by Melanie J. Stewart
Sugar is everywhere. We love it, we crave it and we know it’s not good for us. But what alternatives are there, and how do we curb our cravings?
According to the American Heart Association, the average American consumes 22.2 teaspoons of added sugar on a daily basis, which is more than twice the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s daily recommendation of 5 to 9 teaspoons. Increasing almost annually since 1982, our rate of consumption comes primarily from the added sugars in popular soft drinks and processed junk food.
We all know the obvious offenders, like soda—12 ounces contains 8 teaspoons of sugar—and candy, cakes, cookies and pies. According to The New York Times bestseller, JJ Virgin’s Sugar Impact Diet, however, some of the most damaging sugars we eat every day are hidden in foods we don’t even suspect: skim milk, diet soda and other diet foods, whole-grain bread and dressings.
High impact versus low impact sugars
High impact sugar foods cause energy crashes, inflammation and weight gain, which increase our risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer and other diseases. They may even impair our ability to think clearly. Examples of high impact sugar foods are instant oatmeal, pasta, cakes, pies, crackers, macaroni and cheese and honey-roasted peanuts.
Low impact sugar foods, on the other hand, fuel our bodies for prolonged energy and promote fat burning. Green beans, hummus, sunflower seeds and most nuts are examples of these. By swapping high sugar impact foods for low sugar impact foods, we can transform our bodies and our health. Benefits include losing bloat, burning fat instead of sugar, increasing metabolism, cutting cravings and losing weight.
Natural sugar substitutes
Fortunately, today we can satisfy our sweet tooth with organic, natural sweeteners. While they are always preferable to refined, white sugar, even these should be used in moderation. Natural sweeteners such as those listed below may be used in any recipe including bread, desserts and sauces. They may also be added to beverages, cereals and homemade granola.
Substitutions should be made according to the following equivalencies to one cup of white sugar:
Brown rice syrup: 1-11/3 cup
Coconut sugar: 1 cup
Erythritol: 1-1¼ cup
Honey: ½– 2/3 cup
Maple sugar: ½ – 1/3 cup
Maple syrup: ½ – 3/4 cup
Stevia: check manufacturer’s recommendation
Reduction of sugar cravings
Fighting sugar cravings is not easy. By following some of the tips below, we can develop our own personal systems for conquering them.
- Eat fiber-rich foods and protein at regular intervals of no more than three to five hours to keep blood sugar stable and avoid binging. Break meals into two parts, saving the second part for a later snack.
- Stock up on nutritious foods like nuts, seeds and dried fruit to have ready when cravings kick in.
- Combine sweet with healthy. Mix chocolate chips with almonds, for example.
- Avoid artificial sweeteners, which don’t reduce cravings but do contribute to obesity.
- Use spices such as cinnamon and ginger and extracts such as almond and vanilla to add sweetness to food.
- Indulge in a small, but satisfying, amount of a truly decadent sweet—no more than 150 calories—for an occasional break from regimen.
- Chew gum.
- When cravings hit, get out of the kitchen. Take a walk or a shower. Call or text a friend.
- Consult a health and lifestyle coach or a psychologist.
Change doesn’t happen overnight, but small changes at first lead to bigger ones in the future. If we’re not too hard on ourselves, over time we can conquer our sugar demons and lead healthier lives.
Melanie J. Stewart, founder of Healthy Balance with Melanie, is an established health and lifestyle coach who offers personalized coaching programs, corporate wellness workshops, weekend retreats and webinars throughout the Delaware Valley. Connect with her at 610-291-0972 or HealthyBalanceWithMelanie.com. March 2015.