4 healthier food swaps to manage a sweet tooth
You’ve finished dinner and sit down to your favourite TV show. Almost as soon as you’ve settled into the couch, you notice the familiar tug of a sweet craving. Next thing you know, you know - you’ve eaten half a block of chocolate without realising what happened.
Sweet and sugar cravings can be so intense, especially when you have a sweet tooth. The good news is that there are ways to help manage sweet cravings plus, plenty of healthier alternatives to your favourite sugary sweets and treats.
Why do I crave sweets?
Before we look at some simple ways to make healthier food choices, it’s good to know what triggers a craving in the first place. Here are 5 of the most common culprits.
When your body perceives stress, it can increase cravings - including cravings for sweet foods.
Researchers believe this happens because eating something sweet can be a coping strategy. You may notice that when stress is extremely high, the opposite happens and you may lose interest in food.
If every time you watch TV you reach for something sweet to eat, you may end up conditioning your brain to crave sweet foods when you flick on your favourite shows. This could explain those after dinner sugar cravings!
When you get tired, your body works differently. When you’re not getting good quality sleep - or not getting enough of it consistently - you might experience an increase in your hunger hormone (Grehlin).
This means you may feel hungrier when you’re tired. At the same time, your ‘satiety’ hormone Leptin can decrease, so you may need more food before you feel satisfied. Just another reason why prioritising good sleep is so important!
Your body is hardwired to enjoy sweet foods. Sugary foods have been shown to light up the pleasure centres of your brain because the body intuitively understands that sweet foods contain energy, which can be used as fuel.
Counterintuitively, trying to avoid sugary foods may actually be driving your sweet cravings! Research suggests that we may crave the very foods we try to avoid when we are dieting.
Instead of focusing on the foods you want to eat less of, try crowding in more healthy options like some of the better-for-you swaps suggested below.
Healthy swaps to manage your sweet cravings
You don’t have to miss out on your favourite sweet foods to be healthier. Making healthy choices is a great way to satiate your sweet tooth while still benefiting your body.
We’ve got your sweet cravings sorted with these healthier food swaps.
When you’re craving ice-cream...
While it’s not quite the same, yoghurt is creamy, refreshing and also a tasty way to add more calcium, protein and probiotics to your diet.
We admit that it may not taste like cookies and cream, but try adding some muesli to your yoghurt for added crunch and texture. Or try stirring frozen berries through yoghurt for an almost instant frozen-yoghurt treat.
When you’re craving chocolate...
Try fresh Medjool dates stuffed with peanut butter. This sweet snack can be incredibly satisfying, even for the most devoted chocolate-lover. Dates are also a good source of antioxidants and high in fibre!
When you’re craving lollies...
Dried apricots, apples or sultanas may taste sweet like lollies, but they also contain antioxidants and fibre - which is good news for your body.
In warmer months, frozen grapes are a surprisingly delicious sweet snack that are well worth trying.
When you’re craving a sweet biscuit...
You may not be able to dunk it into a comforting cup of hot tea, but healthier, homemade bliss ball are a nutritious swap for a sweet biscuit when sugar cravings strike.
Try these simple choc, date and coconut bliss balls:
- Place 2 cups dates (pitted), ½ Tbs cocoa powder, 1 Tbs chia seeds and 2 Tbs desiccated coconut into a food processor with 1 Tbs of water.
- Blitz until well combined.
- Roll into balls and store in an airtight container in the fridge, ready for when those sweet cravings strike.
Reviewed by the healthylife Advisory Board August 3, 2021