How’s your diet? Think you’re doing a pretty good job, but wondering how to cut back a little on sweets? In considering things to cut down on, sugar is definitely an important one if you’re consuming a typical American diet. While it’s OK to have some, this is part of the diet that doesn’t do us much good and can be harmful in excess. Here are a few useful tips:
Check the food label
I was very in favor of the recent change to the food label to include added sugar. I check this on any sweets I buy. You might be surprised to find how many “healthy” foods include a ton of added sugar. I was recently admiring some sweet snacks that seemed to have a lot of wholesome ingredients, when I discovered that there was a lot of clever marketing involved to conceal the added sugar.
Choose desserts without added sugar that satisfy
My recent blog post gives some ideas for desserts with little to no sugar, many of which already come prepared for you to eat. I talk about options like dark chocolate and various types of fruit. If you want even more suggestions regarding chocolate, I give some specific ideas here. I also recently published another blog post with ideas for quick and easy desserts.
One of the reasons these options satisfy is that some are quite sweet. Dried fruit combined with other ingredients such as cacao or ice cream made with simple ingredients such as banana and almond milk give you that sweetness you may be craving.
Another reason these dessert ideas satisfy is because many contain fiber. Some of my suggestions contain nuts and whole grains, for example. Fiber provides a feeling of fullness and won’t create a sharp spike in blood sugar that candy or soda might. This has benefits in terms of preventing overeating and also contributes to your intake of complex carbohydrates, which are good for health in numerous ways. In addition to some of the naturally sweeter suggestions I have provided in previous posts, I sometimes also eat cranberry walnut bread with a little bit of butter as a “dessert.” It’s not very sweet, but I do find that it satisfies my desire to eat something just slightly sweet, while also contributing fiber, healthy fat and micronutrients to my diet.
The vast majority of my dessert suggestions also contain heart-healthy fat, which adds a nice mouth feel and further helps us to stay satisfied. Dark chocolate is one example. Fat also helps with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins found in many of the desserts I suggest. If you are wondering how much fat you should be getting in your diet, this blog post on counting macros for beginners will help you understand that.
It’s also important to remember that what you should eat should be pleasurable. This is one of the principles of intuitive eating; you should give yourself permission to eat what you want, when you want. Keep this in mind as you are making your decisions as well. If you want to know more about intuitive eating, this post with an in-depth look at intuitive eating has you covered.
Choose your snacks wisely
You might want something sweet in between meals, but if you choose something like a granola bar or a store-bought piece of banana bread, you might be getting tons of added sugar without knowing it. Even bars that appear to be composed of fruit and nuts may have lots of sugar on top of that already present in the fruit. If you want something sweet between meals, trail mix is a great option. The one I recommend in this blog post doesn’t have any added sugar. If you want to try other brands of trail mix, I also give detailed suggestions as to how to select in that same post.
Don’t drink your calories
This is something that stuck with me since I attended graduate school in nutrition. There is a lot of evidence that links drinks with added sugar to weight gain and many chronic diseases when consumed regularly. See if you can get used to other unsweetened options. Lately, I have really been enjoying Japanese-style barley tea, which is very tasty and refreshing.
Another way you might be drinking your calories is in the form of coffee drinks. Some of these, such as the Frappuccino available at Starbucks, contain a ridiculous number of calories, mainly due to all of the added sugar. There are lots of ways to enjoy your coffee without all of this sugar. One idea is to order an iced latte without any syrup added, and then add a ½ packet of stevia. Another idea would be to choose your coffee creamer wisely to be sure it doesn’t contain a lot of sugar or artificial ingredients. I provide lots of ideas on those in this blog post.
Beware of seemingly innocent foods
You might be tempted to indulge in desserts that seem to be somewhat healthy, such as pineapple ice cream. How bad could it be, right? It has fruit! The ingredients in some products may surprise you–one version of pineapple ice cream contains sugar as the first ingredient, artificial flavor, and does not actually have any pineapple. A better choice? Blend your own with real pineapple, banana, almond milk and ice.
Another such deceiving food is a mac nut smoothie I nearly ordered at a beachfront restaurant the other day. I thought to myself, “how I love macadamia nuts; sounds delicious!” Upon further inquiry, however, I found out that rather than actual nuts, the smoothie contained a macadamia nut syrup, for a hefty dose of sugar and none of the wonderful nutrients of the macadamia nut. I decided to hold off on that order!
Prepare your own baked goods
Store-bought cookies and pastries are often loaded with sugar. I often prepare my own and use a small amount of sugar. In this blog post, I mentioned oatmeal raisin cookies, which I prepare with organic raisins. The raisins add sweetness naturally, so there is less of a need to add a lot of sugar on top of this. If you’re looking for a recipe with little added sugar, this is a great one. I love the fact that part of the sweetness comes from banana–this way, you’re adding fiber and micronutrients to your dessert.
As a general rule, if you are looking to cut down on sugar, examine your dessert foods carefully! I often find that I am even more satisfied with a slightly sweet dessert as I am with one that is loaded with sugar, and don’t come away with a stomach ache!
Lastly, if you’d like more motivation to reduce your added sugar intake, check out my blog post where I explain exactly why it’s so important for your health to go easy on added sugar.
Have questions? Comments? I would love to hear what you think below!