Defeat your sugar cravings this Christmas & holiday season
Fall through winter, our sugar cravings explode. Long nights and that natural tendency towards putting on fat to last the winter in a cave are partially to blame. But what can you do to fight that urge to binge on Halloween candy, Thanksgiving pies, and Christmas chocolates?
Sugar is a drug that makes you feel good. It’s the same high that you get after running – releasing endorphins. It’s everywhere – in ketchup and yellow mustard, sandwich bread, even salad dressing. When you eat too much sugar (especially simple carbs), your pancreas immediately makes more insulin to regulate blood sugar levels, signaling your body to store that sugar. With all the sugar put away, your body thinks it needs to replace the lost sugar and you are triggered into feeling hungry more quickly.
The problem is that we are eating more than twice as much as we should. Added sugar abounds in processed and pre-prepared food, not just candy. It leads to Type 2 obesity, that spare tire we fight to deflate, as well as heart disease.
Simply reducing or cutting out simple sugars, you’ll crave them less. This could take up to a week to kick, so don’t give up on the first day! And be careful of no-fat foods that have replaced flavor with sugars. Use healthy fats, proteins, and complex carbs to make you feel full, not sugars.
Eat fruit, vegetables, whole grains, milk products, and nuts. You will slow the absorption of sugars and feel fuller longer. Aside from helping reduce your intake, complex carbs offer important vitamins and minerals that don’t exist in simple sugars. Whole wheat pasta gives you a whole new flavor punch and sweet potatoes, well … they are sweeter than potatoes but have less sugar. Go figure.
Ok, so you can’t go cold turkey on sugar – and who would want to? We must indulge a little to avoid over-indulging if that makes sense.
Dark chocolate (70-85% cocoa) is a great source of magnesium, iron, zinc, and many other minerals and lighter on added sugar and fat. More powerful than ginger and acai berries as an anti-inflammatory, it’s chock-full of flavonoids (antioxidants). Melt a square or two of the good dark-stuff and make a chocolate fruit fondue. Quell those cravings!
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Did you know that cinnamon can reduce your appetite by helping to reduce the sugar spikes after meals? Or that turmeric helps block carb absorption? And Gymnema Sylvestre is the Ayurvedic herb which helps curb cravings AND reduces sugar absorption. Who knew?
Believe it or not, artificial sweeteners may make our bodies react like sugars. Research is still ongoing for long-term effects but various sweeteners already have been linked to cancer (saccharin) and scientists believe they can stimulate hunger and confuse our palates. And if you’re using them to eat less but allowing yourself to get hungry, you’ll end up making bad fast-fix choices.
Stuck on soda? Go diet. Even better, add a twist of lemon or some cucumber with mint to sparkling mineral water for a flavored drink! If you must have juice, try cutting it with water and always choose ‘no sugar added’.
While holiday socializing, you can make better choices. A small glass of red or white wine or a 12oz. serving of light beer will be your best bet. But beware, alcohol will stimulate your appetite and slow down your fat burning metabolism. Avoid mixed drinks, especially those loaded with syrups, juices, sodas, and liquors. Remember, the higher the proof, the more the calories!
Coffee. If you can’t stand it black, or with just milk, try unsweetened green tea. Its health benefits are well-known. Either way, try cutting sugar out of your morning drink for a few days. You may come to like it.
Whether you’re headed to a dinner party or just to the supermarket, don’t go in hungry. You’ll have a hard time not making bad choices, overeating, and regretting it later. Instead, have a little healthy snack before, like a boiled egg or some cheese with apples. It will be easier to resist the urge to splurge.
It’s easy to confuse fatigue or thirst with hunger. When we are tired, we are lacking energy. Naturally, our body will reach for a source of energy. So before going for sweets, try a glass of water or even a nap!
All the effort of brushing your teeth and feeling a clean minty feeling will help you avoid going for more sweets. Think of your toothbrush as a psychological weapon against too much snacking.
As we all battle out this sweet-tooth season, remember that the less sugar you take in, the less you’ll want!