Everyone has a sweet tooth and those who don't just haven't realized it yet. It's rarer these days to run into someone who has no interest in sweets whatsoever rather than someone who does, which makes for an interesting nine months for those who are pregnant and advised to stay away from sugar. Not all of it is bad for a person and the system does need a certain amount of sugar to keep things running smoothly, but many times people end up craving it more than they should. Battling a sweet tooth doesn't have to be a constant source of anxiety when trying to decide between an apple or a brownie, in fact, it should be seen as a motivator. The fact that a mom has a sweet tooth means that she already has the determination to find those sweets, and that determination can totally be channeled into finding new ways to cook, bake, and supply a sugar craving in other, more baby-friendly ways.
Being able to understand why a mom has a sweet tooth and what causes it to keep coming back, occasionally with a vengeance, is helpful in the way of making sure meal plans are balanced. We'll discuss that as well as the tons of ways moms can curve their sugar cravings, substitute with foods that are sweet but also healthy, or how moms can eliminate sweet treats altogether if that's what they're looking for. Having a sweet tooth can be a fun way for moms to try new things and possibly even learn what her system is really trying to tell her.
This is perhaps the most common and easiest way to curve cravings right off the bat. Fresh fruit is what they call "nature's candy" and it really is the truth. Fruits have natural sugars that don't always metabolize the same way that simple carbohydrates do. This is the technical way of saying that simple carbs, such as a candy bar, caused by the sugars in that food, will immediately be stored in the body quickly. Think of it like a bear during hibernation; leading up to the months before, bears will eat a plethora of foods so that they're ready for the winter months when their defenses are down. This puts them into a "fight or flight" mode of metabolizing or breaking down and storing, foods. The difference between sugars in fruit and sugars in candy comes down to metabolization and how they're either stored or used up as energy by your body.
If you can pick out a few days a month that you can allow yourself to fully indulged in your favorite sweet treat, then you're one step ahead of the game. It takes a lot of willpower to do this, but we believe in you all the way. If it helps, mark down your "cheat days" on a calendar with a pretty colored pen or a fancy sticker so that you can visibly see how many days you have left to go. It'll keep you motivated while also showing you how many days you've gone without giving into your favorite Mrs. Field's cookies, which, in turn, will be a proud moment and one you can revel in a little bit. Just be wary, often when you go without eating heavy sweets, your body reacts differently to them and might not be able to handle as much -- Moderation and slow eating are key here.
Speaking of moderation, this is something many sweets lovers don't necessarily do. It's insanely difficult to think of moderation when you love something so much, and that's something that I, myself, have struggled with for years. What helps is to avoid buying things in bulk, and avoid dishing out servings that you know you'll eat just because they're there. Many a time I have doubled up on ice cream servings and managed to convince myself that it's in my bowl, so I have to eat it...Obviously, this is not true and it's just my evil inner self, reaching for an extra 500 calories. Try an ice cream bar or sandwich rather than a full gallon or pint of ice cream, and hey, Ben & Jerry's even has pint "slices" now as well as mini, one-serving sizes in the freezer section and trust me, they are a stomachache saver.
It's true, healthy and sweet snacking options are out there whether you choose them or not. It's really important here to listen to what your body is telling you; when do you crave sweet things the most? Is it when you're lacking energy and feel tired? Is it during long wait times between meals? Or perhaps you crave something sweet immediately after eating, almost like a conditioned behavior. There are so many reasons for your cravings, and almost all of them can be solved by eating foods that either a) give you energy, b) help to stave off hunger, or c) contain smaller calorie amounts that will help you to eventually break the cycle of daily dessert. Fruit with whipped cream, yogurt with a little bit of honey, or even ricotta with a drizzle of lemon juice and honey can all be better alternatives and baby steps to eating healthier.
If you're craving sweet foods because of either a lack of energy or hunger pains from waiting too long in between meal, then high-fiber foods are great in warding them off. Granola bars or mix (preferably homemade) with oats, chia seeds, or nuts can provide energy as well as giving you that feeling of fullness. Kale chips are another healthy snacking food that can temper your sweet tooth with the substitution of high fiber, slight saltiness, and iron. You can add any kind of flavoring or spice to these as well and make them into a delicious snack for any time of day.
Proteins are just as important as fiber and can help you stay full for longer while giving you and your baby some much-needed nutrition. Protein shakes are an excellent way to feel full without eating a ton of sugar or a full sugary breakfast, and they're quick and simple to mix up. You can add fruits, almond milk, spinach or kale, and even various spices to make it more interesting, healthy, and satisfying. You should check with your doctor before starting any serious kind of protein powder routine, but it can be an adequate supplement for curving sweet breakfast cravings.
This is huge. Simple carbs can be very addicting and are the leading cause for so many sweet tooths because they're the very most basic of carbohydrates. If not used as energy right away, they're stored immediately in your body which often leads to the craving for more. You'll notice once you start having pancakes and syrup for breakfast, you'll begin craving more of it. Just like what you have a cookie as a dessert every night, you'll start to crave more sugar throughout the day. It all goes back to your body's natural response to storing excess foods that aren't used up. This isn't to say that pancakes are great in moderation for regulated blood-sugar levels, but it's something that should be just that -- Eaten in moderation.
Another reason for sweets? Boredom. This is something that a lot of people don't like to acknowledge and often get fussy over, but it's perfectly normal. Most often, we're comfortable sitting in front of the TV with a snack or sitting at our work desk with a snack, or even just used to randomly wandering into the kitchen looking for food without knowing if we're hungry or not. Having a routine can help to break these and some light exercise is great for you and your pregnancy. Your body still needs to perform regular functions such as muscle movement and regulated blood flow, so activities such as yoga or walking can drastically increase healthy habits, and decrease unhealthy ones. Not to mention, you'll notice all of your food cravings being curved, not just sweet ones.
Certain herbs can have a slightly negative effect on pregnancy, so definitely check with your doctor before consuming anything out of the ordinary. Yogi Tea makes a line of pregnancy-oriented teas that can be a great option as a substitute for sweets. At night, try a cup of chamomile or mint tea with a squeeze of honey to satisfy your sweet tooth. Rooibos is also a great tea and one of my favorites, since it's caffeine-free and packed with helpful antioxidants to support the immune system and overall body health. In the morning, some ginger tea is helpful for morning sickness and believe it or not, you can find chocolate mint tea -- It's great for a daily dose of sweet.
Sugar-free foods are a bit of a catch-22. No, they don't contain sugar but do still have flour, a simple carb. Yes, most of them do contain artificial sweeteners, which aren't super healthy for you. The best thing to do is just avoid them altogether and stick with natural substitutions or, if you really need to eat something sweet, practice moderation. Artificial sweeteners have been linked to a slew of things and while it's not always certain that they're "bad" for you, while you're pregnant it's just best not to take chances. With so many other healthy options out there, including agave nectar, there's no need to invest in sugar-free foods.
If you bake it, they will come...Just kidding, wrong story. You can make your own sweet treats though with a little help from sites like Pinterest, and many of them are pretty healthy as well with substitutions for sugar and flour. Let your sweet tooth motivate you to be the best baker you can be, and incorporate one treat a week into your meal planning routine. It can be something as simple as healthier cookies, or something as complex as a quick bread or some kind of cake -- Either way, if it's a sugarless and/or flourless recipe, chances are it'll set you on a better path.
That's the real kicker, isn't it? You dine out to have an amazing lunch or dinner, and with it always comes the option of an equally amazing dessert. It's easy enough to sit here and tell you that you don't need to order one, but when we're staring down those menus, it's much easier said than done. One thing you can do is decline to see the dessert menu at all, but this can be tricky if you're dining with others who are interested. A second option is to split a dessert and go for something of a lighter option, which many restaurants offer nowadays. Third, if you're really unsure, plan your dinner around it -- Start with a small appetizer, then make sure your dinner is something delicious and filling that will hold you over to the point where you can't even think about sweets as an option. Fourth, opt out of dessert and instead go for a coffee or tea to keep your hands busy while others finish up.
Who doesn't love smoothies? Well, if you don't, then you will. Gone are the days of chalky, ice-filled smoothies, and in are the days of creamy delicious power breakfasts. Slice bananas at the beginning of the week and store them in the freezer along with your favorite berries. Take advantage of weekly sales at your supermarket and buy fruit in bulk, then store those in your freezer in portion bags as well. Large containers of Greek yogurt are convenient and can be frozen easily as well, which eliminate the need for ice at all in your smoothie...Meaning no watered-down flavor and full nutrition. In the morning, your prep will be all done and all you need to do is choose, blend, and drink, and you'll be too full to even consider a side of syrupy waffles.
Oats are fiber, and fiber is filling. Oatmeal is the most obvious way to go with this, but why not try pumping it up a bit? There are plenty of recipes out there for overnight oats which are effortless and can be done ahead of time, as well as baked oatmeal, which is delicious and soul-warming. By keeping a large can of quick-cook oats, you'll be bypassing the urge to buy sugar-filled oatmeals and will also allow yourself a blank canvas to add dried fruits, nuts, real maple syrup, agave, honey, etc. This is a heart-healthy breakfast that will make both you and your baby happy.
This is the most common-sense thing to do but also the most difficult. It's second to not ordering dessert at a restaurant but even more challenging because in the supermarket, you're literally standing next to your favorite sweets. It might sound crazy, but the trick is to avoid those aisles altogether. You might look a bit strange making odd U-turns in the middle of an aisle, but it'll help you avoid future sweet excess later. For even more motivation, think of your favorite non-sugary snack or even your favorite dinner -- Whenever you feel like you're heading towards a sugary downfall, go back and grab another food or food items that will make you just as happy.
It's already been proven that dark chocolate is full of antioxidants and can be heart-healthy when eaten in small amounts, and it's good for you to eat while you're pregnant, too. The key is to avoid eating too much of it, but chances are that you won't because it quickly becomes pretty bitter. Getting really good dark chocolate with higher levels of cacao and perforated bars will help you know how much is in a serving and also provide you with all the benefits previously stated. It's also great to keep in the house to shave on top of smoothies, smoothie bowls, cereals, oatmeal, coffee, or even into tea.
This all goes back to how to not become addicted to sugar and simple carbohydrates. Adding too much sugar into your tea or coffee is something that a lot of women overlook because it's so ingrained in their daily routines. While you're pregnant, this is something you should pay attention to because it can very rapidly increase your sugar intake without you even realizing it. To reverse this, start slowly and cut back half the amount of sugar you use. It'll take some getting used to, but eventually, you'll be able to either go fully sugarless or tolerate a substitute like an agave or honey that's slightly better for you.
There's something you have to remember with agave substitutions: What you're looking for is pure nectar, one without additives. Bearing that in mind, agave is really no better than having sugar aside from the fact that it's processed immediately in your liver as opposed to slowly being stored. Many have argued that it doesn't matter if you're using agave, sugar, honey, or other sweeteners, but the difference is that agave has a low glycemic index. When purchasing agave nectar, Organic is also a great word to look out for because otherwise, it's comparable to high-fructose syrup. Consider agave a baby step towards eliminating sugar excess sugar altogether because there's really no "best" substitute, the only real healthy option is to wean yourself off of the craving naturally.
It's important to note that you should be looking for dried fruits that do not have an added sugar. This can completely invalidate your dried fruits for snacking and actually cause more of a sugar dependency within your body. However, dried fruits that have not had sugar added to them can be a great, natural way to curve your craving without eliminating sugar altogether. It's similar to replacing a piece of candy with fresh fruit in the sense that it'll give you a bit of sugar while also providing you and your baby with key vitamins.
All in all, sugar cravings always have a reason or a place from which they stem from. Listening to your body is so important when it comes to refusing extra sugar and it can set you on a healthier life path, during your pregnancy, and as a mom. By continually providing your body with sugar and simple carbs such as found in pasta, pastries, and white bread, you're only doing your body an injustice and keeping it satisfied with fuel that's quickly stored and not very helpful. By choosing a healthier option, you're not only curving cravings but also giving your body and your baby the things that they really need. It's not impossible, and it's okay to have setbacks and need a pick-me-up in the form of a cookie every now and then...The important thing is that you're heading in the right direction for a healthier you.