Having a sweet tooth can be a blessing and a curse. On one hand, you’re the kind of person who really knows how to enjoy a slice of cake or caramel candy at any time of the day. On the other hand, it always seems that you’re being compelled by your cravings to get those sweet treats ASAP. And if you’re someone who struggles with food cravings and/or weight fluctuations, you might find yourself in a position where, well, you wanna cut down on your sweet treats but you don’t know how to stop the overwhelming want. Here’s where substitution comes into play—healthy sweet snacks. We know what you’re thinking. “Healthy sweet snacks? No thanks.” Au contraire mon frère, read on to discover how good healthy sweet snacks can really be!
Why We Have Cravings
If you find yourself reaching for a sweet after every meal or around the same time each day, you probably want to understand why you feel this way. Often, a sugar craving is simply the result of underlying nutrient deficiency or association with memories around sweets. Having a low protein intake can cause issues with the regulation of sugars into your bloodstream, causing uncomfortable highs and lows (ie. a sugar crash). Likewise, creating a conditioned response—like giving yourself a candy bar for completing a task—can form habits that are hard to break. After rewarding with sweets for a while, the insula, a part of your brain that produces emotional responses to sensory experiences, reminds you that when you eat sweets you get the feeling of having completed a task. Why not skip straight to the dopamine with a quick craving?
Sugar cravings are extremely common. As much as 97% of women and 68% of men report experiencing some sort of food craving (including sugar). Cravings can be difficult to kick, but replacing the worst of your habits with better options can help you make the transition to better, healthier choices.
Treat yourself to healthy sweet snacks.
When They Go High, We Go Low
If you get very specific cravings for flavors, treat yourself to something similar, but with a lower calorie count. Calories, as you likely know, are the most direct correspondent between gaining and losing weight—though weight only matters insomuch as above-average weight can correlate with higher levels of sleep disorders like snoring and sleep apnea, as well as high blood pressure and a propensity for stroke. Weight itself is not bad, per say, but the effects of being overweight are well-documented. So how do we drop those calories? Substitutions and portion control!
Like to eat cookies? You can get thinner versions of Oreos with a lower calorie count and low-fat versions of other cookies that make it easier to cut back while still enjoying your favorite treats. If you have issues with intake, pre-portion your sweet snacks—their calorie count is on the package for a reason! You can buy a box of gummies and separate it into 100 calorie ziplock bags to get a better understanding of proper portion sizes.
Looking for healthy sweet snacks that aren’t store bought “junk foods?” Go natural!
Natural Healthy Sweet Snacks
If you want a healthy sweet snack that’s all-natural, you’re not stuck eating celery sticks. If you want to up your snack game, think about things that are already sweet and how you can add a little boost to ‘em.
- Slice up a sweet apple and give each slice a dollop of protein-rich nut butter for a midday pick-me-up that’ll keep you pushing through the afternoon. The sweetness of the apple hits your sugar sensors and the protein of nut butter helps you not spike or crash.
- Eat easy-peel citrus, like mandarins or tangerines, as a snack. They’re sweet, juicy, and fulfill the craving while also requiring just enough work as to force you to pace yourself while you snack on them. Plus, citrus is a great source of Vitamin C!
- Fruit smoothies are a great healthy sweet snack that can almost fill the slot of a meal. All you need is a decent blender, some frozen fruit, ice, and voila, you’re good to go! Try a mix of berries, bananas, and yogurt to soothe your sweet tooth. A basic smoothie is 4 parts fruit, 2 part liquid (like water or milk), 1 part thickener (like yogurt or honey). Start there and test things out.
- Looking for something a little more candy-like? Dark chocolate has all the associative sweetness of a candy bar while actually lowering your heart pressure and helping you load up on antioxidants and minerals. Try to hit that 80% dark chocolate range or higher… we promise it’ll grow on ya!
Split the Difference—Make Your Own!
Wanna get a little fancier than eating fresh fruit instead of candy? If you’re the enterprising type, you can make your own snacks from scratch. From low-sugar chocolatey scones to homemade fig newtons to cheeze-its in your own oven, you can make pretty much any snack healthier when you do it yourself!
There are lots of options out there for a better healthy snacking experience. Go forth, research, and experiment!
Healthy Sweet Snacks Are Within Reach
Or at least, they should be! One of the best ways to keep yourself from eating snacks that aren’t healthy is to stop keeping them around. You’ll never eat junky sweets if they’re not in your house—and when the craving hits, you ought to be prepared with a healthy substitute ready to go. Keeping dark chocolate, apples, and frozen fruit in the house definitely helps, especially when you’re having a particularly difficult morning, whether your workload is high or you just didn’t catch enough zzz’s. When you’re sitting down in the evening to watch a movie, put away the microwave popcorn and grab yourself a pile of mandarins or a container of unsweetened applesauce. You can do it! Healthy sweet snacks are easy to keep on hand, so you can crush the cravings and live a healthier life.