10 Ways to Tame Your Sugar Cravings

Whether your passion is cookies or your weakness is for anything sweet and greasy (think doughnuts), chances are you find yourself eating more sugar than you should. Intense cravings for sweets can be hard to overcome, but even die-hard sugar addicts can find satisfying and healthy alternatives with just a few tweaks. Here are some strategies for taming the sugar monster that lives inside you.

1. Eliminate temptations. If you have cookies and ice cream at home, you may experience such a strong desire to eat them that your willpower evaporates. "If it's in the house, there's a strong chance you'll eat it," says Alejandra Cordovez, RD, of the Diabetes Research Institute in Miami, Florida. "You don't need it and your kids don't either." So get the temptations out of the house and if you want an occasional treat, buy just enough for one serving.

2. Don't eat the wrong foods at mealtime. This simply sets you up for hard-to-ignore cravings later on, Cordovez says. Say you have just a salad for lunch. Later on, your carb-craving body sends out signals that it wants sugar. You know that eating a candy bar will make you feel better, at least temporarily. But it could have negative ramifications. "Instead, focus on adding some high-fiber carbohydrates to your meal and you won't have such intense cravings later," Cordovez says. Toss some canned, drained beans into your pasta, and sprinkle some toasted nuts onto your salad.

But these measures may not necessarily squash that burning desire for a real dessert. For this reason, keep on hand some individual portions of dessert that weigh in at 200 calories or less and have 15 to 20 grams of carbohydrates, Cordovez says. If you crave chocolate, keep snack-sized bars on hand and permit yourself to unwrap just one.

3. Eat sweets that also contain lowfat dairy products, suggests Jessica Miller, RD, CDE, CDN, of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. Yogurt and cottage cheese might seem boring on their own, but you can add flavor, texture, and sweetness by topping with fresh fruit, crumbled graham crackers, or lowfat granola, she says.

4. Make fruit the focal point of your snack, but dress it up. Spread a banana with a little natural peanut butter and sprinkle with cinnamon for a sweet treat, Miller says. Try spreading almond butter on apple slices or on celery sticks (and then finishing up with raisins for extra sweetness.)

5. Top yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit and nuts (toasted, if possible, for extra flavor) and you will stay full longer. But don't add nuts by the handful. Keep your serving to a couple of tablespoons.

6. Make a smoothie. Whirl low-fat yogurt or fat-free milk, ice, and fresh, ripe fruit in the blender for a frothy, pretty drink sure to satisfy your sweet tooth.

7. Spoon up some pudding. Just make sure it's fat-free or low-fat, says Sara Crouch, Ph.D., professor of nutrition at the University of Cincinnati. "Pudding has a little protein from the dairy products so you can go longer between meals," Crouch says. "And low-fat dairy products have the potential to lower blood pressure and cholesterol."

8. If you bake, use whole wheat flour to make cookies and pies. It helps you feel full longer.

9. Try to bake your own cookies whenever possible. "When it comes to baked goods, homemade is always best because you can modify the ingredients to be more healthful," Crouch says.

10. Get moving. If you're looking for a pick-me-up you believe sugar will provide, consider some exercise instead. Head to the gym or simply do some running in place. Once your body starts releasing feel-good endorphins, your energy level will go up, and your need for sugar may be a thing of the past.