Sugar: The Biggest New Health Hazard?

In the last few years, researchers have warned us about the dangers of eating too much processed sugar. But knowing sugar is bad for your health doesn’t make it any easier to give it up!

Here are some strategies for reducing the amount of sugar in your diet while still satisfying your desire for sweets.

1. Prime your day with protein. If cereal or a muffin is your daily go-to, you’re already starting your day with the energy buzz of sugar. Try this make-ahead frittata, or slather a piece of whole-grain toast with peanut butter for a protein-rich breakfast on the go.

2. Get your sweet fix naturally. If dessert after dinner is something you can’t give up, don’t despair, there are lots of delicious treats that have no or very little added sugar. Think baked apples or cobbler, or energy bars made with dates and nuts.

3. Spread your sugar out. Chocolate and other sweets go farther when you mix them with something healthier. Dip a banana in chocolate sauce or make trail mix with nuts and chocolate chips or M&Ms.

4. Practice mindful eating. Eating lunch at your desk or snacking while on a deadline at work is something we all do, but changing this habit is one of the best ways to win the sugar war. Use this simple guide to mindful eating to get started.

5. Be a super snacker. Nutritionists advise eating every few hours to keep your blood sugar steady, particularly if you’re prone to reaching for the chips when your energy flags. Make sure to have nuts, fruit, or whole grain crackers handy to keep cravings in check.

6. Beware stress eating.  Notice you’re more likely to pull out, bored, or sad? Avoid this type of stress-induced eating by taking a short walk when it hits. Not only does walking distract you, it releases endorphins to boost your mood.

7. Go for quality over quantity. When a serious craving hits, don’t try to deny it. Instead, indulge completely, but in small portions and slowly. Whether it’s a homemade brownie, a piece of pie, or your favorite ice cream, choose exactly what you want, then enjoy every bite. You’ll find you need much less to feel satisfied.

8. Try this, not that. Just because something tastes sweet doesn’t mean it’s bad for you, Many fruit-based treats are packed with antioxidants, fiber and vitamins. Try berries and plain yogurt or this super easy instant chocolate pudding made from avocado and almond milk.

Here are some more excellent tips from the nutritionists at Kaiser Permanente Health Education on how to beat cravings for sweets.

Melanie Haiken writes about health, wellness and fitness for national magazines and websites. She specializes in discovering and reporting the latest research on diet, nutrition, fitness, weight loss and other health-related topics. Her award-winning stories have appeared in Fitness, Shape, Health, Forbes, and other respected magazines. She also contributes health stories to numerous Kaiser Permanente newsletters and other publications.