Healthy ways to satisfy your sweet tooth

Find yourself craving a little sweetness? If so, you’re not alone! Research suggests that our taste for sweet foods is innate – we’re actually born with it. Experts believe that we evolved with our liking for sweetness because our brain depends on glucose (a basic type of sugar) to function.

But with all the bad press sugar’s getting lately, you might also be wondering if you should give up on the sweet stuff altogether. The good news is, as usual there’s room for a healthy balance!

Aim for a healthy balance 

While it’s important to pay attention to our overall intake of added sugars, you don’t have to eliminate all sources from your diet. It’s okay to enjoy small amounts of added sugars as part of a healthy balanced diet. That’s especially true when the added sugar is found in nutritious foods. For example, foods such as whole grain cereals and yogurt, that also provide you with many important essential nutrients. So just how much is okay and how can you satisfy your sweet tooth in a healthy way? Keep this guideline in mind:

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that we limit our intake of added sugars to less than 5 to 10 percent of our total calories per day. What does this mean? In simple terms, for someone who eats 2,000 calories a day, this translates to a maximum of 6 to 12 teaspoons (or 25 to 50 g) of added sugars a day.

Choose foods that nourish  

Studies indicate that nutritious foods, such as whole grain cereals or yogurt, can benefit our health even when they contain added sugar. Leading health authorities also agree there’s room for a little sweetness in a healthy diet, provided you focus on choosing foods that nourish your body.

According to guidelines published by Diabetes Canada, nutritious foods such as whole grains and yogurt that contain some added sugars, aren’t associated with adverse health effects.  

The American Heart Association also advises that small amounts of sugars can be used to improve the taste of foods that provide many essential nutrients, like yogurt and whole grain cereals. This can encourage us to consume more of these nourishing foods, improving the nutritional quality of our diets as a result. 

Have some fun experimenting

Making your own desserts is a great way to help control the amount of sugar you and your family eats. Just remember that sugar plays many functions in foods. So, it may not be possible to significantly reduce or completely remove the sugar in some recipes. If you’re trying to reduce the amount of sugar in a home recipe, it’s best to experiment by reducing the amount used by small increments. Then, see if the taste, texture, and colour remain to your liking. 

Tips to help you keep your sugar intake to a healthy level:

  • Make your meals with fresh, wholesome, nutrient-dense foods. You don’t need to worry about the sugars naturally found in fruit, plain milk and plain yogurt.
  • Eat regular meals that are rich in protein and fibre. This can help prevent you from feeling overly hungry, so you won’t be as tempted to reach for a sweet pick-me-up.
  • Use all added sugars in small amounts, including white table sugar, jams, maple syrup, honey and agave.
  • Reduce the amount of sugar you add to homemade baked goods, like cookies, muffins and quick breads (and be mindful of how much of these you eat). 
  • Try using spices such as cinnamon, ginger or cloves instead to add flavour to reduced-sugar foods and baked goods.
  • Cut back on nutrient-poor sugary foods and beverages, such as pop, fruit drinks, sports drinks, sweetened specialty coffee and tea drinks, energy drinks, candies, candy bars, cakes, pastries, cookies, and doughnuts.
  • When you choose to eat sweet treats, try to pay attention to your portion sizes and listen to your hunger cues. It may take less that you think to be satisfied.