Tips on coping with a common problem: the call of the sweet.
Like many people, I have a real sweet tooth. Chocolate calls me. But I never realised the extent of my problem until I changed jobs. At the old job there was a nearby café that served lovely small pieces of slice with their coffee. I had become so used to having a little sweet treat at the end of lunch that in my new job I found myself racing off to the nearest petrol station looking for anything that could satisfy my craving. I found I couldn't eat half of a chocolate bar. The second half would sit on my desk, tormenting me. My sweet obsession slowly crept into other meals of the day. So with a wildly out-of-control sweet tooth and several kilograms later, it was time to take action.
Cravings for sweet food can be linked to a drop in blood sugar levels, especially if there are long gaps between meals. It is times like these when we are more likely to reach for a treat. But our 'cravings' for food can also be due to habit (like mine were), fond memories or even our emotional state. Regardless of the reason for our cravings for sweet – and often high-fat – foods, they can easily contain unnecessary kilojoules. If you're struggling with a sweet tooth, here are some tips to help tame it.
Aim to eat three meals spread evenly throughout the day and have healthy snacks like fruit, nuts or yoghurt on hand if you are likely to get caught out. You may also know of key times when you are vulnerable to a snack attack. Late afternoon or early evening before dinner can be problem times for many people. Plan ahead and have an afternoon snack to get you through to dinner.
Watch your serving sizes
Often we just need a little taste of a sweet food to satisfy a craving. Are you able to get a small serve? Try the toddler or single scooped ice cream rather than a double scoop. Or the bite-sized chocolate bars (just don't eat the whole multi-pack!).
Embrace the seasons
In spring and summer there are a lot of delicious berries and stone fruits available, and in winter it's time for citrus and other treats like tamarillos and crisp apples. Have a variety of different fruit on hand to enjoy at the end of a meal or for a snack throughout the day. A fruit bowl on the desk at work is a great idea for encouraging fruit eating and avoiding the snack box.
If you have a particular craving for chocolate, try substituting for another food with a chocolate flavour. Chocolate dairy desserts are low-fat and are a good source of calcium for your bones. Cocoa powder is low-fat and makes a decadent hot drink in the evening.
Is it really the sweet tooth calling?
Often we confuse the messages our body is sending us. Are you really hungry, or are you thirsty? Try having a glass of water before your snack. A small bowl of cereal with fruit and yoghurt may also help if you are still feeling a little hungry after dinner. Sometimes we snack on sweets out of boredom. Try calling a friend or going for a walk around the block.
Brush your teeth
Try brushing your teeth after your meal. The toothpaste will leave a fresh mint flavour in your mouth and will also spoil the flavour of chocolate.
Out of sight, out of mind
Tempting food is easier to avoid if it isn't sitting in your cupboard at home. Visit the supermarket when you are not feeling hungry. Have a list written and stick to it. Sweet treats can sneak into the trolley when blood sugars are low or when there isn't a set plan to follow. Once the sweet food reaches the pantry at home, it is much harder to avoid.
8. Share with a friend
If you are meeting up with a friend for a catch-up over coffee and cake, try sharing a piece. Half the energy and fat and twice the fun.
Often we eat sweet food on the go; something we picked up at the supermarket on the way home from work or a sweet drink gulped as we walk. If you are going to have a sweet treat, take the time to sit down, relax and slowly eat it so you get the most pleasure out if it.