Guest Blog: Taming the Sweet Tooth

As part of our #HealthyFamilies initiative, CNE is featuring guest bloggers and hosting a campaign on how you and your family can live healthier by cutting down on added sugars. Check our Facebook and Twitter for more. This campaign is made possible through a grant from NorthShore University HealthSystem.

By Anne Milling RD, LDN and Lucy Milling

Coke, Snapple, Monster, Frappuccinos – drinking too much of these fun beverages can lead to health problems.  Fruit juice and sugary drinks cause weight gain because unlike solid food, they do not make you feel full. When you consume more calories than your body uses, it stores that energy as fat. Being overweight also puts you at risk for serious illnesses, including diabetes.

Our bodies can easily become addicted to sugar. When you feed your body sugar, you experience an initial “rush” of energy, followed by a “crash” which leaves you tired and irritable. At that point, you’ll crave something sweet again to bring your blood sugar back up. Sugar also lights up the pleasure pathways in the brain like alcohol and drugs. When you consume enough sugar over time, you crave more to be satisfied. Sugar becomes a habit that is hard to break.

How do you tame your sweet tooth?  What do you drink instead of fruit juice and sugary drinks?  How do you have fun if sugary drinks are the best part of your day?

First, make a plan. Set realistic goals that you can maintain for the rest of your life. Try giving up one sugary drink a day, diluting it with water, or replacing it with a diet version. When you are ready, give up another one, or dilute it some more, and so on.

Set yourself up for success by keeping fruit juice and sugary drinks out of your refrigerator. Simply not having them around the house makes it easier to stop drinking them. Avoid places like fast food restaurants where sugary drinks are hard to resist.

Drink water. You can make water more appealing by filtering it, carbonating it, chilling it, or infusing it with natural flavors from lemon, cucumber slices, strawberries, or basil.

Diet soda and sugar substitutes, such as Sweet’N’Low, Equal and Splenda, can be a useful and safe alternative to sugar. They may cause a stomachache, but have never been found to cause cancer in humans.  (Pregnant women should review sugar substitutes with their primary care provider.) New research suggests that sugar substitutes can make some people crave real sugar. So only consume a small amount of diet drinks and sugar substitutes and/or use them as a temporary crutch.

Keep your blood sugar steady by eating well-balanced meals.  Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner every day.  Fill your plate with a small piece of lean protein like chicken, fish or turkey and lots of vegetables. Use spices, herbs, a small amount of olive oil and a pinch of salt for flavor. Eat whole fruit for dessert.

It’s easy to kick one bad habit only to replace it with another.  Do not start eating sweet treats or fatty foods in place of fruit juice and sugary drinks. Instead, engage in a pleasant non-food related daily activity that makes you feel good.  Walk with a friend, take a bike ride, or work in your garden. Call or visit a friend, plan at trip, take a bubble bath, or read a book.  After all, do you really want a sugary drink to be the best part of your day?

About the Authors: Anne Milling is a registered dietitian specializing in weight-related illnesses.  She works as a registry dietitian at Weiss Memorial Hospital and volunteers at Old Irving Park Community Clinic.  Lucy is her daughter and has a degree in creative writing.

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