10 Simple things you can do to conquer your drive for sweets

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Craving sweets? They can undo the best of intentions. Here are ten simple things you can do, that might help you conquer your drive for sweets.

1. Prioritize sleep. Ever noticed how your brain just seems to be running super slow when you’re running short on sleep?  The brain does a lot of its cleanup work during sleep. When we deprive ourselves of that time, we wake up rusty and sluggish.  It’s going to have to work harder in that condition, and as the brain’s primary source of energy is glucose, the less we sleep, the more carbohydrates we’re going to crave.

2. Watch the caffeine. When we are running low on sleep, we turn to caffeine to stay revved up. Caffeine promotes blood sugar (and energy) fluctuations, and a morning cup of coffee tends to drop out of the system mid-afternoon – just when we’re most vulnerable to sweet cravings! Over the long term, caffeine is associated with insulin resistance, another common cause for a sweet tooth. One 16-oz. cup of coffee in the morning is not really a problem. But if you get uncomfortable without a coffee cup or soda can in your hand, or have ever wished you could earn frequent flyer miles at Starbucks, maybe you should consider cutting back!

3. Eat breakfast. If you’re not sleeping well, you’re likely to dash out the door before you’ve eaten anything substantial – barely getting yourself to work in time, right? While it’s going to take some work to tackle the first three suggestions, sleeping better, cutting caffeine, and eating breakfast, your efforts will be completely worthwhile. It also helps to stop defining breakfast as something prepared in your kitchen that you have to eat while sitting at your table, reading the paper. Maybe it’s a breakfast bar in the car, peanut butter crackers at your desk, or a healthy breakfast burrito. As long as you eat before 10 am, consider it breakfast and make it a habit.

4. Prioritize protein. Some of the protein we eat is broken down and converted to glucose. A meal including carbohydrates as well as protein will give you a quick energy boost, and the protein-based glucose will kick into your system a few hours later. The result will be fewer plunges in your blood sugar and fewer cravings – not to mention a better ability to sit between meals without the sensations that can send you sugar-hunting. Some great, quick and easy proteins include milk, yogurt, string cheese, hummous, and peanut butter. Keep them handy and get used to carrying them in your bag for times when you’re out, stuck, and tempted by vending machines.

5. Become fiber-friendly. One of the great benefits of fiber is that it’s filling. It also helps slow down the rate at which carbohydrates are digested and absorbed so that you don’t burn through them all at once.  Most of us think of “crunchy” fibers such as whole grains, but don’t forget the “soft” or soluble fibers. They’re equally as helpful! They include barley, apples and applesauce, bananas, pears, beans, hummous, oatmeal, and lentils. A can of barley, bean or lentil soup, high protein instant oatmeal, can make excellent meal choices (and even snacks) to help your body better regulate its carbohydrate use.

6. Stay away from starvation. I never cease to be amazed at the people who come to me for nutrition help and complain about cravings…and then when they describe what they’ve eaten, it’s been about ¼ of what they needed to properly run their bodies.  If you’re severely restricting your intake, maybe what you’re experiencing is a sweet tooth…but simple hunger! Feed your body, to satiety, so it doesn’t have to get your attention with cravings for quick and easy refueling.

7. Avoid pitfalls! If there are foods you can’t say no to, don’t bring them home!  Don’t set yourself up to fail. If you are in the habit of stopping into an ice cream store on the way home from errands, change your driving route. The less you trigger yourself with reminders of sweets, the less often you’ll indulge.

8. Pump up the produce. Surround yourself with healthy options. Keep your refrigerator stocked with fruits and vegetables. Buy attractive vegetable trays with celery already cut up and ready to eat, and fruit cups containing colorful melons, pineapple, and kiwi.  Be sure you store them at eye level in your refrigerator to remind you that they are right there when you start foraging for snacks during that TV commercial break.

9. Boost Omega 3’s. The types of fats you eat also influence the types of food you crave.  If you’re not getting enough omega-3 fatty acids in your diet, you’ll have cravings for sweets. In addition to fish, include flaxseed, omega-3 eggs, edamame, pumpkin seeds, and nuts in your diet on a regular basis.

10. Reduce Omega 6’s. Those omega-3’s will be more effective if you simultaneously reduce the use of foods that contain omega-6 fatty acids. They’re easy to remember; they mostly begin with the letters “s” and “c”:  soybean, safflower, sunflower, sesame, corn, cottonseed. You’ll be surprised when you start reading labels just how many chips, salad dressings, and baked goods contain these oils.  Look for items such as popcorn flavored with olive oil and salad dressing made wih canola oil as substitutes. There are new options appearing on grocery shelves every single day!

Cravings for sweets tell you something in your life is out of balance. It isn’t necessarily about deprivation. When you focus on restoring the balance, you might even find an aversion to the foods you thought you couldn’t live without.

Contributor Info:
Monika M. Woolsey, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian and exercise physiologist, and founder of inCYST, a network of professionals dedicated to helping women design natural solutions to problems such as infertility. Her Fertility Friendly Food Tours (SM) are currently available in Whole Foods Stores in Arizona and Southern California. For more information, visit www.incyst.blogspot.com

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