Just when you think you’re totally over processed foods and sugars, you eat one little bite of milk chocolate and all that clean eating goes directly out the window. For the next week, you can’t stay away from candy bars at checkout counter lines, and you’ve ripped your apartment apart looking for every box of Girl Scout cookies you strategically hid from yourself last spring. It's OK to admit it: We’ve all been there.
Anyone who’s struggled with sugar will tell you that at a certain point, the random cravings and ongoing sense of being a bottomless pit of hunger subside. That’s because sugar’s addictive—and we have to physically cleanse it from our bodies in order to move along from it. Luckily for us, there are plenty of foods to get us over the hump.
Berries are naturally sweet and insanely good for you. No matter which berry you choose, you’re filling up on antioxidants vitamins and nutrition that will boost weight loss and reduce the effects of aging. As you move further away from sugars in processed foods and sweets, you’ll realize just how much sweetness there is in a strawberry or fresh nectarine. And you can tear through a bag of beautiful cherries without feeling an ounce of guilt—or a bit of hangriness later on. Use berries in smoothies or as frozen treats so you have a go-to that isn’t a soda or ice cream bar.
Cinnamon is an amazing spice. This stuff can balance your blood sugar, has been shown to reduce inflammation and lower cholesterol, functions as a natural sweetener, and will take any banana bread or French toast recipe to the next level without sugar.
Just because you’re curbing your sugar intake doesn’t mean you can’t have chocolate. And if you combine a square of dark chocolate (dark is generally 70 percent or more cocoa) with a cup of sliced fruit, you’ll find your cravings for sugar disappear pretty fast.
“Raw, dark chocolate contains magnesium, which is nature's best chill pill, as well as essential fibers and B vitamins,” Tara Mackey, author of Cured by Nature, tells Eat This, Not That!. “This kicks sugar cravings by satisfying your sweet tooth.”
Fermented foods and drinks.
Fermentation works by micro-flora gobbling up sugar as food and creating good-for-you Omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, enzymes and vitamin B. The resulting probiotics level things out in your gut, and all that other nutrition provides overall wellness.
Plant-based fats like coconut and avocado.
Coconuts and avocados are loaded with good fats that will satiate your cravings while giving you a healthy dose of sweetness that’s subtler than a chocolate bar but way better for you. Cut them up and eat them as they are, or incorporate them into other dishes via coconut or avocado oil, coconut milk, or guacamole.
Coconut milk or coconut oil and dash of cinnamon are great stand-ins for sugar in your morning coffee or tea. And if you really can’t live without sweet desserts, check out this recipe for raw vegan brownies made with coconut oil, dates and cocoa powder.
Roasted or grilled root vegetables.
Not until you get away from processed sugar do you realize how much sweetness is present in everyday vegetables. This is especially true for root vegetables, the sweetness of which is most pronounced after they’re roasted or grilled. In addition to enjoying the healthy sweet flavor of carrots, parsnips, beets, potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes, your body will benefit from the healthy hit of fiber… which also helps balance your blood sugar.
Don’t forget to sprinkle your cooked veggies with cinnamon for even more deliciousness.
Because of how sugar affects your brain, your cravings are more likely coming from the space between your ears than the one in the center of your belly. “Like a 3-year-old that won’t get off the swing set, your brain wants a rush—a sugar rush, that is—and it will put up a fuss until it gets it,” David Zinczenko, author of Zero Sugar Diet: The 14 Day Plan to Flatten Your Belly, Crush Cravings and Help Keep You Lean for Life, tells Eat This, Not That!. “There are ways to raise dopamine levels and prevent those sugar cravings,” he continues. “In particular, the amino acid tyrosine (a building block of protein) has been shown to encourage the brain to release dopamine and another neurotransmitter, norepinephrine. The best sources of tyrosine: eggs, Spirulina, cheese, milk and sesame seeds."
The easiest way to get your dose of spirulina is to add the powder to drinks like smoothies, or purchase supplements.
Tigernuts are high-fiber nuts that are naturally very sweet. Mix tigernut flour with a teaspoon of coconut oil, roll into a dough, then toss in some chopped-up dark chocolate to replace your cookie dough desires.
You can also use chopped tigernuts in homemade granola, over top of yogurt, or just eat them as a sweet, crunchy snack. Yum.