this way. But now with a family of 2 kids with another on the way, I want to make sure they stay on a healthy path and make healthy choices. A few tricks I have learned a long the way are:
Respect and own my sugar addictionLike I said, I know who I am and know what I love! I don't try and fool myself into thinking that if a tray of freshly baked cookies comes out of the oven, that I will always resist the temptation to 'taste just to make sure I didn't overcook them'. RIGHT. In terms of baking, I try to NOT buy baking goods (i.e. cake mixes, cookies mixes and fixens etc), UNLESS I HAVE to for my child's school and/or a birthday. This way, I don't always have the stuff laying around. I am in charge of grocery shopping every week, so what I buy is what we all eat. It all starts with that shopping list. When at all possible, I go to the grocery store when I can go alone and not have my kids freak when I pass up all the sugary cereals and sweet stuff in the aisles. I do make good decisions there and NEVER go to the grocery store HUNGRY. That can be the kiss of death!
Keep track of the days I go without sugarI feel so proud of myself when I can get thru 2-3 consecutive days without having sugary sweets or desserts. Believe it or not, this gives me the strength and willpower to make even smarter decisions on those other days following. So if I've gone a couple days without dessert, then I will more than likely follow it up with fruit for dessert instead of a cookie or ice cream.
Drink WaterThis is a lesson I have also passed down to my kids when they THINK they are hungry and want snacks. Many times than not, your body is dehydrated and this can mask itself as hunger and/or create the urge to eat something that may not exactly be the best thing for you. I will always pour a tall glass of cold ice water and see how I feel after that. I can't tell you how many times that has taken the urge to eat sugar out of the picture. Plus, you can't go wrong with water!
Get a workout in or take a nice long walkMy sugar cravings usually come in the mid afternoon when I am tired and warn out. I find myself walking to the kitchen and looking at what to eat. With my busy schedule as a mom, I rarely if ever SIT down to eat breakfast or lunch. Not good I know since I ALWAYS get on my kids about SITTING DOWN while they are eating! I pick up a luna bar or banana and sometimes that is it for both breakfast and lunch. So come 2-3pm, I am hungry, low energy and want something to eat! This is when I might grab some nuts and a tall glass of water and then take a long walk outdoors with my kids OR get a workout in if I haven't already in the a.m. By the time I am finished, I can then start to think about what to cook for dinner instead of the snacks I want to eat in between.
Make sure I am getting enough proteinMany times lack of protein in your diet can contribute to sugar cravings as the body looks for a quick energy source. Adding protein to every meal ensures that the body always has fuel to access and maintains a steady blood sugar level, preventing any spikes and crashes. I have learned no matter how busy I am, to get some protein in with each meal. Doing this has helped immensely with my sugar cravings. With the oatmeal I eat for breakfast, I will also eat a few almonds. For lunch I eat a slice of organic turkey and cheese on my bread or wrap with some lettuce and tomato. Doing this has also given me more energy than just grazing as I feed my kids. I will also add some apples and if I still crave something with sugar, will take a little bit of organic peanut butter and spread it over the sliced apples. The kids love this as well.
Throw the sugary snacks out or hide them from sightMany times I put any kind of sugary sweet or snack I DO buy, HIGH up in our cupboards the minute I buy them. This way in order to get them down I will need the step ladder and when I want a quick fix, I am not going to go through all that trouble to get to them. They are there only in emergencies! I have also learned to just throw the stuff out! Sometimes when I bake, the cookies and brownies stare at me from the counter, tempting me to open their package and eat one or JUST ONE MORE. If they are sitting on the counter for more then a few days, I throw them out with our biweekly trash pick up. I also follow the 'sell by' date like a crazy person. If I am one day over, it gets thrown out.
Swap the sugar out with healthy alternativesAs I mentioned, I LOVE ice cream. Vanilla moose tracks to be exact. Not just any brand either. It has to come from our local ice cream parlor in town. The good thing is I don't usually get there to buy stuff which is like HEAVEN ON EARTH. So instead, I go to my freezer aisle and buy healthier ice cream alternatives. I have recently LOVED all these all natural fruit ices I have found at Whole Foods, as well as many different Weight Watchers frozen desserts. This way, I can control the portion size, and it usually always does the trick to satisfy whatever craving I do have after dinner. I will also cut up fresh berries and put them on top of low fat greek yogurt with a teaspoon of honey drizzled on top! I make homemade vanilla pudding and will get a small bowl and mix a 1/2 of of it with 1/2 cup of the greek yogurt. It tastes delicious and I don't consume the 700 calories of ice cream. UGH. Just writing that makes me sick! As I mentioned earlier, I will also take a little organic peanut butter and spread it on top of apple slices and it tastes delicious. I do love bananas too! So I will always buy extra and cut them up, place them in zip lock bag and freeze them. When I am ready, I take them out and put them in my blender with a little greek yogurt, honey and ice and make my own banana ice cream. SO delicious and the kids LOVE this as well! Listen, it's not the end of the world. I am fully aware of my love for sugar and am very realistic about how I can handle it. With the suggestions I put forth above, I've been able to really curb my cravings and get control of what once was a daily and nightly treat for me. With anything else in life, I practice the art of moderation and commit myself to always TRY and take on the healthy alternative. I am only human and do cave sometimes, but never let it get the best of me.
Any other sugar addicts out there? Have you been able to kick the habit? If so, how did you do it!?