So Long, Sugar!

By Meghan Rabbitt

Ousting the sweet stuff from your diet can temper a litany of health complaints, from high cholesterol to digestive woes. But don’t go cold turkey—that can lead to lethargy, headaches, and mood swings—especially if you have a serious sweet tooth. To help you go sugar free without the side effects:

1 Have breakfast. Eating first thing in the morning can keep neuropeptide Y, an appetite-stimulating neurotransmitter, in check, which helps stave off late-day sugar cravings. Try a bowl of steel-cut oats or a hard-boiled egg and a rice cake.

2 Pack protein into every meal. The body digests protein more slowly than fats and carbohydrates, keeping you fuller longer, says Sue Moores, RD, a nutritionist in St. Paul, Minnesota. But reach for lean meats and plant-based sources of protein; too much fat gives galanin, another neuropeptide, a boost, setting you up for nighttime cravings.

3 Drink more water. Experts agree that one of the best ways to keep any kind of food craving at bay is to stay hydrated. What’s more, research shows that eating water-heavy foods (think melons and tomatoes) leads to a higher level of appetite satisfaction, which can also minimize cravings.

4 Spice things up. Cinnamon, allspice, and vanilla can go a long way to satisfy a sweet tooth. Add a dash of cinnamon or a drizzle of vanilla over a bowl of fruit.

5 Avoid sweets altogether—even sugar alternatives, says Nicole Egenberger, ND, a naturopath in New York City. “Tasting something sweet can trigger the desire for more sweets, even if it’s a food that’s lower on the glycemic index.” A solution: Apply a few leaves of the gymnema sylvestre plant directly to your tongue and then chew and swallow; its anti-sweet saponins temporarily alter the way you experience the taste of sweets.