Get your sugar fix without storing extra fatBy: Erin Hicks
Sugar isn’t just empty calories—the consequence of indulging goes deeper than that. Consuming sweets spikes your insulin levels, which may cause you to store excess fat. “Weight gain as a result of eating sweets has little to do with calories—it has to do with the insulin surge that puts your body into fat-storage mode,” says Robert Reames, CN, Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute Expert. “A body is not a bank account. It’s a chemistry lab.”
But there is a solution that will help you get your sugar fix and fend off weight gain. “High-sugar items that are accompanied by fiber or protein or fats can help block that insulin response,” he says.
Try these nine swaps that will satisfy your sweet tooth without forcing your body to flip on the fat switch.
Watch out for these 7 weight loss mistakes that even healthy women make
Try a Greek Yogurt Parfait
If you’re craving a creamy frozen yogurt-type treat, Reames recommends combining nonfat Greek yogurt with a high-fiber fruit, like raspberries or blueberries. Top it off with a sprinkle of ground nuts or flaxseed for a crunchy texture. “The yogurt has about 9 g of sugar, 20 g of protein, and about 120 calories, so it’s not bad at all,” he says. “Combine it with a cup of raspberries that has about 9 g of fiber. The ground nuts or flaxseed are both a good plant source of omega-3 fats, and what you get is real synergy with this treat.”
VIDEO: Your Guide to Yogurt
Try a Trader Joe’s Fiberful Bar
Many brands tout granola as a nutritious snack, but the high sugar content can wreak havoc on your waistline. “Granola has a reputation as a healthy snack, and it can be good for you. But it can also be a hunger driver,” Reames says. “It’s hard to eat just a little bit of granola, and you end up taking a lot of it down without realizing it.”
That’s why he suggests Trader Joe’s Fiberful bars. Available in flavors like strawberry, apricot, raspberry, and boysenberry, each has about 8 g of sugar and only 60 calories.
Similar in taste and consistency to fruit leather, the bars are “made of dried fruit, fresh fruit pulp, some soy protein, and flaxseed. The combination is relatively low in sugar. What makes it so healthy is the 6 g of fiber that help slow the secretion of sugars, which can prevent your body from storing fat,” he says.
BING: High fiber foods
Try a thinkThin Natural Energy Bar
Put down the candy bar. There are many healthy alternatives—like thinkThin Natural Energy Bars—that can satisfy a hankering without the excess sugar.
With flavors like mixed nuts and white chocolate dipped mixed nuts, they even sound like candy bars. “They give you this great feeling of ‘wow, I’m having a sweet,’ but it won’t blow your diet,” Reames says.
The bars are sweetened with small amounts of real sugar plus sugar alcohols (commonly found in foods for diabetics). Because thinkThin bars aren’t made with aspartame, they lack that sweet chemical taste.
Healthy Eating Tips: A Low Sugar Regime
Try 10 Frozen Grapes with 8 to 12 Almonds
“Fruits are nature’s candy,” Reames says. “Fruit is full of fructose—a high potency sugar—but it’s everything else in the fruit that blunts the sugar response and makes it good for your body.”
Grapes are higher in sugar and lower in fiber than other fruits, so he recommends grabbing a handful if you want to slowly wean off candy. “Accompany 10 frozen grapes with just a small serving of nuts to help prevent blood sugar from spiking.”
The best frozen fruits and veggies you can eat year-round.
Try Healthy Trail Mix
If you think you’re doing your body good by snacking on dried fruit, think again. Dried fruit is often packed with sugar, and it’s stripped of hunger-fighting fiber during the dehydration process. Not only does dried fruit contain fewer nutrients than fresh fruit, but it also can make your belly bloat.
De-puff your stuff: 5 new ways to beat bloat
“Dried fruit can draw the water out of your body, giving you a bloated look,” Reames says. “Instead of eating dried fruit by itself, try a serving of healthy trail mix that’s low in sugar—a good range is no more than 5 g of sugar per serving. The nuts will give you some of the fat, protein, and fiber that are lacking in the dried fruit.”
Try Kashi Go Lean Original Cereal
Pit the nutritional facts of Kashi GoLean against those of Frosted Flakes, and the two don’t compare. Kashi’s powerhouse cereal packs 13 g of protein, 10 g of fiber, and 6 g of sugar per serving—impressive specs, says Reames.
It’s also important to watch the sugar content in cereal if you douse your bowl in milk, a sneaky source of sugar. “Eight ounces of nonfat milk has around 12 g of sugar, so that’s a hidden sugar bomb,” Reames says. “Minimize the amount of milk you eat put on your cereal if possible. Go for half a cup for every cup of cereal if you can.”
The healthiest cereals to build a better breakfast
Try a Piece of Dark Chocolate
Enjoy a piece of dark chocolate—packed with antioxidants—if the chocolate urge won’t disappear. A study conducted by Italy's Natural Institute for Food found that milk can interfere with the body’s absorption of antioxidants from dark chocolate, making it a better choice than milk chocolate. “Dark chocolate is also usually less processed and contains less sugar than milk chocolate,” Reames says.
Can this chocolatey, childhood staple help you lose weight?
Try Natural, Unprocessed Nut Butters
Reach for natural peanut butter and celery sticks the next time you’re craving a salty, sweet combo. This old-fashioned snack packs a ton of nutrients.
“Celery is composed mostly of fiber, water, and nutrients. It gives peanut butter added volume and crunch. This snack can be just as satisfying as a PayDay bar,” Reames says. And if celery isn’t your thing, opt for a few apple slices.
And if PB just doesn't do it for you, try one of these 7 nutritiously awesome snacks.
Try a Popsicle
“A popsicle takes a relatively long time to eat, and if you melted a popsicle into a cup, you’re talking about a small volume of juice, which means less sugar and fewer calories,” Reames says.
People tend to gulp juice, but slowly lick a popsicle, which means sugar is not rushing into your bloodstream to spike your insulin.
Individually wrapped popsicles is a good portion control. He suggests a frozen treat made with all-natural fruit juice to avoid high fructose corn syrup. This isn’t a free pass to raid the freezer, he warns, but “popsicles are OK once in awhile.”
For even more snack suggestions and simple, delicious meal plans, try the 400 Calorie Fix.
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