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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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.

My brother wanted to get off sweets and he had to not eat them at all for a while, then stay away from them entirely most days. When he first started, he didn't even eat fruit for several days. It was the getting off that was the most difficult for him. Once he was off, he could think about retraining himself, and now he has a reasonable amount of sweets 2 days a week and none the other days. This, after much trial and error, is what makes him feel not deprived but allows him to keep his weight and energy where he wants them to be.

I believe that life is short and food should be enjoyed. Unless you're doing a short "reset" (like what snack girl is referring to with the day without sugar) or have an allergy/intolerance, I'm rarely going to vote for cutting out a food group entirely. I personally want to eat what I want, just in moderation. One of my regular "treats" to fix a sweet tooth is 1 cup plain greek yogurt, stevia to sweeten, 1 tsp of vanilla, 2 Tbs of PB2 (if you haven't tried it yet, do, it's great for stuff like this), and 2 Tbs of mini chocolate chips. Found it on Pinterest and I call it my "cookie dough yogurt." It tastes sinfully delicious, but has lots of protein and minimal sugar. Just my thoughts. I know different tricks work for different people... :)

This month I took the plunge on cutting my sugar and carbs by doing the sugar detox right before the holidays. Only four days till I'm finished, but I'm already happy that I decided to do it.

The hard part isn't following the no list of foods - the hard part is finding prepared food that doesn't have added sugar in it. Even the grilled chicken at fast food has added sugar on it (seasoning). Salads and simple crockpot recipes have become my friends.

I've definitely noticed a decrease in my must-have-sweets mind set. The office goodies still smell amazing, but I'm not obsessed with having one anymore. I'm hoping it will last once I'm done, but at the very least I know I can always detox again if I get too sweet obsessed again.

It is true that sugar is responsible for contributing to obesity and diabetes. However, as someone with diabetes, I assure you that sugar is not the only major cause. I stopped drinking sugary soda back in the 70's and never have had a propensity toward sweets yet I got diabetes. The pancreas provides insulin and in some people it just gets tired and gives up. Genetics plays a big role as well as yo yo dieting and food choices. I like to use the most notable examples of Mary Tyler Moore and Tom Hanks who are slender. Ms. Moore has had diabetes for years.

There is a new sugar substitute available now that is made from fruit and vegetables and is non-glycemic (no blood sugar effect). It is called SWERVE. There is nothing artificial in it. In following the diabetes diet, this may help prevent it from occuring. Once you have it, you have it for life but it can be controlled. I can eat just about everything and I know my limits and portion control. If I can do it you can too.

Protein, protein, protein. When I haven't been good about eating enough protein, my sugar cravings kick in. The COMPLETELY go away when I eat 15-20g (or more) of protein for each meal.

I went sugarfree about 6 months ago and don't look back. I was definitely addicted, most days would start with a white chocolate muffin and iced coffee for breakfast, usually another sweet treat for morning & afternoon snack and a chocolate bar or two asking the way. When I heard about david Gillespie's sweet poison books I will admit I thought quitting sugar was crazy but was curious... And now ive lost 10kg (I'm an aussie sorry don't know what that is in pounds) with no exercise or effort and I'm loving experimenting cooking sweets without sugar! There are so many great resources out there to help you try a sugarfree life! Sarah Wilson ( suggested looking at the sugarfree life as an 8 week experiment-if you hate it after 8 weeks, go back to eating sugar. I doubt you will though. Amazing how quickly your tastebuds change. I made a sugarfree chocolate bounty this week which I loved, but when a friend who eats crazy amounts of sugar tried it she said it tasted sugar free, even though I put sugar replacements in. Look into it! Its changed my life!

I always keep Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Nibs in my purse. I like to have a couple after lunch. It's a 1 oz. container and it says 2 servings, but it lasts me up to a week usually.

This is so true. If I just have carbs for breakfast, I am hungry all day until I have protein. This is why I have eggs for breakfast almost everyday. Eatting carbs can just make you hungrier and thirsty. I would easily choose something salty over something sweet.

I have been in the drowning boat of sugar addiction. It was truly my best friend. I have, through a long process, let it go. It has been almost 18 months and my life is so different it is wonderfully mind blowing!! I am no longer a slave to sugar. I have a forum on my website. It may interest some of you. I have walked this walk!!

I lost 100 pounds on WW this time around and am back to below my Lifetime weight. I have always had a sweet tooth. But the zero point fruit with the newer program is what saves me. I eat 4-6 pieces of fruit a day. I find when I do have a piece or cake or candy, that it makes me crave more of it -- and it is so high in points and not filling, so I only indulge in that on special occasions and holidays -- and it has to be the good stuff, home-made or really good candy. I'm not wasting my points and calories on M&Ms or hard candy that will not satisfy me anyway.

There are a lot of ways to reduce sugar intake in recipes; try subbing applesauce or other fruit/fruit juice without added sugar. I no longer use brown sugar in my oatmeal; instead use dried or fresh fruit in small amounts along with chopped nuts, ground flaxseed, cinnamon, yogurt or milk. It's more satisfying and the fruit supplies the sweetness we crave. Also, i substitute pineapple for brown sugar and/or marshmallows in my sweet potatoes; it tastes just as good but is better (i think?) for you. Yum!

For a sweet fix I freeze grapes and then grab a cup when I want something sweet. It sorta acts like ice cream and takes a little bit to eat them. This trick has helped me a lot.


RE: Nutella

Try Rawtella, Taste is good, closest thing to Nutella, Glucose-Free, and Kosher.

You won't be disappointed.

The key really is knowing yourself. For instance, I am unable to "just eat one" cupcake or anything else. I am a compulsive eater. For me, the best strategy is to not have it in the house. That is hard with two men in the house who like their sweets, so I try to buy for them things I am less compulsive about.

I also love this time of year when you can get nuts in shells - takes longer to eat them, and so you eat less!

Mostly I try to stay out of the kitchen if I am alone, since I am also a secret eater.

I am only 9 pounds away from my goal, having already reached the weight specified by my doctor, I just want to lose a few more pounds!

^^ I do the same with blueberries! I stock up over the summer with farmers markets :)

I agree with Stacie. It is a choice for a new lifestyle, a healthy one. I've discovered that if I have a day that I just can't control myself and really garbage it up, it's okay. Tomorrow or starting now is a fresh start. I've found I tend to grab sweets when I'm bored or stressed. So I distract myself by first getting out of the kitchen or near the kitchen where the food is. Then I go do something, a project or a walk. It really helps.

As a parent of a child with Type 1 diabetes, I feel a responsibility to educate those unfamiliar with the difference between Type 1 and Type 2. Mary Tyler Moore thaw Type 1 and has been a spokesperson for JDRF for a number of years. Tom Hanks was recently diagnosed with Type 2, possibly due to dramatic wieght gains and losses thru the years for his acting roles. Type 2 is due to the body's inability to use insulin it produces to get glucose to the muscles for fuel. Excercise and a controlled diet have been shown to help manage this condition. Type 1 is an auto immune disease where the pancreas does not produce insulin and therefore the people need to get it from an outside source (injections) to survive.

Drug is right. For me, I find that I can not eat any type of sweetener without suffering from cravings; high fructose being the worst. I know that sugared drinks/foods increases my activity level for an hour or so, and then I crash hard (very low energy and depression follows); which makes me want more sweets to increase my energy and emotional level - Catch 22. Very hard to quit when you live with others who do not have nor understand this problem. Yet I do try to stay away from the fructose at least and try to substitute sugar with either honey or raw sugar. Which means no processed foods (cake mixes, pudding, crackers - all have fructose!) For baking and drinks, I melt 1 part raw sugar with 1 part water. It's still a problem with me, though. If fructose was a drug, I can honestly say I'm still working on my dry date.

Stacie, I TOTALLY relate...and the most frustrating of all is those who do not have the same addiction and just don't get WHY you can't just have one.

To much sweet is dangerous to health.

my M.D. leaned across the desk and said "your problem is your not eating enough fat to curb your appetite or cravings. I don't care if you have to smear butter on a zone bar - figure out your tipping point. eat enough fat (healthy fat and no sugar or bad carbs) until you are satiated and satisfied." so i bought some almond butter and avocados and tried it. lost weight and cravings for good after 30 years of struggling with sugar addiction. good luck.

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