Chocolate, sugary goodness and caramel cream divinity – who doesn’t love the sweet flavors this time of year brings? If more than just visions of sugar plum fairies are dancing in your head, then you might be a little overwhelmed with all the sweets you’re faced with this time of year, or the sugar cravings associated with it.
Sugar cravings are a complex issue. They’re almost impossible to overcome unless you take action against them. While a sweet treat every now and then won’t hurt you, your brain is hardwired to be addicted to sugar, just like it is a drug. It makes you want more and more until suddenly, no amount is enough. The after effects leave you sick and not feeling so well, but then ultimately, making you crave sugar over and over again. Since sugar intake has been so highly linked to diabetes and weight problems, along with mood disorders and even acne (yikes!), then lowering your intake of added sugars or eliminating them altogether is one of the best things you can do for your health, even during the holidays where cookies and cakes abound in appearance and allure.
Your Best Weapon Against Sugar Cravings
The best way to fight back against your cravings is to literally eat against them. So, how exactly do you do that? You eat naturally sweet foods that happen to also be good for you that also happen to squash those cravings at the same time. Nature gave us unique foods that are naturally sweet, so let’s eat more of these instead of the processed sugary cakes, pies, and cookies, that ultimately just make us feel worse all the way around in the long run!
Carrots are like nature’s healthy candy! If you’re not a fan of raw baby carrots for snacking, blend cooked carrots into a soup, or even try roasting a huge batch of sliced carrots to keep in the fridge. Carrots caramelize once cooked and their sugary tastes increases without causing adverse health affects like typical baked sweets. Season however you like and enjoy for a snack or part of a meal. You can even make mini dessert cakes with carrots, or add them to oatmeal for a dessert-like breakfast and sneak in some veggies at the same time!
2. Sweet Potatoes
Though they’re rich in natural sugars, sweet potatoes are actually helpful at lowering the glycemic index. They’re also rich in fibers that reduce your hunger and cravings, along with nutrients that fight stress-related cravings such as Vitamin C, potassium, Vitamin B6, and magnesium. All of these will help regulate your electrolytes, lower stress, and generally make you feel more satisfied and content.
Try roasting sweet potato strips into fries or even enjoy plain baked sweet potatoes with some fun toppings. Sweet potatoes can be used in baking cookies or pies in place of sugars or in smoothies in place of sugary bananas.
Berries are some of the best lower glycemic fruits to eat because they offer up so many antioxidants. They’re also rich in fiber, Vitamin C, and potassium to nourish you further. Those lowest in sugars include blackberries, raspberries, and cranberries, but strawberries and blueberries are also both great choices. If you get the chance, go for acai berry puree that you can find in the freezer aisle at your health food store. Unsweetened acai berry puree is full of antioxidants, has no sugar and is rich in omega 3 fats, potassium, and Vitamin C. Always buy fresh or frozen berries instead of dried for a lower sugar content.
Aside from berries, apples are another great food to curb your sweet tooth. Opt for Granny Smith varieties when you can since they’re lower in sugar than red varieties. Granny Smith apples also have higher levels of malic acid than other varieties do, which has been linked to fighting free radicals linked to cancer and detoxifying the GI tract. All apples are a good source of fiber known pectin, which fights high cholesterol and keeps you full longer than other types of fibers may. Apples are also a great food to nosh on when you’re stressed and craving something sweet. Their juicy appeal is addicting, and they’ll keep you from reaching for the cookies or candies. Keep them out on your counter so their beautiful color won’t be forgotten!
Speaking of almonds, they’re a great nut variety to eat when you’re stressed. Almonds are rich in natural proteins and healthy fats, not to mention they also have more fiber than other nuts. All of these factors help your body crave less sugar. Amino acids specifically, such as those found in almonds and other nuts and seeds, both help to eliminate imbalances in the body that may cause you to crave more sweets. Eat 18-20 almonds per serving, for only about 200 calories, 7 grams of protein, 6 grams of fiber, and only 2 grams of natural sugars. Go for raw and natural almonds when possible since roasted and salted varieties may increase cravings. If you need some flavor, add some cinnamon to them in a baggie, shake, and enjoy for a naturally sweet treat! Or, use them to make some of our tasty almond recipes.
Oats are good for just about everything; there is truly almost nothing this grain can’t do! Not only are oats naturally sweet but they are also packed with protein and fiber per serving. Oatmeal can be enjoyed for breakfast of course (try our pumpkin pie oats), but you can also add oats to a smoothie to make it more filling and add natural protein. Or, you can bake with oatmeal in place of flour, which is much more friendly to your glycemic index. You can also cook with oats at lunch or dinner in place of higher glycemic grains such as white, or even brown rice.
Oats also get a major plus for being one of the best foods for fighting stress and lowering your overall anxiety. Their high magnesium, Vitamin B6, and potassium content can be a true weapon against stress-related weight gain.
7. Leafy Greens
While they’re certainly not naturally sweet, leafy greens are powerful at fighting back against nasty sugar cravings. They help bring balance to the body, which is crucial during times of cravings where the body has become imbalanced. Leafy greens are also high in chromium, a nutrient that’s necessary for healthy blood sugar regulation. Add 3-5 cups of leafy greens such as spinach, romaine, and kale if you’re new to eating so many greens, but also don’t leave out the more bitter collards, Swiss chard, arugula, and even mustard or turnip greens if you’re up to trying them! Here are 35 way different ways to enjoy them if you’re looking for something new.
Chickpeas are such an incredible legume! Rich in fiber, protein, and lower in starches than other legumes, they’re one of the best to give you energy while also fight back against cravings due to their abundance of magnesium, Vitamin B6, and amino acids. They even have a natural sweetness to them that will satisfy your sweet tooth without you having to eat sugar. Add 1/3 -1/2 cup to a salad for lunch, eat them in stew, use them to make savory pancakes, or even make a sandwich with chickpea salad. Or, spice up the flavor and enjoy them in ethnic dishes of all kinds.
9. Chestnuts[caption id="attachment_148112" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Randl Hausken/Flickr[/caption]
Chestnuts are a unique nut. They’re actually more like a legume than an actual nut, with no fat but high amounts of fiber for digestion and satiety, natural sugars that promote energy, and a large amount of Vitamin C. Chestnuts have a sweet, fleshy flavor almost like chickpeas do and are easy to find during the winter months. Enjoy them straight out of the bag or from the shell as a snack, or use them as a salad or soup topper. You can also pan roast your veggies with them to add natural sweetness and more fiber. Buy those that are plain and not coated with sugary spices. Organic, natural brands are usually safe, and are usually found in the bean/legume aisle at the health food store.
Coconut is another wonder food to acredit to curbing cravings naturally. Coconut is nearly sugar-free by nature, though it has a natural sweetness to it. Coconut shreds, meat, or even coconut flour can all be used to conquer sugar cravings. In fact, coconut flour is a true superfood that can be added to everything from oatmeal to smoothies. It’s rich in protein, fiber, and is a great source of fiber. Coconut shreds and fresh coconut meat can also be used to satisfy your cravings for sweet foods. Try coconut in granola bars, raw treat bites, or in any recipe of your choosing.
Remember that whole foods are your best weapon against sugar and junk food cravings. Always reach for them whenever possible and you won’t believe how your taste buds thank you!
What foods help you conquer your sugar cravings?
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