People often take the first month of the New Year to swear off sweets as part of their New Year’s resolutions. But it’s never easy to stick to such a resolution—changing eating habits isn’t so much a resolution as a lifestyle change. Going sugar-free can be frustrating, and the moment that it becomes a stress instead of a challenge is the moment you’ve lost half the battle. So unless you’re deeply committed, you’ll be like most of the rest of us: struggling through the first three weeks of January and then deciding that resolutions aren’t really your thing after all. But there’s an easier way to help your family eat healthier than by swearing off sugar altogether. Here are four ways to successfully eat less sweets without missing them.
4 Ways To Eat Less Sweets Successfully
Substitute Sweet for Sweet
Not all dessert is created equal.
Make a conscious choice to give your body what it’s craving, but in a different dressing than it might have expected. Avoid the processed fats and sugars; make desserts from scratch instead of boxed mixes so that you can monitor how much sugar and oil goes into that batch of brownies (and consequently, into the bodies of your children and spouse!).
Substitute all of your favorite or traditional desserts for similar recipes that are lower in sugars, fats, and calories. Instead of going straight for the chocolate fudge brownie, whip up a light, low-fat chocolate pudding made with skim milk. Instead of a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, make a fresh fruit smoothie with a spoonful of peanut butter or a green smoothie for a few added nutrients. Eat 100% fruit frozen popsicles instead of ice cream sandwiches, low-fat chocolate mousse made from baking chocolate and coconut milk instead of chocolate cake, and berries with whipped cream instead of cheesecake. Soon enough, your bodies will adapt to the changes and none of your children will even be able to remember (or even like) the excess amounts of sugar they used to eat.
This is an age-old trick to curb overeating in any situation, but it applies to desserts as well. Shoveling away an entire slice of pie in under a minute will only leave you wanting more, and you’ll be much more likely to help yourself to a second piece before your body has even registered that it’s reached its sugar-satisfaction content.
Teach your children to take small bites instead, and savor the flavor before they swallow. If your bodies are given time to process what you’re feeding them, you won’t have more than a few bites (especially if the dessert is particularly rich) before your tongues will start to feel coated with sugar and your stomachs will inform you that they’ve had enough. As a culture, we’ve trained ourselves to be able to consume copious amounts of sugar, but our bodies weren’t made to eat that way—they’re more than happy with just a few bites, despite what our cravings might tell us.
Positive reinforcement is always more successful than punishment. So instead of eating a big slice of chocolate cake and then heading straight to the gym to “burn off” the offending calories, start your mornings with the gym. Establish a habit of exercising regularly, and then when you indulge in a dessert on Friday night you can call it a “reward” for taking good care of your body for the rest of the week.
This can’t be a daily occurrence, of course. Sending the kids outside to run around for a half hour every afternoon can’t justify them having a bowl of ice cream every night—there would definitely be consequences (a few extra pounds around the middle and unwelcome trips to a Hamilton dentist among them)! But allowing a dessert once a week if you reach your exercise goals, eat the suggested servings of vegetables all week, or eliminate unhealthy fats and processed sugars for a predetermined period of time can be a good way to positively reinforce healthy choices.
Train Your Taste Buds
In many countries in Europe, dessert is a simple affair—in meals consisting of several courses, it’s often just a platter of fruit with a light wine. After a rich or heavy meal, eating a few strawberries, a bowl of mango, a few slices of fresh pineapple, or other sweet fruit is just enough to be satisfying without being overpowering.
So try training your family’s taste buds to recognize fruit as sweet enough. You don’t need heavy desserts full of processed sugars and syrups when you have natural, healthy sugar that can placate your sweet tooth just as easily. It’s only a matter of teaching your bodies that it doesn’t need traditional American junk food to be happy.
Desserts are not a sin, and cutting them out cold turkey can backfire dangerously and cause you to go on a sweet-eating binge. But cutting back on the desserts in the right way can allow you to indulge yourself at the appropriate times… without suffering all of the consequences of a sugar overload. Which tips do you think you will put into practice to help you eat less sweets?