Help! I have a sweet tooth! A three-step plan for staving off that sugar craving

Okay, so you have a sweet tooth. No, actually, for you, it's more like you have sweet teeth. You are the girl in "Oklahoma" who can't say no, only your downfall is not a traveling salesman, but anything that appeals to that sugary taste bud. You simply can't resist one little taste of that ice cream/cake/brownie/muffin. (And, no, I am NOT referring to a four-in-one treat. Some of you were like, "What!? There is an ice cream/cake/brownie/muffin?! Must. find. it. NOW!") sweet tooth

First off, let me say that it's quite natural to like sweet stuff. All of us were born, hard-wired, if you will, with a predisposition for something sweet to eat. If a food was sweet, it meant 1) it wouldn't kill us, and 2) it would give us energy for day-to-day tasks. Unfortunately, we no longer have to hunt around for sweet stuff. To the contrary, now we are hunted (if not haunted) by it. And we can't seem to get away. So, how do we begin to curb that craving? Is there any way to nip it in the bud?

1. Log it (just for a day or two). The prospect of this may scare you, but it just might also scare you "straight." Challenge yourself to write down every morsel that goes in your mouth. In the margins, write down any time you feel a craving. Awareness is a great first step toward wellness. Looking at your patterns in black and white will help open your eyes to where you're at and what needs to change. I took a financial course that recommended a similar step: look at your bank statement...and don't blink. Take a good, hard look. It was an unhappy prospect at first, quite frankly, but knowing the unvarnished truth helped me get on course to a balanced budget. Same thing goes with diet!


2. Look in your log for foods with added sugar (or all sugar). You probably know by now that sugar has many aliases in food products: corn syrup, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, etc. (Click on this link for more specifics.) Highlight those foods, and, again, look for patterns. Are you binging at night? Overdosing on muffins mid-afternoon? When are you ingesting the most sugar? And why?

3. Make a plan to replace one or two of the "regulars" that show up on your list. Don't tackle too much at once. See if you can spot one or two foods that don't necessarily hold huge appeal, but that you turn to because of the time of day or out of habit. Look to take out the low-hanging fruit, so to speak. (Speaking of fruit, it is a great substitute for a sickly, sticky-sweet sugar-laden dessert. Our family recently made one-ingredient ice cream with frozen ripe bananas. We just added a splash of vanilla extract. So technically it was two-ingredient ice cream, I guess. At any rate, it was a hit!)

Here are some more  "swap" suggestions to get you started: Swap soda for any of the following: coconut water (naturally sweet and rich in potassium), sparkly kombucha (for that fizz and probiotic benefit,too), seltzer with lime (fizz and zing). (Caution: diet soda is NOT a good substitute for regular soda! It's as bad as the "real thing." Diet soda is a chemical concoction only suitable for cleaning a carburetor. It negatively impacts your metabolism, throws a wrench in weight loss, and causes cell damage. See this article on more of its dangers from Prevention magazine.)

Diet or no, soda's gotta go!

Look for foods with natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup instead of refined sugar. They at least have some nutritional benefit. Refined sugar has zero!

Swap sweet cereal for homemade granola or oatmeal. And, actually, I'd recommend homemade cookies, muffins, and the like, over store-bought, over-processed products anytime. They are bound to contain less sugar, and at least you can control how much goes in (and what kind).

Any other ideas? Anyone with a sweet tooth (or teeth) please chime in! Let's help each other out with tips on what to swap out!