Mary Sikora-Petersen Dietitian and Diabetes Educator
Are you someone who has frequent sweet cravings? Giving in too frequently to these cravings could result in excess sugar consumption. The daily recommendation for added sugar is no more than 24 grams (6 teaspoons) for females and 36 grams (9 teaspoons) for males. Too much sugar can lead to weight gain, diabetes, heart problems and low energy levels. Here are some tips to curb those cravings and therefore lead a healthier and more energetic life.
Don't let yourself get too hungry. When we get hungry we actually crave what gives us the quickest energy-- sugar. Eat at least three meals per day and if you get truly hungry between meals, eat a healthy snack.
Eat enough protein at meals. When we eat protein with carbohydrates, the protein helps to sustain the energy that we get from the carbohydrates. Protein helps us feel full and gives us energy several hours after eating. This is because about 30 percent of the protein we eat turns into sugar about four hours after eating it. Adequate protein can help prevent those "energy lows" that may lead to cravings. Examples of healthy protein include lean meats, eggs, legumes, Greek yogurt, and low-fat dairy products.
Eat plenty of fiber. The general recommendation for fiber is between 30 and 50 grams daily, however most Americans eat less than 15 grams daily. Like protein, fiber helps to keep us full. It can also prevent blood sugar swings that could lead to cravings. Foods highest in fiber are bran cereals and legumes (beans). A serving of bran cereal provides between five and 13 grams and a half-cup serving of beans has about six grams of fiber. Other sources of fiber are fruits, vegetables and whole grains. These vary in fiber content from two to four grams per serving. To really boost your fiber intake, eat bran cereal five to seven times per week and legumes at least four times per week. A simple way to add legumes is to buy a can of low sodium beans, rinse them, and add them to your salads, cooked vegetables, omelets, soups, casseroles or pasta sauce.
Use fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth. Eating small servings of fruit throughout the day has been shown to decrease the desire for sugar. Although fruit has natural sugar, it also contains fiber and other nutrients. A serving of fruit is a small apple, pear or peach; half a banana; one cup of berries or half a cup of cut-up fruit.
When you have a sweet craving drink a large glass of water. This can be helpful because we often confuse hunger with thirst, and many people do not drink enough water. After drinking the water, wait 15 minutes to see if the craving is still there and if you are truly hungry. If so, eat a serving of fruit and some protein, such as a hard-boiled egg or a mozzarella cheese stick.
Ask yourself "Am I Hungry?" when a craving occurs. Chances are you are not "stomach hungry" but are just "head hungry." We often eat for reasons other than hunger such as boredom, sadness, anger and stress. Remember that the purpose of food is to nourish us and it cannot control emotions or solve stressful dilemmas. Find appropriate non-food ways to deal with these emotions. One way to do this is exercise, which could include walking, stretching, or a recreational activity.
Mary Sikora-Petersen, MSE, RDN, CDE, is a local registered dietitian/nutritionist and certified diabetes educator who counsels people with weight management issues, diabetes, heart disease and other health problems.
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