How To Control Your Sweet Tooth

November 20, 2013   41 Comments

Love sweets? Join the club. I’m sure there are people who can survive without them, but I haven’t met any.

How To Control Your Sweet Tooth

Bev, a reader, sent me this question:

I have a problem that I hope you can help me with. I have an overpowering sweet tooth, and for me it's become the hardest part of eating healthy. I would like to know if you have any TRULY sweet snack ideas that you can share.

I've heard "eat an apple" or other fruit to get my sweet fix, or make a smoothie...nope. I grew up on things like Oreo cookies, Ho-Ho's, Ring Dings, ice cream, etc. and not having something as sweet as that for snack time is always a big downfall for me.

I've heard that when you reduce the sugary/sweet items in your diet you eventually develop a more refined sense of taste and things that might not have tasted sweet at first will then be more than sweet enough, however I can't seem to get there when I feel deprived of my sweet fix right from the get-go.

Bev, the average American eats a third of a pound of sugar every day – 130 pounds a year. You are not alone. On top of the fact that sugar tastes good, it has been shown to be as addictive as cocaine (see: Sugar is as addictive as cocaine, and causes obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.

Now, what do you do about it. My first suggestion is a painful one, but something to try. Spend an entire day without eating any added sugar. I have done this and it has clued me into the cravings, the time of day that they hit, and exactly how much I am overeating when it comes to sugar.

You may find that you want sugar for breakfast, snack, after dinner, before you go to bed, etc.

Now, take a look at where you can cut back without driving yourself crazy. Some ideas for cutting back:

  1. Eat one Ho-Ho and save the other for another craving time
  2. Dilute soda with ½ soda water (it works – trust me)
  3. Try Slow Churned ice cream
  4. Eat one square of dark chocolate slowly

Once you get used to less sugar, you will start to taste the sweetness of fresh fruit like strawberries and apples and they WILL become satisfying. You have to reset your taste buds to begin to enjoy these as much as refined sugar.

Here are some healthy and very sweet snack suggestions to add to the mix:

How do you deal with your sugar cravings? Please share.

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First 20 Comments: ( See all 41 )

I find 5:2 fasting wipes out my sweet tooth - I crave much healthier, more savoury flavours. The other day I made the Snack Girl roast chickpeas instead of eating chocolate that was in the fridge. I'm also getting used to unsweetened coffee (still need milk in it though).

If you really want to reeducate your sweet tooth though, you have to be pretty strict cutting out carbs for a short while (like Atkins Induction). Not just sugar but also refined carbs like pasta etc. That works really well - try raspberries after two weeks with only vegetables, no fruits, and they're like boiled sweets!

Another trick - but watch your tooth enamel (from all the acidic citrus you'll eat) - is "miracle berry" extract, they temporarily coat your tongue and make sour things taste super sweet.

I know it's weird, but make sure you're getting enough (healthy) fat. Some people say you crave sugar when you're really craving fat, and you're a lot less likely to binge on an avocado. :) has some great advice on this one too.

Dates. You need dates. They are technically a fruit but they are my replacement for chocolate. All caramelly and chewy. But so rich that after a couple you are going to feel sick, so that limits how many you can eat.

This worked great for me, as a complete chocolate replacement, until one day I walked into a shop and saw them selling chocolate covered dates. This is a problem!!!

The problem with me and sweet things is when I have anything sweet, even healthy sweet, I crave it all the more! Next thing you know I eat everything sweet in site. For me the best way to go is out of site out of mind, however I don't do that! he he

I have been satisfied with ghiradelli chocolate chips in total Faye yogurt! It's sooo yummy and the total tastes so creamy when it's not 0% fat

I just can't have the sweets in the house... I tend to snack at night and if the sweet stuff just isn't in the house, I can't eat it. If I can't take it anymore, I will grab a small amount of chocolate chips and eat them very SLOWLY... helps to take the edge off - and you must resist going back for the 2nd handful!!!

I have lost 85+pounds on Weight Watchers in 1 1/2 years. Needless to say, I am thrilled with my results. One big secret is learning how to deal with sweet cravings. I have found great success with Sees Lollipops. I have one every evening when the craving usually hits. These lollipops are 2 pp, and they take about 20 minutes to finish, which , I think, is the key! My favorite is butterscotch! I can taste thr rich sweetness for the whole 20 minutes, craving gone!

I can relate to all of the above - I eat very healthy at meal times but then kill it with something sweet every day. Good info is on hedonic hunger but I have not learned how to beat it

luckily/not luckily, my sweet tooth is mainly for fruits, I grew up not a huge sweet tooth kid but not when I do, I eat too mucj fruit!

My SUGGESTION would be to mix yogurt with crushed up, frozen (maybe warm it frst, it gets juicy) fruit! it is so good, sweet and satisfying.

Also, frozen banana icecrean: freeze a banana in chunks and blend! you can add any fruit if you want!

Great article and tips!

I think the part of the question where she mentions feeling deprived is noteworthy. It sounds like it's understood that going without sweets for a while will help manage the physiological drive to keep eating them but managing that "reboot" period is the struggle. I suggest investigating mindfulness training. It's a long game because it involves learning to work with your thoughts in new ways but the ultimate benefit is the ability to work with the suffering that comes from being a slave to feelings, drives and addictions. There's a lot of good science out there about managing pain and addiction by re-training your brain in this way. (learning about Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction is a good place to start.) I believe it applies to eating habits and addictions, as well.

@Susan--Congratulations on the 85 pounds!!

The only thing that works for me is to NOT eat empty sweet stuff - because no matter how much I tell myself I'm only going to have one piece of dark chocolate, I ALWAYS end up eating at least 6!!! I lost 30 pounds a couple years ago, and one vacation derailed me because I thought I could have junk "in moderation." I am finding that I am not a person who can do that. If you're in that place, trying to eat a single piece of candy or a single ho-ho isn't going to help you, because you're NOT going to stop with that.

What I do is first, NEVER have this stuff in the house. Try to have nuts around - sometimes a handful of nuts helps me. If you crave soda, try drinking flavored seltzer - this has eliminated my soda craving, but I think it was because I was craving the fizziness in that case, not the sugar necessarily.

What has really worked for me is not a food strategy, but a thinking strategy. Rather than think I'm depriving myself or that I "can't" have certain things, I practice telling myself I CAN have a "bad" food, but I am CHOOSING not to eat it. I've found that if I can stay conscious and see myself making an actual CHOICE, it's so much easier than trying to fight a craving. I note the craving, tell myself I can have a cookie if I want, but that I am choosing not to have it. It's not 100% (especially since I work in an office where 2 older ladies constantly bake and put the stuff they make out in our backroom, right by the water cooler and bathroom, so you can't avoid it - like CONSTANTLY - holidays are a nightmare here), but it works better than feeling like I want something and CAN'T have it. The subtle difference works for me.

When I need a sweet fix at night I take either sugar free jello or a small sugar free pudding cup and squirt some fat free whipped cream on it. Still tastes decadent but is only 10 (jello) to 90 (pudding) calories.

And I advise you to please stay away from flying y on artificial sweeteners!

Eat a Garlic Pickle whenever I get the need for something sugary.

The more garlicky, the better...

Works every time.

I'm a chocolate lover. After lunch I crave for chocolate most of the time. I used to buy a snickers bar and eat half of it as my dessert. But last time I went to the market I found something to replace it: Emerald Nuts, Cocoa roast almonds. They taste a bit like snickers, and help me out with the choco-crave. Check them out, maybe they'll help.

I've found that using Vietnamese or Saigon Cinnamon greatly reduces my sweetness craving. I was using a regular brand sold at grocery store. The taste of it had changed & it wasn't as good. Then the store started stocking Watkins Saigon Cinnamon & I decided to try it. It tastes a lot better, don't need as much and only need 1/8 cup sugar in my oatmeal instead of 1/3 cup. I'm planning on ordering a larger package from Swanson's or King Arthur flour.

I need all the help I can get to cut back of sugar.

For me, information is highly motivating. I found Michael Moss's Salt Sugar Fat and Neal Barnard's web site which includes books recipes and catalogues of the science behind eating habits and heart attacks to be very helpful. I find that if I keep healthy snacks available and eat those first my sugar craving goes away so I stock my house with nuts and grab a handful, fruit, dried apricots. My last issue.... nutella... still working on that!

Oh, I just love all these tips!! Thanks, SG, for the great answers to the question of avoiding sugar cravings. It is so timely.

To everyone who added their tips: Keep them coming! I am thrilled to be able to try all of them, as I'm a sugar addict also.

My only strategy to date is to not have sweets in the house, like some above, and to choose to indulge 'later', but of course, later I'm onto some other thought or action and I've forgotten I really want the desert. Good thinking also advocated by Stacie!

Mine is more like Making deals with yourself that you can keep easily, and then finding that you don't need it after all by postponing the decision to eat chocolate. Telling yourself that you can have it, but later.

I can NEVER stop at one piece of chocolate, no matter how expensive and high-quality.

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