While excusing yourself from sugary celebrations is no fun, neither is dealing with a post-sugar-binge hangover. And on top of it, the more sugar you eat, the more you crave — it can take a few days to weeks to get over an addiction to refined sugar once you start. Not only that, but studies have shown that eating too much refined sugar can speed up your body's aging process. If you know you can't resist sweet temptations, read on to learn nutritionist-approved strategies that will keep you on the right track.
- Choose wisely: If you're going to indulge, go for seasonal sweets that you know you can't get when it's not the holidays. "You can have chocolate any time of the year," says registered dietitian, nutritionist, and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson Tamara Melton. Go for a seasonal dessert you crave all year, like a treat from an ice cream truck in the Summer or pumpkin pie in the Fall. Just remember that just because these treats are only available for a limited time doesn't mean you should go overboard. Practice portion control by having a plan, Tamara advises.
- Think positive: Set yourself up for success by telling yourself that you got this. "Words are powerful," says Kathie Dolgin, author of Sugar Savvy Solution: Kick Your Sugar Addiction for Life and Get Healthy. "If you think resisting sugar is going to be hard, it will be hard. Change that negative self-talk if you are going to take control of your diet and your health. Believe you can do this!"
- Not being hungry is key: Don't want to chow down on the entire candy bowl? Set yourself up for success by eating a balanced meal or snack every three to four hours, Tamara says. Simone Gloger, a registered nutritionist and Dukan Diet nutritionist, recommends three protein-rich meals and two protein-rich snacks every day to help you resist cravings. "I usually pack my lunch and snacks each day so I don't give into the temptation that is all around me," Simone says.
- Know that cravings might be something else: Before you reach for that peanut butter cup, think about what you really need. "People mistake thirst for hunger or cravings," Kathie says. "That dip in energy that sends you hunting for a snack is often just a sign of dehydration. So hydrate and hydrate and drink water, not juice or soda." Kathie recommends spa water — water infused with your favorite fruits — to hit sugar cravings the natural way. If you are craving a treat, opt for a small piece of dark chocolate or a single-serving yogurt that comes with sweet mix-ins like chocolate or granola, Tamara advises.
- Don't dwell: Tried your best, but couldn't resist the siren song of holiday treats? Don't beat yourself up about it. "Forgive yourself and get back on track," Kathie says. "Forgiving and being kind to others (as well as yourself!) boosts self-esteem and gratitude for what you have (thus combating the negative self-talk that can send you running for the cookie jar) and gives you the same endorphin rush as sugar." Afterward, make sure your next meal is only when you are hungry, Tamara says. "Resolve to eat healthier at your next meal, then load up on plenty of fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains. Be sure to also include lean sources of protein, which help to keep you satisfied."