With Halloween quickly approaching and the holiday season just around the corner, there’s no doubt that it’s one of the sweetest times of the entire year—literally. Whether you’re trying to drop a few extra pounds or just improve your overall health, curbing sugar cravings during the holidays and dodging the temptation of pumpkin pies, Halloween candies and Christmas cookies can be a major challenge.
Loading up on sugar can have detrimental effects on health that extend way beyond your waistline. In fact, studies show that excess sugar intake can take a toll on heart health, liver function and blood sugar levels, and it may even be associated with a higher risk of cancer, as well.
Fortunately, there are plenty of simple strategies that can help sidestep sugar cravings and satisfy your sweet tooth without hindering your health goals. Here are a few easy ways to get started on your path to better health and fewer cravings.
Swap the sweets for fresh fruit
Fruit contains natural sugars that can help cut cravings, plus it’s high in fiber to slow the absorption of sugar in the bloodstream. And unlike the refined sugars found in candies and sweets, fruit also supplies an array of important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that can help promote better health in the long-run.
Skip the artificial sweeteners
While trading the straight sugar for artificial sweeteners may seem like a simple solution to cut calories and trim your waistline, some research suggests that going overboard on the artificial sweeteners may actually increase sugar cravings and contribute to weight gain. Therefore, it’s best to steer clear of low-calorie diet products made with ingredients like aspartame, sucralose and saccharin.
Increase your protein intake
Protein-rich foods like meat, eggs, poultry and legumes can help promote satiety and keep you feeling full to curb cravings. In fact, studies show that a high-protein diet can reduce levels of ghrelin, the hormone responsible for stimulating hunger, and even slow the emptying of the stomach to fight off hunger.
Drink more water
Staying well-hydrated is one of the keys to cutting sugar cravings and controlling hunger. Interestingly enough, some research shows that drinking water before meals can give your metabolism a temporary boost and increase satiety to decrease the amount of calories you eat. Opt for unsweetened healthy beverages like water or green tea to stay hydrated and keep cravings at bay without adding extra sugar to your diet.
Switch to stevia
Stevia is a no-calorie natural sweetener that is extracted from the leaf of the stevia plant that can provide a hearty dose of sweetness to your favorite foods, without packing on the extra calories or increasing the risk of adverse health effects. Go for green leaf stevia, which is the least processed and highest quality form of stevia on the market, and use it to naturally sweeten up drinks, smoothies and desserts.
Pack in more probiotics
Your gut microbiome is made up of trillions of bacterial cells that control just about every aspect of health, from immune function to heart health and beyond. Emerging evidence from some animal studies also shows that taking probiotics to support the beneficial bacteria in your gut could help stabilize blood sugar levels and reduce appetite to minimize sugar cravings throughout the day. For best results, try taking a probiotic supplement or enjoying a few servings per week of fermented foods like kombucha, miso, tempeh or natto.
Fill up on fiber
Fiber is an indigestible nutrient found in many plant foods that moves through the digestive tract slowly, keeping you feeling fuller for longer. Not only can it help slash cravings by promoting satiety, but it also can slow the absorption of sugar in the body to prevent spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels and reduce hunger and appetite.
Practice mindful eating
Mindful eating is a practice that involves bringing your full attention to the present moment and focusing on the way that your food looks, smells and tastes to really enjoy your meals. What’s more, practicing mindful eating also can help make you more aware of the difference between physical hunger and psychological hunger to prevent emotional eating and kick cravings to the curb.
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