There are so many compelling reasons to cut back on sugar—among the top concerns, the sweet stuff can mess with your metabolism and stress out your brain. But even if you know your nutrition facts, you might still find yourself reaching for a brownie during the late afternoon slump, or craving a scoop of ice cream after dinner. A treat is fine now and then, but to break sticky bad habits, it’s important to opt for healthy alternatives. Here are seven solutions to sweeten your day in a healthy way.
1. Reach for Fruit
Satisfy your sweet tooth with natural sugars like fruit, which also happen to come loaded with disease-fighting fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Grab a handful of berries, instead of gummy candies, to pop into your mouth. Or fill popsicle molds with fresh fruit and yogurt or unsweetened chocolate almond milk for a healthier way to cool down in the hot summer months.
2. Grab a Square or Two of Dark Chocolate
A small amount of dark chocolate, made with 70 percent cacao or higher, can satisfy cravings and at least provide a few antioxidants and fiber. Instead of inhaling a giant cookie, try nibbling on 1 ounce of dark chocolate.
3. Chew Sugar-Free Gum
It’s no secret that sugar is tough on teeth. But if you just can’t cope without something sweet after a meal, try chewing sugar-free gum—your waistline and pearly whites will love you for it!
4. Sip Infused Water
Most of the added sugar consumed in the US comes from soda, energy drinks, and sports drinks. Plain old water is always the better choice, but if you find it boring, try infusing your H2O with flavor from pieces of fresh fruit or mint leaves.
5. Seek Out Small Sizes
Save sugary treats for special events and celebrations—no, Tuesday afternoon isn’t a special occasion! And stick to small portions of 200 calories or less, which should be plenty to tackle a craving. Many snack-sized candy bars are perfectly portioned, 100-calorie sugar fixes.
6. Fill Up on Good Stuff First
Rather than eating something sweet on an empty stomach, enjoy a small treat after having a proper meal, so your blood sugar levels won’t spike as much. Keep healthy, satisfying foods at the heart of your diet: High-fiber, slow-to-digest carbs, like vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains, and nuts, and lean protein are filling and nutritious.
7. Add Your Own Sugar
When you buy unsweetened foods and add a sprinkle here and a drizzle there, you know exactly what you’re getting. Switching from a sugar-laden food like fruit-flavored yogurt (which can contain up to 5 teaspoons of added sugar!) to a plain version can be a bit of a shock to your taste buds initially. But one teaspoon of honey, maple syrup, or jam can add a touch of sweetness, without spending your daily sugar budget in one go!
There’s no need to completely banish sugar from your diet. There can be room for some sweet stuff—6 teaspoons, actually! The trick is to avoid the hidden sugar bomb in processed foods, and learning how to include a touch of sweetness in a way that keeps you and your body happy and healthy.
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.