Recently I have been in a major health overhaul. After becoming mostly plant based (save for the occasional cheese or butter) I am much more perceptive to how food impacts my body. I can see when I’m bloated after having a couple of drinks the night before and sluggish from a day of consuming processed foods. The biggest habit and weakness I’ve been trying to kick? SUGAR.
I’ve had a notable sweet tooth from an early age. It worsened in high school when I would resort to carrying a whole bag of Hershey kisses around with me and eat icing or Nutella right out of the container (it is honestly incredible that I wasn’t morbidly obese). I’ve always worked to kick sugar out – usually “for good” only to binge on a box of cookies after a weak moment and find myself crying in the bathroom the next morning because I didn’t have the discipline to say no.
Over the past year, health has become one of my most important values. As I get older I become more aware of the health problems people around me face, usually as a direct result of poor diet, and I don’t want my quality of life to suffer because there are certain foods to which I can’t say no. I didn’t want sugar to run my life. This has been a tough, ongoing battle, and I can finally say that I am in a good, balanced place with sugar and I am starting to see positive changes in my body as a result. Hooray for progress!
I have such a hard time finding real, actionable steps to kicking sugar addictions on the internet, so I wanted to share what has personally worked for me and put your expectations in the right place for this journey. We want things to happen quickly and waiting feels like the most excruciating thing imaginable, but it is necessary and worth it.
MO SUGAR, MO PROBLEMS
This is a tip I’ve read all over the internet in different posts about cutting out sugar: “Don’t have it in the house!” Yep, I tried it. The result was a sugar-deprived and hangry Kasey that forced her husband to drive to the nearest convenience store at 10pm to pick up 4 candy bars.
So instead of kicking sugar out of the house when I was on an anti-sugar kick, I began to phase it out slowly. This meant I would have my candy of choice in the house every week. I would give myself at first maybe 1-2 candy bars and know that after I eat them I can’t buy any more. Some weeks I would slip up, but eventually I got used to this sugar “allowance” and could gradually decrease the amount I had in the house.
BE KIND TO YOURSELF
This is the absolute hardest thing I had to come to terms with as I was working on reducing my sugar. I would beat myself up so bad if I had a moment of weakness. I would think about it for days, and the negative feelings did nothing but drive me to more sugar to give me the temporary endorphine rush to make me happy again. I knew it would take time before I could turn down sugar and avoid the cravings altogether, so I came to terms with it. I told myself that next time I had a craving, I would ask myself what I could have done differently (was there something stressful or emotional that led me to indulging? how could I change that?) and immediately forgive myself for having sugar. This mantra would sound something like “You’re human and you expect others to make mistakes, why do you expect to be perfect? You’re not, and that’s ok. Keep pushing forward.”
To me, this process is kind of like how I remember my authority figures growing up. If I was yelled at for doing something wrong, I would be indignant and resentful toward that authority figure. But if I made a mistake and someone came to me with an understanding perspective and walked me through how to do things differently, I was more likely to try harder to not disappoint that person in the future by making the same mistake.
I don’t know if this psychology works for everyone, but it is one of the main things that has helped me get through those moments of weakness. There are so many people in the world that will be mean to you (if you don’t believe me, just look at comments on Youtube videos) and you shouldn’t be one of those people because you can control how you talk to yourself, and that should always be kind.
CREATE HEALTHY HABITS OR HEALTHY PLACEHOLDERS FOR EXISTING ONES
I talked about creating habits in this post, but another thing that really helped me with sugar is creating healthy habits. I always love to snack on foods while I’m at my computer or watching TV. A lot of times, it is simply the act of eating rather than the food, and I gradually started opting for cashews, almonds, or sugar snap peas instead of Skittles or Maltesers. Now when I’m sitting at my computer and want something to snack on, my body doesn’t crave sugary snacks but other, more wholesome foods.
FOODS THAT SAVE ME
I’m not going to tell you that these foods will be a complete and equal replacement to the candy you currently have in your diet. What I will say is that these foods are tools to help you redefine you palette so that your body will expect (and crave) naturally sweet foods rather than the processed, sugary crap that companies try to push on us every day.
I’ve already done a post on my spin on this ice cream here, but the great thing about frozen bananas is that they’re incredibly versatile and easily flavored so that they can be whatever ice cream you want them to be.
I did a post on this a while back, but it is still one of my greatest hits. This stuff helps me beat my chocolate cravings every time and is packed full of nutrients and other good stuff.
Frozen fruit is an amazing snack. Fruit is frozen in the peak of freshness so that your body can get the maximum amount of nutrients. It also takes longer for you to eat, so the more you’re occupied eating frozen fruit, the less likely your sugar cravings will stick around.
In contrast with almond or peanut butter, cashew butter seems to satiate my sweet tooth without causing me to eat 5 tablespoons.
KASHI GO LEAN CHOCOLATE CRUNCH WITH ALMOND MILK
I would consider this one the least healthy of the list as it is processed, but this cereal is completely vegan and has chocolate clusters in it. Kashi satisfies my sweet tooth while also providing a ton of dietary fiber and filling me up so I can’t really “binge” on it.
FROZEN FRUIT POPSICLES
With spring in full swing, fruity popsicles are a home run. Put your favorite fruits in a food processor or blender, add a little water, and pour into popsicle molds. Freeze for a few hours and enjoy!
SUGAR SNAP PEAS
Thought these aren’t dessert-like or have some bit of chocolate, they are my absolute favorite snack. Crunchy, sweet, and refreshing they are the perfect snack to add to your healthy arsenal.
. . .
If there is anything you should take from this post, it should be to go slow, forgive yourself, and explore your options. I made these strides after months of steady practice, mistakes, and working to adjust my palate to naturally sweet foods. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. If you want to make a real lifestyle change when it comes to sugar, it’s going to take time – and that’s ok! Find heathy favorite foods, stick with them, and your body will thank you!
Those are my best tips and favorite healthy foods! What are your favorite foods to beat sugar cravings?