Here’s the scene: It’s 8:29 p.m. on a Tuesday. You’re on the sofa after a long day, watching the latest episode of your favorite series. At 8:31, it hits—the irresistible urge to devour a pint of ice cream, several cookies or Halloween candy from who knows which year. Whatever it is, it must contain sugar, and you must have it, like, now.
It’s perfectly fine to give into your sweet tooth every now and then. But if calorie-dense, sugar-laden treats have become an indispensable part of your daily routine, you might find those cravings are sabotaging your health and fitness goals. Here are five easy tips to satisfy your sweet tooth and keep those pesky hankerings at bay.
- Eat fresh fruit first.
Before reaching into the depths of your kitchen for something sweet, grab a piece of fresh fruit, which contains plenty of natural sugar. Though sugar is chemically the same no matter where it shows up—whether in fruit or a can of soda—the difference is that fruit is full of vitamins, minerals and fiber that are decidedly absent in junk food. Eating fruit also offers a more fulfilling sensory experience—the crunch of apple slices, for example, or the bright zing of fresh berries—that can increase your feeling of satiety.
- Hack your favorite dessert.
Chances are, several of your favorite desserts can be made into much healthier versions. Have a soft spot for ice cream? Mash a frozen banana in a bowl, and voilá—you’ve got a creamy, frozen treat that’s low in calories and fat and high in potassium and fiber. Or freeze a few spoonfuls of high-protein Greek yogurt and add the toppings of your choice, from almond butter to cocoa powder to shredded coconut. Want an indulgence every now and then? Add a couple squares of satisfying dark chocolate, which also contains antioxidants.
- Chew on fruit snacks.
Many conventional fruit snacks masquerade as healthy, but don’t be fooled—they’re basically just candy. If you like that chewy sensation when you want something sweet, try a fruit snack made from organic, whole food, with no gelatins, syrups or sugar added. You’ll get the sweet taste of real fruit plus a range of vitamins and minerals.
- Count the sugar you’ve already had.
Sometimes, it’s easy to convince yourself that you haven’t had sugar all day, so really, you deserve it. But sugar finds its way into many foods we consume, from sliced bread to pasta sauce to salad dressing. Remember that even though sugar can be incorporated into an overall healthy diet, it’s not a nutritional necessity—and chances are, you’re consuming a sufficient amount in your normal, everyday diet.
- Start your day off right.
High-glycemic foods can trigger a craving for sugar, so set yourself up throughout the day to make good choices. Avoid white toast, muffins, pastries, sugary juice and white potatoes, for example, which might make it more difficult to resist cravings later on.
With a little planning, preparation and creativity, you can halt the urge to consume sugar-laden treats—and in the process, make choices that support your long-term goals.