Gluten may be the more trendy dietary opponent of the moment, but we all know that sugar is best eaten in moderation. Whether you’re looking to break the energy spike-crash cycle, lose a little weight, or just be healthier overall, it is possible to cut down on everyone’s favorite sweet treat. Dr. Frank Lipman, M.D., integrative medicine physician and founder of Eleven Eleven Wellness Center, breaks down some healthier sweetener options and shares some snacks to stabilize your blood sugar and keep cravings at bay.
DO: Swap Sugar For Spice
“Use spices like cinnamon, cardamom and ginger in your cooking. They add a natural sweetness and very satisfying depth to your meals,” says Dr. Lipman. “Cinnamon also has a positive effect on the blood sugar helping it keep more stable throughout the day. Next time a sugar craving comes, along make a warm chai tea or a hot almond milk with these spices.”
DO: Try Stevia
Dr. Lipman never recommends reaching for an artificial sweetener like those pink or yellow packets at the coffee shop. His go-to alternative is stevia. “Stevia is derived from a leaf and adds a lot of sweet flavor without any actual sugar,” explains Dr. Lipman. Because it’s super-sweet, try using just a pinch at first until you get used to the flavor.
DON'T: OD on Agave Nectar
Contrary to popular belief, “Agave is not a healthier alternative to sugar,” says Dr. Lipman. “Agave often is produced with chemicals, enzymes and acids. It is so heavily processed and refined that all of the benefits have been bled out of it. Agave is 55 to 90 percent fructose, while plain sugar comes in at 50 percent, and it goes straight to the liver where excessive amounts can trigger insulin resistance.”
DO: Try Sweet Veggies
“Vegetables like winter squashes and root vegetables provide some natural sweetness. These are in season in the colder months and they help us stay satisfied,” says Dr. Lipman. “Use them in soups and stews, toss chopped root vegetables in coconut oil and sea salt and bake them in the oven. You'll have great vegetable sides for a week! Make a warm winter salad with roasted winter squashes and roots—sprinkle on some chopped nuts and add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar for a super-satisfying lunch.”
DON'T: Become Banana-Dependent
If you add an entire banana to your morning smoothie, you’re sneaking in sugar, albeit from a natural source. Instead, try swapping in something else once in a while. “Avocado is in fact a fruit and works great in smoothies to create richness and a smooth texture instead of relying on the much sweeter banana,” says Dr. Lipman. Try using half of a ripe avocado to add creamy thickness without too much sweetness. Plus, “Avocados provide healthy fats and magnesium, both things that can actually help curb sugar cravings. Making sure to eat enough healthy fat is my number one tip for keeping sugar cravings low.”
DO: Eat Fermented Foods
“Fermented foods with good-for-you bacteria such as raw sauerkraut and kefir have a slightly sour, tart taste that helps curb cravings for sweets,” explains Dr. Lipman. “Sugar cravings can sometimes also come from an overgrowth of unwanted yeast and bacteria in the gut and the good bacteria found in fermented foods help boost your microbiome with more good bacteria.”