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10 healthier foods to beat your toughest sugar cravings

10 healthier foods to beat your toughest sugar cravings

Determined to give up sugar after plowing your way through one too many cookie platters over the holidays?

You wouldn’t be the only one making that your New Year’s resolution.

Now, to keep it.

Easier said than done — we as human beings are pretty much hardwired to lust after the sweet stuff, according to dietician Julie Upton, co-founder of Appetite for Health, a nutrition communications consulting firm.

In an article for Eat This, Not That! Upton details how it all works — simple carbohydrates, or sugars, trigger our brains to churn out endorphins, the happy hormones that can also be induced by laughing, listening to music, having an orgasm or even just quietly meditating.

And while you could assume the lotus position and wait for the vibes to wash over you, most of us in need of a boost will be making a beeline for the feel-good foods.

All well and good, except for one thing, Upton and other experts warn— Americans already scarf down way much of the freaky fructose in their daily diet — approximately 17 teaspoons (270 calories or 68 grams) of added sugars every single day. That’s far above the American Heart Association guideline of 6 teaspoons for women and 9 teaspoons for men.

Considering the potential for health problems linked endlessly, in study after study, to overdoing it on the baker’s cocaine — type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and so on — eating smarter in 2024 sounds like a fine idea.

Nobody’s saying rule out fun completely, but rather, just say no to the worst of the junk foods and settle for a smidgen of sweetness instead — ideally combined with blood sugar-regulating macronutrients like fiber, which are indisputably good for you.

Here are 10 foods Upton recommends to curb cravings without all the nasty side-effects.

Dark chocolate-covered fruits

Nicholas Klein

“Chocolate-covered strawberries are a great way to get a little bit of sweetness because they are a good source of fiber and other bioactive compounds that help slow the release of carbohydrates into the bloodstream. What’s more, dark chocolate is known to pack in flavonoids that help improve heart health. Strawberries may come to mind as a great fruit to dip in chocolate, but other healthful choices include sliced kiwis, oranges, and bananas.”

Dried fruit


“Dried fruit is a great option to enjoy instead of grabbing a bag of gummies or other sugary treats with no essential nutrients. Dried fruit provides all the beneficial vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients of fresh, but in a more intensely sweet package. Keep servings of dried fruit in check as calories can add up quickly. For example, five to six dried apricots have about 110 calories while three fresh apricots have around 60 calories.”

Sugar-free gum


“Often a stick of sugar-free gum may be just what you need to kick a craving for sweets to the curb. That’s because when we are anxious or stressed, cravings for sweets can increase. More than 80 years of research about chewing gum shows that gum can help reduce stress, improve mood, and increase attention span.”

Dark chocolate

Janine Lamontagne

“Dark chocolate is a wonderful way to combat your cravings for something sweet and chocolatey at the same time. Dark chocolate has higher levels of cacao, which packs in beneficial antioxidants that help lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, and reduce overall risk for heart disease. Look for dark chocolate that is at least 70% cacao and enjoy it in moderation to keep your calories in check.”

Quick breads and muffins


“Quick breads can be a great alternative to traditional sugar-rich baked goods that pack in calories, fat, and sugar, and relatively no other beneficial nutrients. By using the sweetness of fruit or veggies in the bread or muffin, less added sugar is used to make quick breads. You can also bake your own and use a stevia-sugar blend, so you reduce added sugars even further. The produce in the recipe adds fiber, essential nutrients, and other bioactive compounds that help temper the impact of quick-release simple carbs.”

Fresh fruit


“Fruit is naturally sweet and can crush your cravings for sugar. The natural sugar in berries, apples, citrus, grapes, and other fruits will satisfy your craving for sweets. The fiber in fruit will delay the digestion and absorption of carbs so it increases your satisfaction to conquer your cravings.”

Flavored yogurt with no added sugars


“Flavored yogurt can be a great way to satisfy your cravings for something sweet while getting high-quality protein, calcium, and many other nutrients in your diet. Protein helps slow digestion so it will help temper the release of sugar into your bloodstream. The healthiest option tends to be Greek yogurt with no added sugar or those sweetened with zero-calorie sugar substitutes.”

Trail mix


“Trail mix is a great way to get over a craving for something sweet. The dried fruit and chocolate in the blends provide enough sweetness while the nuts provide fiber and protein. Trail mix is high in calories and total fat, with about 150 calories per ¼ cup serving, so monitor how much you eat.”

Cottage cheese with fruit


“There are several brands of cottage cheese with fruit, which adds a touch of sweetness with the added benefits of the nutritional benefits of cottage cheese. Cottage cheese is naturally rich in protein and low in added sugar. The single-serve portions are generally less than 150 calories and are sweet enough to tamp down your sweet tooth.”

Protein-rich energy bars


“A protein-rich energy or snack bar is one of my favorite ways to make me feel like I’m enjoying a sweet treat. I look for bars that have less than 8 grams of added sugar (2 teaspoons) and no more than 200 calories. There are hundreds of options from which to choose.”