Let’s face it – no matter what diet you’re on or how healthy you try to eat, no one wants to completely give up sweets. The good new is, you can satisfy your sweet tooth on a daily basis using a few simple methods.
Eat Natural Sugars
Many of the goodies we love are made with artificial sweeteners or refined sugar. In addition to these ingredients, commercial sweets often contain other additives, preservatives, processed carbs and high amounts of saturated and trans fats. The best way to get your sweets is by eating natural sources of sugars, primarily via whole food sources. You can add fresh, frozen or canned berries and fruits to your meals and snacks. Instead of sprinkling sugar on your cereal or combining jelly with peanut butter, try honey. One of the latest sources of natural sweeteners getting a buzz is agave syrup or nectar, which not only provides sweetness, but also has other health benefits.
Beware of Fruit Juices
Even when the label says “100% fruit juice”, you might not be buying a natural product. In fact, the main ingredient might be water, followed by apple and pear juice, no matter what fruit is pictured on the label. In addition, the juice might have added sugars, preservatives, and food colorings. Some pomegranate juices, for example, contain less than 1% pomegranate juice! In some cases, the second ingredient on a fruit juice label might be sugar. Look for “100% juice” on the label, and avoid products called “fruit drink” as opposed to “fruit juice.”
Investing in a juicer not only lets you be sure you’re getting 100 percent real fruit juice, but you can also add other healthy ingredients that are surprisingly, naturally sweet (e.g. carrots, beets, greens). Even when you drink 100 percent natural fruit juices, limit your consumption to an 8-ounce glass per meal or snack to avoid overdoing it on the sugar calories. Consider diluting fruit juices with water, which will satisfy your thirst and sweet tooth with fewer calories.
Combine Fruits and Protein
The science isn’t clear on whether or not it’s healthier to eat fruit alone or with some protein, but combining your fruit with a bit protein, especially dairy products like cheese, might help better regulate your blood sugar. At the very least, this type of food combining helps you satisfy two cravings at once and provides a more satisfying snack or dessert. Try these combinations:
- Apple slices with cheese
- Plain yogurt with fruit or berries you add (avoid sugar-laden, pre-mixed fruit yogurts)
- Cottage cheese with fruit or berries
- Dried fruits (e.g. apricots, dates, raisins, cranberries) with nuts
- High protein, whole grain cereals with fruit or berries
- Banana with peanut butter
- Low-fat ice cream with berries or fruit
- Juices you make at home with fruits and nuts
High-sugar fruits include grapes, mangoes, bananas, figs, pomegranates, lychee, guava, kumquat, cherries, persimmon and dried fruits. Low-sugar fruit choices include apples, pears, berries, melons, grapefruit, peaches, oranges, tangerines and pineapples. These lower-sugar fruits still contain fructose and taste sweet, satisfying your craving.
While they might not satisfy your sweet tooth or craving for dessert, many vegetables have natural sucrose in them to help you regulate your blood sugar levels throughout the day. Think about what a raw onion tastes like, then think about the taste after you caramelize onions in your sauté pan. Ever eat a raw bell pepper slice from a veggie tray? Compare it to the taste of a stuffed pepper right out of the oven. Ever have carrot cake? It was popularized by British housewives during World War II when sugar was rationed and scarce. Don’t overdo it with high-glycemic vegetables, but consider adding some to your meals if you’ve done a good job eliminating processed and artificial sugars from the rest of your diet. Try the following veggies in your juicing or with your meals:
- Bell peppers
- White and sweet potatoes
These are obvious vegetables to avoid if you’re trying to reduce the amount of sugar in your diet. Additionally, many products contain corn, either in the form of high fructose corn syrup, as a filler, or as grain fed to livestock. It’s been estimated that approximately 75 percent of the processed foods you see in your supermarket contain some form of corn! Keep an eye on how much corn is in your diet by carefully reading nutrition labels.