A lot of us have them. We may be hungry or we may have a full stomach when that urge to have "just a little something sweet" hits. If we aren't prepared for the inevitable sugar cravings, that little something sweet may turn into a big piece of pie, a big bowl of ice cream or a couple of candy bars.
What Causes Sugar Cravings?
Sugar cravings may be a habit, a kind of comfort food, or a very pleasant way to end a meal. Sugar cravings may also be due to low serotonin levels and depression. We may crave the taste of sweets or we may crave the effect of sugar on our brain.
Why Sugar is a Problem
Sugar has calories, no nutritional value and when it is used in treats and desserts the calories can add up fast. Many sweet desserts and candies contain unhealthy amounts of saturated and trans fats too. The extra calories mean extra weight gain and obesity. As our sugar consumption has gone up in North America and elsewhere, so has our rate of obesity.
Is Some Sugar OK?
Sure. Mypyramid.gov allows us to have a few discretionary calories each day. However, if you are overweight or obese, you might wish to decrease your total calorie consumption.
As long as you are at a healthy weight, enjoying an occasional high calorie sweet treat won't hurt you, but it shouldn't become a daily habit. You can use my BMI calculator to see if you are over weight and my Nutrition Guide to see how many calories you need each day.
Healthier Ideas for Sugar Cravings
* Get some exercise. You may feel better if you go for a walk or get some other type of exercise. Exercise will stimulate brain chemicals that will improve your mood.
* Sugar cravings may lessen if you decrease the number of calories you eat each day, so if you are eating too many calories, cut back.
* Don't keep high calorie sweets in the house.
* Don't skip meals, which can make cravings worse.
* Keep your meals simple. The more side dishes and flavors you include in your meals, the more likely you are to overeat. When your brain is faced with several flavors, it takes longer to reach satiety, which means you will eat too much before you satisfy your cravings.
* Choose healthy side dishes with a sweet taste. Perhaps if you satisfy your taste buds' need for sweet flavor during your meal, you won't fall for a big dessert afterward. Fruits and some vegetables are naturally sweet and offer vitamins, mineral and other important phytochemicals. Dressing up your carrots with a little honey glaze may keep the sugar cravings at bay later.
Last of all, you can go ahead and have a little dessert or a sweet treat, but choose wisely. Choose low-fat desserts that use fruit as the main ingredient. The sweetener should only be added as a condiment, or as a minor ingredient.
For example, my favorite dessert is strawberries and blueberries. These berries have lots of vitamin C, healthy antioxidants and fiber that helps to fill me up. I add a little bit of "lite" whipped topping for a creamy texture and a sprinkling of walnuts or almonds for crunch. This berry dessert satisfies my sweet tooth without sabotaging my diet and has a lot of nutritional power. If I am feeling extra decadent, I might add a teaspoon of Hersey's Sugar Free Chocolate Chunks for just a few extra calories.
If you crave sweets and you need to cut calories, there are diet foods and beverages that are sweetened with artificial sweeteners. The most common artificial sweeteners include aspartame and sucralose. Some people seem to be sensitive to these sweeteners and feel ill when they use them, however, most people don't have these problems and the use of artificial sweeteners is another option to tame your sweet tooth without added calories.
Shereen has been the About.com Guide to Nutrition since 2004.
During her practice as a nutritionist and as a chiropractic physician for 16 years, Shereen saw how eating healthy foods (or not-so-healthy foods) impacted her patients' well-being every day. She decided that she wanted to reach a larger audience so she left practice to become a health and nutrition writer as well as the nutrition guide for About.com. Shereen is a member of the American Dietetic Association.
Shereen has a master's degree in human nutrition from the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut and she was previously certified as a Certified Nutrition Specialist. She also has a doctor of chiropractic degree from Northwestern College of Chiropractic in Bloomington, Minnesota.
From Shereen Jegtvig:
Thanks for stopping by About.com Nutrition. There is a lot of nutrition information available with just the click of your mouse. Allow me to keep you updated with the best information on foods, dietary supplements and other nutrition issues.
Comment by Ray Gollis:
Another great post by Shreeren. I believe that if you include exercise in your regimen you will burn some of those excess calories off of your stomack. Do stomach crunchs, waist twisting with a broom and twist that stomach. A great exercise to include is shadow boxing. Pretend you are fighting for you life and do 3 3 minutes rounds, between each round take a 3-5 minute break and start over to you finish the 3 rounds. This should get your heart rate up. You know the old saying, No pain, No gain. So you have to exert yourself to fatigue and take a break. I have went to alot of gyms and most people are sitting doing 1 bench press and talking for the rest of the hour. This is called wasting time. Life unfolds a great sheet called time and once finished it is over. So you should workout and then talk after you get done working out. This is what you should do to accomplish your goals. So there always is a right and wrong way to go about exercising and dieting and this is one of them. Another thing I see is people that think they know what a diet is. Somebody eats 7-10 slices of vegatarian pizza and say they are dieting. Well that folks is ludicrous. You should limit your intake of pizza to 2-3 slices of pizza and try to include a salad with it that is not loaded with eggs, turkey, bacon and all the other bad ingredents. Just a plain tossed salad with low fat salad dressing.