How You Can Handle Your Sweet Tooth and Indulge in Your Favourite Treats Guilt-Free
Desserts, candy, bubble tea, cookies, chocolate…who can blame you for craving these? While they can fit into a healthy diet, I won’t bore you with why you don’t want to eat too much of them. Instead, read on about how to minimize these cravings, what to do when the cravings hit, and how to indulge in your favourite sweet treats while minimizing the downsides.
Preventing cravings by improving your energy and mood
1. Set up your plate for success
What you eat can affect your blood sugar, energy, and satiety, which can ultimately affect your cravings. In general, vegetables and fruits, protein, and healthy fat should form the foundation of every meal and overall diet. Prioritizing whole, minimally processed foods (i.e. foods found in nature) and minimizing refined carbohydrates (e.g. sugar, flour) is ideal for most people. For more information on this, see my previous article series about carbohydrates.
2. Stay hydrated
You have been told it’s important to drink lots of water, and here’s another reason: Being dehydrated can contribute to food cravings. Additionally, having full hydration will make it easier for the heart to circulate blood throughout the body and thus improve energy levels even without additional food.
3. Get enough sleep
When we are sleep deprived, our ability to regulate appetite and blood sugar are impaired (as well as our decision-making abilities). This not only leads to more cravings for sweet/starchy foods, but can contribute to a vicious cycle of cravings, eating refined carbohydrates, blood sugar crashing, and more cravings for carbohydrates. Overindulging in foods before bed can worsen sleep deprivation by making it harder for you to get restful sleep.
4. Manage your mood
Sometimes we seek food to sooth negative feelings like anxiety, stress, sadness, and anger.
What to do about the cravings
Precision Nutrition just released an article covering the main points I wanted to make on what to do when cravings come, and so I recommend you read it here. The main points were:
- Identify what triggers the cravings.
- Plan how to respond to the cravings.
- Don’t beat yourself up when you slip. Research shows that those with more self-compassion are more resilient, can manage their emotions better (and thus be less likely to stress eat), and feel more satisfied with life compared to those who self-criticize.
How to indulge without (as much) consequence
The best time to indulge in carb-a-licous foods is within roughly 2 hours after moderate to intense exercise (ideally, give yourself a few minutes to get into a calm state before chowing down to allow better digestion). If you exert enough to stress the muscles and deplete the levels of carbohydrates in your muscles and liver, the food you eat will be shuttled more towards replenishing, repairing, and building muscle and less towards making body fat. Because the sugar from food is more easily taken up by the muscles during/after exercise, exercise helps you keep your blood sugar more stable, and that is why people with diabetes are recommended to exercise daily. Of course, your reason to exercise shouldn’t just be to avoid weight gain from food — it has so many benefits for your overall quality of life.
If you’re going to consume refined carbohydrates any other time, research suggests that eating them after vegetables and protein would be better for keeping your blood sugar stable than eating them first (the research was done with vegetable, meat, and white rice eaten in the same meal but in different orders each time). More reason to eat your veggies first!
Finally, how you indulge is also important: Give the chosen treat all your attention (Netflix can wait). Savour every bite and sip slowly. You’ll find that this allows you to maximize the enjoyment and perhaps not need to eat as much of it to feel satisfied.