SUGAR. One of the biggest challenges to anyone trying to lose weight or just be healthy. Why is it so hard to give up sweets? Whether your cravings tend towards Snickers, brownies, or Sweet Tarts, why is it so hard to say no? Well, there’s actually a reason for it and it isn’t that you lack willpower. According to the ADA, ‘sweet’ is the first taste that humans prefer. Carbohydrates actually stimulate the release of the chemical serotonin which is one of the chemicals responsible for happiness. The catch is that carbs come in many forms like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. And while these are much healthier options, it doesn’t change the fact that we crave sugar. So what’s a girl to do?
I’m a little over half-way through with my two-week challenge to cut down on my sugar intake, and it’s been tough. One obstacle I’ve had is that many sweet, low-sugar processed foods are made with sugar substitutes. That means lots of chemicals that I don’t want in my body. Another obstacle is the high sugar content in fruit. A banana has 16 grams of sugar! The truth is, I haven’t hit my 25 gram goal every day, but I have learned some valuable lessons that will help me stay low-sugar even after my challenge is done.
- Naturally occurring sugar can be ok. If cutting down on sugar means cutting fruit out of your diet, there’s a problem. Fruits have important vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function and it’s much healthier to get these from real foods than a supplement. You still need to keep portion control in mind and not go overboard, but don’t stop eating apples and oranges. Focus on reducing your added sugar.
- Find a balance. I try to cut down on my chemical sugar substitutes as much as possible, but I’m not perfect.Therefore, I try to stick with foods that use the plant-based Stevia instead of saccharin and aspartame. The tick here is to limit them (especially the chemicals) and not beat myself up if I indulge every once in a while.
- Sugar hides in a lot of unexpected places. When I started paying attention to my sugar intake, I was shocked to see where it was lurking. From soups to yogurts to sauces, even your savory packaged and restaurant foods probably have more added sugar than you realize. Start looking at the sugar content when looking at nutritional information and you’ll be one step closer to making smarter sugar decisions.
So with that, here are 10 snacks that have helped me through my two-week challenge. Just make sure to read the packaging before buying and make sure you get a version without added sugars!
- Cut up pineapple and shredded coconut
- Frozen grapes
- Trail mix with dark chocolate chips
- Oatmeal made with unsweetened vanilla almond milk, cinnamon, and dried fruit
- Light yogurt (but make sure you check the sugar count and the ingredients! Not all yogurts are created equal. I suggest Siggi’s if you want a flavored yogurt, but your better off buying plain and flavoring yourself with fresh fruit)
- 100% fruit popsicle
- Banana ice cream – you just blend a frozen banana until it’s smooth. You can add cocoa powder or peanut butter for a little extra punch
- Fat free pudding
- Enlightened Ice Cream (this can be found in health food stores)
- A spoonful of natural peanut butter. (or on a banana, or apple, or celery, etc)
How do you beat your sugar cravings??
Do you have a guru? Perhaps not in the traditional sense of the word, but maybe someone you consider as a master or teacher? For a long time, I’ve admired and respected the teachings and insights of author, Gretchen Rubin. Rubin has written a number of books on a variety of subjects and it’s her two books on happiness, The Happiness Project and Happiness at Home that led me to jokingly (and not so jokingly) refer to her as my guru.
As a lover of quotes, lists, and mantras, it’s no surprise that Rubin’s Secrets of Adulthood resonate with me. One of my absolute favorites is, “What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.”
No one is perfect and it’s silly to try to be. Sometimes we have an extra drink when we know we shouldn’t. Sometimes we accidentally leave someone on an email that we meant to take off. Sometimes we miss a workout because watching the latest episode of Modern Family just can’t wait any longer. What’s important is to remember that if those mistakes truly only happen once in a while, it’s ok.
I keep this hanging on the wall as a reminder to acknowledge my mistakes and learn from them – but to also let them go and not beat myself up. We all deserve a pass once in a while.
**This post has not been sponsored by Gretchen Rubin in any way; I’m simply a fan. If you’d like to read more, check out www.gretchenrubin.com.
Have you ever noticed that it’s easier to avoid snacking in the morning than after dinner? Or if you’re really sad about something you care less about getting to the gym? Well, there’s a reason for it and it’s not that you’re lazy. It’s called the Principal of Limited Self Control or Ego Depletion – the idea that self-control and willpower are limited resources that can actually be used up and need to be replenished by rest. That’s why when you’re tired after a long day of work; it seems harder to resist that cookie. Or when you’re stressed out by family issues it’s harder to get to the gym. When you’re using all of your willpower just to get through the day, you have little left over for things like exercise and healthy food.
Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and for many, that means potentially stressful travel, potentially stressful family time, and a lot of tempting food – things that can easily deplete your self-control. Here are a few tips to help you win the willpower war this Thanksgiving with just a little advanced planning:
- Plan Ahead. Planning for obstacles in advance means you’ll need less willpower when the situation comes up because you won’t have to think about it. Find out what will be on the menu ahead of time and create a game plan. Decide in advance what you’ll fill up on (like roasted veggies and lean turkey) and what you’ll indulge in. You won’t feel like you’re missing out and you won’t go crazy when you see all of the delicious food out in front of you.
- Develop an ‘If-Then’ Strategy. For example, “If Aunt Martha asks me to try one of her cookies that she made just for me; I will take one, eat half of it, and put the other half back on the table.” Or, “If everyone has a drink in their hand before dinner, I will have a glass of club soda and put a lemon in it.” Like the first tip, if you’ve already developed a plan, you won’t have to think about it when the time comes.
- Offer to make something. What’s your weakness at the Thanksgiving table? Whatever it is, you can make a healthy version to bring with you so that you can indulge without the guilt. I have a sweet tooth, so this year, I offered to make dessert. I know exactly how much is in a serving size and I can enjoy without having to worry.
Another tip that’s been shown to help with willpower is exercising in the morning, before the meal. Studies have shown that when you work out before eating, you tend to eat less because you’re more aware of the work you just did. Another tip is to not starve yourself before you sit down for dinner. You’ll be wasting that valuable resource of self-control and won’t have as much left for the actual meal.
And remember, that no matter what happens this Thursday, it’s only one day. So even if you’re not the picture of perfect nutrition, give yourself a break, enjoy the holiday, and jump back on that horse on Friday.