Sugar is an addictive substance, and we tend to crave and consume it more often than we should. But you don’t have to eat all that inflammation-causing sugar to get the sweet fix your body wants. By using simple swaps for your snacks, meals, and drinks, you can achieve the sweet flavor in a healthier way.
Dr. Daryl Gioffre, a celebrity nutritionist to clients like Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest, and author of “Get Off Your Acid” and the upcoming “Get Off Your Sugar,” which is set to publish on Jan. 5, 2021, explains that cortisol is largely to blame for sugar cravings. When sugar levels begin to drop, the brain goes into panic mode otherwise known as fight-or-flight, and signals the adrenal glands to release the stress hormone.
“Stress leads you to reach for sugar, and then sugar keeps you locked in the stress response,” Gioffre explains. “And, because sugar is like kindling on a fire, a couple of hours after eating, your body will tell you that you need to re-fuel—stat. In search of more glucose, you’ll reach for the high-carb, high-sugar foods.”
No wonder our sugar cravings feel like a never-ending cycle of eating more and wanting more. Luckily, Gioffre has an arsenal of tried-and-true sugar swaps that he uses with his clients who struggle to wean off the sweet stuff. Here are some of his ingenious recommendations.
And for more healthy eating tips, make sure to read 21 Best Healthy Cooking Hacks of All Time.
Swap out . . .
Flavored yogurt for chia pudding
All yogurt, unless specified otherwise, has lactose—the naturally occurring sugar found in milk and dairy products. To make matters worse, flavored yogurts also contain added sugars.
Gioffre suggests going for chia pudding instead. “It’s loaded with healthy keto fats that suppress hunger, and helps your body move away from burning sugar, to burning fat for fuel,” he says. And you can even opt for a chocolate flavor! (Related: 12 Lactose-Free Yogurts You’ll Love—Especially If You’re Lactose-Intolerant)
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Juice or soda for fruit-infused water
Gioffre points out that fruit juices are often stripped of fiber and can contain a lot more sugar than the actual fruit. He says you can end up consuming the same amount of fructose (sugar that’s naturally occurring in fruit) as four oranges in just one glass of orange juice. Canned and bottled sodas are even worse and additionally filled with synthetic sweeteners such as high-fructose corn syrup.
Instead, try water that’s infused with low-sugar fruits such as raspberries, lemon, strawberries, watermelon, and grapefruit.
Store-bought salad dressing for EVOO with lemon
“All premade salad dressings are acidic and highly inflammatory to the body,” says Gioffre. “Most are loaded with added sugars, and vinegar, which is also loaded with sugar and yeast.” Yikes!
So how do you flavor a salad in a healthful way? Try a simple, clean combo of olive oil and lemon. “Olive oil is a healthy plant-based keto fat [that’s also] anti-inflammatory and lemon is one of the most alkalizing low sugar fruits you can eat” he recommends.
Can you guess The Most Toxic Salad Dressing on Grocery Shelves?
Chips and crackers for veggie sticks with hummus or guac
We get it—it’s hard to think of chips and crackers as sugary snacks. While these foods are more commonly associated with salty and savory flavors, some brands do pack hidden sugar into their products. “Chips and crackers are derived from wheat or corn, which are loaded with pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids,” says Gioffre. “The sugar in these processed foods also spike your blood sugar and insulin levels.”
Instead, try sprucing up a serving of carrot sticks with a dollop of guacamole or hummus, both of which are loaded with healthy fats.
Ice cream for berries with coconut butter and mint
Not only does ice cream contain lactose, but more often than not it’s also packed with a lot of excess sugar. Gioffre recommends putting berries in a bowl and topping them with coconut butter, which he says is “a healthy fat that slows down how the sugar in the berries gets metabolized.”
Milk chocolate for 1 ounce of dark chocolate
“It’s not all about the greens,” says Gioffre. “Cacao is a great source of iron, magnesium, potassium, and calcium.” From cacao powder and nibs to a few squares of a 100% cacao chocolate bar, there are many ways you can satisfy that chocolate craving while also receiving a lot of nutrients—and all without the added sugars.
“It is unrefined and high in minerals which curb cravings while still giving you your sweet fix,” he adds. “Milk chocolate always needs to be avoided, as it is highly refined and loaded with added sugar and unhealthy inflammatory fats.”
White, brown, and coconut sugars for monk fruit
Gioffre says coconut, brown, and white sugars can all cause your blood glucose (sugar) and insulin levels to spike, which may cause an immediate burst of energy, but can leave you feeling sluggish shortly after.
“On the other hand, monk fruit or sugar, which are both sweeter than sugar, don’t have any downside insulin effects,” he says. “Monk fruit is a traditional Chinese berry that won’t spike insulin.”
Vinegar for lemon or lime juice
“Vinegar is a popular ingredient, especially for all salad lovers, but it’s a fermented alcohol byproduct that is filled with sugar, yeast, and acetic acid,” says Gioffre. “Avoid it and swap it for fresh lemon or lime juice.”
Why lemon and lime? They’re both loaded with minerals while also being naturally low in sugar, which provides an alkaline-forming effect once the body metabolizes them.
“Apple cider vinegar is an exception, as it does have an alkaline-forming effect inside the body,” he adds. Just make sure to have it in moderation!
Coffee creamer for unsweetened coconut milk creamer
If your tastebuds prevent you from taking your coffee black, you likely don’t shy away from sugar or creamers. However, these creamers are highly acidic and can cause inflammation in the microbiome, Gioffre says.
“Instead, add a tablespoon of coconut or MCT oil, or some unsweetened coconut milk,” he adds. And be sure to check out The Science-Backed Health Benefits of MCT Oil for more information.
Pasta, bread, and rice for quinoa, sweet potatoes, and squash
“Pasta and bread are derived from grains that will spike your insulin as much as processed sugar does, making you store fat and causing inflammation,” says Gioffre. “Rice is also a grain, and all grains [can] cause leaky gut, and are inflammatory to your system.”
The nutrition expert encourages incorporating more complex carbs into your diet instead. Thinks sweet potatoes, purple potatoes, and squash, all of which are also rich in fiber. These types of complex carbs help stabilize both insulin and blood glucose levels so you stay energized, longer.
For more, check out The 22 Best Tips To Start Losing Weight, According to Dietitians.