American kitchens, restaurants and grocery stores are replete with tempting desserts of all sorts. Thus, those of us who have a sweet tooth face a constant bombardment of sugary offerings. This article presents important information on how to beat-back your cravings for all things sugar from Samantha Bielawski, who is a registered dietician and personal trainer at Life Time Fitness.
(BPT) – Most of us have been there at some point. You somehow find yourself barefoot in your kitchen at midnight, eating ice cream out of the container. Alternatively, the mid-afternoon energy slump has landed you in front of the vending machine pining for a package of candy. Maybe the kids didn’t exactly have to twist your arm to make brownies last weekend. And, by the way, is that whole sleeve of cookies really gone?
How is it that, despite our most valiant efforts, a sugar craving can effortlessly throw a healthy way of life off track? And how do we combat these cravings in an effort to eat better?
Get a handle on the basics
Hydration, protein intake and movement all play an important role in sugar cravings. In fact, it’s estimated that 75 percent of Americans are chronically dehydrated. “Lack of hydration is a real problem, because our bodies are primarily water,” says Cindi Lockhart, senior program manager for Health and Nutrition at Life Time Fitness.
Adequate hydration is essential for energy, nutrient absorption and improved digestion, maintaining body temperature, detoxification, easing joint pain, optimal mental function, younger appearance and weight control. Furthermore, by the time actual feelings of thirst set in, they’re often mistaken for hunger. “Naturally, as we reach for the nearest cupcake in an inadvertent attempt to resolve physiological thirst, our ‘cravings’ will not be satiated,” says Samantha Bielawski, registered dietician and personal trainer at Life Time Fitness.
Optimizing protein intake can also help stabilize blood sugar spikes and crashes, which cause an energy level roller coaster and an endless cycle of cravings for sugar and carbohydrates throughout the day. “A lot of my clients are shocked to learn their true protein needs and are pleasantly surprised when they are liberated from the urge to eat every two to three hours,” says Bielawski.
Bielawski says movement and exercise can also impact your sweet tooth. “Not only will a walk distract you from the nearby vending machine fare, but you’ll also enjoy the non-sugar-induced-serotonin boost. Add some sun exposure – especially during the midday slump, and you’ll feel naturally invigorated.”
Ditch healthy labels
Recently, there’s been an increase in the amount of healthy labels gracing products in grocery store aisles. Even still, Bielawski says it’s important to choose wisely. “Every nutrition choice either moves you toward health or away from it. In my experience as a dietitian, most foods plastered with flashy labeling and elephant-sized font proclaiming their healthy qualities are anything but.” She says processed foods that are unrecognizable in nature are typically high in carbohydrate and grossly lacking in hunger-busting protein and fat. Processed carbohydrates like these give a temporary high, possibly fueling sugar addiction, but what goes up must come down. Healthier options include a handful of cashews, hard-boiled eggs or Greek yogurt topped with grain-free granola. “The bottom line is man-made food rarely provides nourishment. We should all try to stick with unprocessed, natural foods whenever possible,” says Bielawski.