Sugar Swaps: Healthy Alternatives To Foods We Crave
By Bryana Allen | Oct 14, 2015
Sugar, you’ve got America wanting you. We’re addicted. As soon as your sinful sweetness hits our taste buds, the reward center in our brains lights up like a fireworks display. It makes us crave you.
And we give into those cravings. A lot. The USDA reports the average American eats 150-170 pounds of refined sugar each year. It averages to 30-60 teaspoons a day—well over the American Heart Association’s recommended amount of 6-9 teaspoons a day.
All of that added, refined sugar is affecting our health. Multiple studies have linked our sugar habit to obesity, high blood pressure, depression, diabetes and an unhealthy smile.
One of the reasons refined sugar has such bad effects on our health is because it doesn’t have any nutritional value. It adds calories but nothing else. Another reason is the way our bodies process refined sugar. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to break down which causes our insulin and blood sugar levels to skyrocket, known as a “sugar rush.” It also doesn’t fill us up and leaves us hungry, wanting more as soon as we “crash.” So, we eat more. Add that to the reward reaction in our brains and you get an unhealthy cycle—an addiction.
Fortunately, there’s a way to break free. Swap naturally sweet foods for their unhealthy counterparts.
Naturally sweet foods, like fruit, contain nutritious fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in addition to the sugar they contain. These added nutrients are essential to our health. Plus, it takes more work for our bodies to break down natural sugars which means we don’t get a sugar rush and crash.
Here are some of our favorite swaps:
Sweet and chewy
Have a medjool date instead of caramel. Medjool dates have a toffee like taste and chewy texture. One medjool date has 2 tsp of sugar + fiber, vitamins and minerals. Two caramels have 3.3 tsp of sugar and no nutritional value.
Sweet and creamy
Try ½ cup low-fat cottage cheese with ½ cup sliced strawberries and 1 tsp raw honey instead of 1 cup low-fat strawberry yogurt. This simple swap cuts out 7 tsp of added sugar.
Sweet and crispy
Have an apple instead of a chocolate covered wafer candy bar. It has nearly the same amount of sugar but half of the calories. Plus, apples contain fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Sweet and crunchy
Try ½ cup of frozen blueberries instead of a hard candy. They contain the same amount of sugar, but blueberries also have nutritious fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Enjoy some dark chocolate! That’s right. Dark chocolate has less sugar than milk chocolate and contains antioxidants. It also melts quickly and doesn’t stick to teeth, making it a good choice for your smile.
You don’t have to give up sugar to be healthy. You just have to eat the right kinds of sugar. The next time you have a craving, eat some fruit instead. Your body and smile will thank you.