How to Tame Your Sugar Cravings + 6 All-Natural Sweeteners
by Rachel Chemerynski
Sugar is sneaking its way into everything these days from the obvious (like brownies and cookies) to the not so obvious (store-bought bread and “healthy” sports drinks.) It’s no wonder most Americans have at least some from of a sweet tooth! Unfortunately, most sugar we consume is highly processed and refined, leading to blood sugar spikes, headaches, and get this—even more cravings. Follow these simple steps to help reduce your cravings the healthy way!
Load Up On H2O: Often times when a craving comes on, it’s your body’s way of telling you its dehydrated. Before you go for that afternoon Mocha Latte or late-night brownie, try drinking a glass of water first and see how you feel in a half hour. Also, be sure to stay hydrated throughout the day to potentially prevent these cravings altogether. If you’re one to forget filling up your water bottle, try “eating your water” as well to stay hydrated all day long.
Check in With Your Caffeine Intake: Speaking of hydration, are you hooked on caffeine? Your coffee, soda and chocolate addiction could be causing dehydration and blood sugar swings, leading to energy dips and more cravings for the sweet stuff. Limit your caffeine intake, and try sticking to just one or two cups of coffee in the morning. Beware that most fancy lattes pack on a boatload of added sugar and caffeine in just one drink. Topped with whipped cream? You’re asking for a major swing in energy levels with an extra dose of nasty cravings!
Avoid Artificial Sweeteners & Added Sugars: While artificial “sugar substitutes” often don’t contain sugar, they are typically filled with chemicalized, man-made alternatives. Not only are they potentially harmful to your health, but they also trick the body into thinking it’s getting the real deal. This causes similar blood sugar spikes as plain white sugar, leading to a wild rollercoaster ride with your energy. Beware of these ingredients, sneaking their way into sports drinks, soft beverages, “diet” foods, and sugar-free snacks.
Analyze Food Labels: Next time you hit the supermarket, pay extra attention to the food label, particularly reading the ingredients. While claims like “low fat” or “fat free” may seem fine and dandy, they’re typically telltale signs that other ingredients have been added to make up for the lack of flavor. In most cases case, it’s sugar, sugar and more sugar! Know that “fat free” or “sugar free” doesn’t necessarily equate to healthy. Look for whole, natural varieties of your favorite foods that haven’t been tampered with.
Amp Up Your Exercise: We know exercise is good for our health, but did you know it may also prevent you from dipping your hand in the office candy bowl? Since physical activity can increase energy levels, reduce stress and help control blood sugar, it’s the perfect natural alternative to your sugar “high.” Find fitness classes and activities near you, from hip-hop dancing to Pilates!
Take Advantage of Naturally Sweet Foods: Many foods are naturally sweet as is; that’s the beauty in nature. Fill your plates high with carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, parsnips, turnips, corn, and sweet onions to stop you in your tracks (before things get out of control later on!) Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat’s recipe for Scallop on Sweet Potato is a great way to squeeze in your sweet veggies without the guilt.
6 Natural Sweeteners
As you work on managing your sugar hankerings you’ll naturally begin to crave it much less. In the meantime, these natural sweeteners are much better alternatives to their processed, refined, or artificial evil twins. After all, like anything, all sugars are not created equally! Just be mindful and use in moderation because, while natural, these options are plenty sweet and still contain a good amount of sugar.
Raw Agave Nectar: Agave nectar actually comes from the same plant as tequila—The Blue Agave Cactus—but don’t worry, it won’t burn your throat! With a much lower glycemic index than regular table sugar, it absorbs into your blood stream more slowly, reducing the chances of a “sugar rush.” For the best effects on your health, look for unrefined or raw varieties, typically stored in darker bottles or buy your own agave-sweetened jams, a breakfast favorite at The Oaks at Ojai.
Raw Honey: Found in most households, this sticky golden sweetener has been used for years. Not only does honey taste delicious, but it also comes with a slew of health benefits and is a time-tested treatment for the common cold. Due to its natural antioxidant and anti-microbial powers, we even use raw honey as the main ingredient in our DIY Milk and Honey Footbath. Healthy body, healthy skin!
Coconut Sugar: It’s no lie we’re nuts about coconuts (and coconut water!) here at SpaFinder, but did you know coconut sugar (derived from coconut nectar) can actually be used to enhance your favorite foods and beverages? Since it enters the bloodstream more slowly than table sugar, coconut sugar provides a more steady form of energy (i.e. less mid-afternoon slumps) with an added mineral-rich nutrient boost. Mix in to coffee, tea, baked goods or anything you’d like to add a touch of sweetness to.
Stevia: Stevia, which comes from a South American plant, is a calorie-free all natural sugar alternative. It’s a great choice for someone with blood sugar issues or who needs to watch their sugar intake, as it doesn’t affect the bloodstream. Just be cautious—just a packet is sweet enough, and it tends to have a bitter aftertaste. Be on the lookout for pure, natural varieties that aren’t disguised with dyes and added flavors. We love this healthy take on Apple Crisp, which swaps out sugar for stevia and unsweetened applesauce with added cranberries for a flavorful, antioxidant boost.
Fresh Fruits & Vegetables: There’s nothing quite like sweetening your meals with fresh fruits and vegetables straight from the earth! Apples, bananas and berries add flavor to oatmeal without added sugar or processed syrups, and unsweetened applesauce, pureed sweet potatoes and pumpkin can be substituted for sugar when baking. Play with different produce in your home to see what works for you!
Pure Maple Syrup: While certain varieties are packed with artificial ingredients and additives, Pure Maple Syrup makes for a tasty sugar alternative. Look for 100% pure, natural varieties typically stored in a darker bottle. Keep in mind that maple syrup is still high in sugar and naturally super-sweet, so just a dollop will do! Whip up these Baked Apples with Fresh Figs and Vermont Maple Syrup from Green Mountain at Fox Run in Vermont.
Are you addicted to sugar? Which of these tips could you incorporate into your lifestyle to help control your cravings?
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Rachel Chemerynski is a certified health coach and freelance writer living in Boston, Massachusetts. She is the founder of Healthy Chicks, a wellness community dedicated to inspiring twenty-something women to live happier, health