Are sugary snacks a monkey on your back? Snacking on sweets is an easy habit to fall into and a worthwhile one to break. Decreasing your sugar consumption makes it easier to reach and maintain a healthy weight and lowers your risk for Type 2 diabetes and heart disease, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Adopting a few tried-and-true nutritional strategies may help you shake the sugar monkey.
The Stevia Solution
Satisfy sweet cravings with stevia, a natural sweetener derived from the leaves of the stevia plant. Stevia is calorie-free and 300 times sweeter than sugar. It comes in a powdered form that can be used in equal measure to sugar in recipes or beverages or as a concentrated liquid in dropper bottles. For a quick and healthy chocolate snack without the unwanted calories and blood sugar impact of regular sugar, blend unsweetened cocoa powder into plain yogurt and add stevia to taste.
Upgrade the nutritional value of your unhealthy sweet snacks with flavorful veggies such as red bell peppers, carrots, celery and jicama sticks. Their vibrant colors and fresh, crunchy texture offer a pleasing diversion for your senses that will help you break the sugar craving, notes the College of the Canyons. Pair them with your favorite tangy, low-sugar dressing. Raw veggies take longer to eat than that gone-in-a-flash cookie or candy bar, and because they are low in calories and high in fiber you can eat more of them. Keep a supply handy to munch on in the car or while you work or study.
Spice It Up
Sweet and bold flavors of certain spices can make it easier to forego the ever-present break-room boxed goods and convenience foods. These poor choices often trade true and varied ingredients for imitation flavors and less costly, highly concentrated sugars. Add a half-teaspoon of cinnamon to a bowl of unsweetened cold cereal to help lower blood sugar levels and decrease your sweet cravings. Shifting toward natural spices and flavorings trains your palate to be more discerning, and you may find yourself gravitating toward healthier options when faced with an array of choices at the grocery store or your next company or family get together. If you are trying to lose weight, add a pinch or two of powdered ginger or cinnamon or a splash of vanilla extract to your coffee or tea. You might find that you don't need that sweet snack as much as you thought.
If you want more substance in your snack add a handful of walnuts, roasted almonds or sunflower seeds. Protein and healthy fats in nuts and seeds digest slowly and provide lasting energy to curb carb cravings. Similarly, other high-protein foods, such as a hard-boiled egg or a leftover chicken leg from last night's dinner might be what your body and brain are actually craving, according to Franklin and Marshall University.
Tracey Roizman, DC is a writer and speaker on natural and preventive health care and a practicing chiropractor. She also holds a B.S. in nutritional biochemistry.