Who else thinks they gained about 10 pounds over the holidays? Every time I see a Christmas cookie (stashed in the freezer for year-long enjoyment), my sweet tooth tells me yes, my head tells me no…(queue tummy grumble).
Sticking to a healthy diet during the holiday season is tough. What I think is even tougher is making a resolution to eat healthy for the month of January and sticking with that harsh diet for the rest of the year.
Friends ask me all the time what I do to satisfy my sweet tooth without falling off the wagon after a healthy day of eating.
Plan ahead for cravings!
My answer is that I plan ahead for cravings. I make sure to have my favorite healthy-ish sweet snacks in the house for when I am rummaging around like a starved sugar addict in my pantry. I’m talking about something easy to grab when you just need a HIT of something good.
Check it out…here are a few of my favorite “cheats” for those sweet teeth!
My Sweet Cheats
Dark Chocolate (70% cacao and higher)
I almost always crave something chocolate-y after dinner. For this reason, I keep several types of dark chocolate bars in my pantry for easy access when the sugar craving hits. In order to get the most nutritional benefits from chocolate, steer clear from anything less than 70% cacao. It’s also more bitter so you’ll only need a piece or two instead of (cough) the entire bar.
- Tip: If you’re headed to friend’s house for dinner, stick a dark chocolate bar in your bag to bring out when everyone else begins noshing on the dessert. Who cares if you get weird stares. Try fun flavors to mix it up!
- My favorite dark chocolates:
- Trader Joes Fair Trade Organic 72 Belgian Dark Chocolate Bar
- Vosges Super Dark Foods Chocolate, Matcha Green Tea flavor
- **Revision** A friend had a few additional suggestions for chocolate delights. She wants me to try Hu Chocolate bars and EATINGEVOLVED Chocolate. In fact, it was more of an order than a suggestion (ha!). In her words, referring to Hu Chocolate, “OMG the cashew butter and hazlenut butter. One square is all you need to satisfy the sweet tooth. DO IT!”
I love all kinds of tea, but I have my favorites from the sweeter varieties for when I am trying to replace a craving for sugar (add some honey or agave if you want a bit extra).
- Tips: Pop a few bags in your briefcase or purse to have at work for that 3pm sugar low. Stash them in your carry-on and ask the flight attendant for some hot water to enjoy your preferred tea (instead of that gross airline brand).
- My favorite sweeter teas:
Fresh fruit (+chocolate, +frozen)
Stop shaking your head. This doesn’t have to be boring fruit. Try a variety, or go for the expensive fruits like berries and mango and guava (oh my)! Berries are easy to grab in smaller portions, and any other fruits can be cut up (and frozen) for on-the-go grabbing as necessary.
- Tip: Consider putting the bananas on a stick to make them easier to snack on when frozen whole.
- My favorite fruity snacks:
- I like to freeze grapes and bananas (whole and sliced) to snack on when I want something more like a popsicle or ice cream. Sometimes, when I have time, I’ll even dip them in dark chocolate prior to freezing when prepping.
Popcorn (with a pinch of cinnamon or sugar!)
Popcorn is one of my obsessions. But NOT store-bought microwavable bags. Do not – I repeat – do NOT buy that old school microwaveable popcorn from the store. It’s covered in fake butter and usually packed with unhealthy oils, other additives (not to mention lots of calories). Buying plain bagged corn kernels is not only cheaper (yay for savings!), but just as easy to cook up on the stove. I also purchase the pre-packed 100 calorie Skinny Pop bags from Costco in case I run out of time to do my own popping. Another great store-bought brand is Lesser Evil – try the Himalayan Gold… mmmm!
- Tip: Pop some kernels at home prior to hitting the cinema and stow them away in a baggie in your jacket pocket. You won’t be tempted to order the large ‘bucket o’ death & butter’ from the theater.
- My favorite homemade popcorn mixes are popcorn kernels mixed with:
- Truffle oil/truffle salt, light Parmesan cheese
- Light Cinnamon and sugar dusting
- Salt, cayenne pepper for a kick
Trail/Nut mixes with chocolate
Nuts are filling, chocolate adds the sweet, and if you buy the little baggies from TJ’s you get portion control as well (which, let’s be honest, we all need). I usually keep a few nut mix baggies in my purse and car (and even gym bag for that post-workout sugar low).
Apples with a tablespoon (or two!) of Peanut Butter
The apple is more of the means by which to spoon the nut butter goodness into your mouth. If I could just eat nut butter all day every day – I would. Instead, I snack on it at least once a day. The sweetness of the apple mixed with the nutty goodness of my favorite nutty butters is a taste I LIVE for!
- Tip for on the go: Grab a Justin’s squeeze pack and slice up an apple prior to leaving the house. You’ll be more likely to eat the apple with the nut butter because the pre-cut slices won’t get your hands sticky with apple guts when you eat it. Also: I prefer my applies chilled – they taste better. Try it!
- My Favorite Nut Butters:
If all else fails, give yourself a CHEAT MEAL! (or two)
If you don’t like any of these suggestions and you just CAN’T live without the chocolate lava cake from the neighborhood bistro, remember – life is about balance. You are allowed to give yourself a cheat meal.
No – I didn’t say cheat day. A cheat day will make it more likely you fall off the wagon; whereas, a cheat meal will make your healthy diet seem more attainable and less rigid. If you stick to a relatively healthy diet, allow yourself a few cheat meals where you can indulge in the sweets (and salts! and fats!) you desire.
Some say cheat meals are actually beneficial for your metabolism.
Why? Let’s assume you start eating healthily and your body is running on a lower calorie diet. This means you may be creating an energy deficit which will cause your body’s metabolism to slow, thus burning less calories. A cheat day throws a wrench in the slowdown and starts working to break down those pesky fats and sugars at a higher rate. Amen for that!
Listen to your body!
Overall, listen to your body. You may find some of these suggestions work, and some just flat out DON’T! That’s totally fine! This post is mean to provide a guide toward healthy(ish) decisions that afford you the balance and freedom to live your best life.
Please comment below and let me know if you have any other healthy tricks for curbing your sugar cravings!
Sending sweet thoughts your way,