If you have a sweet tooth, you know how tough it is to keep cravings at bay! After all, there are so many sweet temptations in the world … and they’re all very tasty.
But eating too much added sugar can cause headaches, jitters, and over time, tooth and stomach issues. Not fun! Fortunately, sugar-free or low-sugar snacks offer an alternative to high-sugar favorites.
In this blog post, we’re sharing what sugar-free is, plus delicious sugar-free snack ideas!
SUGAR-FREE FOOD EXPLAINED
It seems like sugar-free meals and snacks are everywhere these days–on your social feed, in magazines, and in conversations with friends. But what does sugar-free mean, anyway?
SUGAR-FREE FOOD: A SIMPLE DEFINITION
The average American consumes 17 teaspoons of sugar per day, which is several teaspoons more than they should be eating! 12 to 13 teaspoons of sugar within a 2,000-calorie diet is what’s recommended.
According to the FDA, sugar-free means that one serving of food has less than half a gram of added or naturally occurring sugar. Naturally occurring sugar is normally in the food, like fructose in fresh fruit.
“Free of sugar,” “no sugar,” and “zero sugar” all mean the same thing as sugar-free. A quick watch out is that all of these foods contain artificial sweeteners, like Splenda, as well as sugar alcohols.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF GOING SUGAR-FREE
When consumed in excess, sugar upsets blood sugar and insulin levels, encourages fat storage, and can contribute to the rise in obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other health issues.
When you cut out your sugar intake from your diet, be warned that you may experience short-term withdrawal symptoms, like headaches, fatigue, and sugar cravings. This is totally normal and will likely pass in a couple of days. Get through the sugar withdrawal by exercising and drinking lots of water!
Once your body has passed the sugar withdrawal phase, you’ll start to notice several benefits that come along with ridding your body of sugar.
These health benefits can include:
Improved overall mental state
Less mood swings
HOW TO PREPARE SUGAR-FREE FOOD
If you’re a sugar fiend, you may be skeptical about going completely sugar-free. That’s totally understandable! There’s no need to go cold turkey right away, but these tips should help ease the transition from a high to low or no-sugar diet.
INCREASE HEALTHY FAT INTAKE
Healthy fats are satiating, and this helps increase your feeling of fullness … who knew?! And, healthy fats keep you feeling fuller for longer, which can reduce sugar cravings. Try incorporating more healthy fats into your snack routine; this includes foods such as avocados, cottage cheese, nuts or nut butter, and fatty fish like salmon.
GET MORE SLEEP
Some studies show that less sleep equals an elevated body mass index. This is large because your appetite-regulating hormones, leptin, and ghrelin, are negatively impacted by the loss of sleep! Since you have lower levels of natural energy, your body craves a “quick energy fix,” and this can come in the form of sweets.
Make 7-9 hours of sleep a priority to wake up rested, and this will help balance out hunger hormones and cravings for sugar.
KEEP STRESS LEVELS LOW
Ever have a stressful day and turn to a trusted sweet treat to put your mind at ease? This is a suuuuper common way to deal with stress! But emotional eating can really take its toll when consistently relied on to manage stress.
The next time a stressful situation comes up and you’re tempted to eat a favorite sweet, try meditating, taking a walk, sipping calming tea, or doing yoga instead. These coping strategies can help take your mind off sugar cravings AND instill new, relaxing habits!
EAT MORE FRUIT AND DRINK MORE WATER
Low glycemic fruits like berries, green apples, and citrus fruits are excellent natural options to help satisfy a sugar craving! The fruits are naturally sweet while also providing your body with fiber and nutrients.
Another way to avoid sugar is to drink more water. Often, your body thinks it’s hungry when in fact, it’s thirsty! The next time a sugar craving comes calling, fill yourself with a glass of water and sip mindfully, noticing how your body feels as you drink. You may be surprised that after a few minutes, that sugar craving is gone. And if you’re still wanting a sweet treat, reach for an apple, banana, or other fruit.
SUGAR-FREE SNACK IDEAS
If you’re at a loss for sugar-free healthy snacks to stock your pantry and refrigerator with, don’t worry! There are several ready-made sugar-free snack options … or if you’re feeling like putting your chef hat on, recipes that can be easily made at home!
Here are a few of our favorites:
HUMMUS AND PRETZELS
Hummus has no added sugar other than the natural sugars from the starch in chickpeas! Did we mention how creamy and delicious hummus is? You can either buy hummus from the grocery store or make it at home.
Pretzels are a sugar-free food that goes well with hummus, and if pretzels aren’t your thing, try carrots, crackers, or toasted pita bread instead!
On its own without any added sugar or salt, popcorn is a nutritious, healthy snack! It’s high in fiber, contains protein, and is naturally low in fat and sugar.
Many popcorn brands and movie theaters add butter, sugar, and salt. However, popcorn can easily be made at home over the stovetop without any of those added ingredients!
We love these simple instructions for healthy homemade popcorn from Medical News Today:
Preheat a pan to medium-high heat
Add a few drops of water to the hot pan
Add the popcorn kernels and replace the lid
Shake the pot gently every 2 seconds
Listen out for the kernels popping, which should take 1 or 2 minutes
Keep going until there are at least 3 seconds between pops
Remove from the heat, sprinkle with salt, and serve
PROPER GOOD PERFECTLY PLAIN OATMEAL + YOUR FAVORITE SAVORY TOPPING
Did you know that our perfectly plain oatmeal has 0 grams of sugar? Believe it! This gluten-free, dairy-free, plant-based oatmeal naturally has no added refined sugar. But you sure wouldn’t know it! Delicious and nutritious for those looking to eat a low or no sugar diet, we’d recommend adding savory toppings.
Give one of these savory oatmeal topping ideas a go!
Sun-dried tomatoes and pesto
Bacon, scallions, and egg
Turmeric, spinach, and chickpeas
Almond butter and dark chocolate
FRUIT ICE CUBES
If you’re getting bored with eating the same old fruit and drinking the same old water, shake things up! Try adding your favorite fruits to water in an ice cube tray. Freeze and add a couple of cubes to water every time you’re needing a hint of fruity sweetness, without the hassle.
Eggs are naturally sugar-free and therefore, a safe option any time you’re stumped about which low or no sugar meal to eat. They also contain essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals … delicious AND nutritious!
There are many ways to enjoy eggs–try them over easy, scrambled, or poached to keep things interesting and diversify your egg-based meals.
Finding refined sugar-free snacks instead of eating sugar is easier than ever when you’ve got a cheat sheet this good to go off of ;)
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