Although the spike in energy is welcome, consuming large amounts of processed sugar can yield a number of undesirable results, namely dull skin, disrupted sleep and accelerated fat storage. Opting for foods that contain natural sugars can ensure that you still get a dose of sweetness without the unwanted effects. We spoke to Dietician Judith Johnson, from Wellness Warehouse, about how best to avoid refined sugar and stick to a healthy diet.
ELLE: What 5 foods help curb sugar cravings?
Judith: Chewing Gum – not artificially sweetened but rather Xylitol as the GI is very low (around 7)
Raw chocolate (Cacao) or very dark chocolate
Chia seeds, ground flax seeds, or psyllium husks
Coffee and Green Tea
Foods with ‘good’ fats such as almonds, cashews, macadamias, olives,
Nutrients to balance blood glucose and to improve insulin sensitivity such as cinnamon, bitter melon, gymnema, and chromium. (E.g. found in the Good Health supplement Glucozone)
Adequate protein at each meal/snack, Try a protein shake between breakfast and lunch
ELLE: How do these foods curb the cravings?
Judith: When you allow your blood glucose level to fall, this sends a message to the brain that it needs fuel and it needs it quickly. This causes a sugar craving. Don’t over-eat or eat foods that cause insulin secretions (e.g refined carbs) as insulin will then lower your blood glucose again and start another craving.
Eat more in the mornings and less in the afternoons / evenings to reduce the cravings, this will also help with weight management. Chia seeds and other fibres are essential for blood glucose balancing as they allow the food in your stomach to digest slower and release any available carbs slower into the system thereby reducing the insulin response.
Chocolate releases endorphins and has a high fat content. The darker the chocolate, the less sugar and dairy content, favour organic chocolates.
Coffee is a metabolic stimulant allowing fats to be released as energy and helps curb your appetite, just be careful not to have more than 2 cups a day. Green tea is also a metabolic stimulant and is an excellent anti-oxidant.
ELLE: There has been quite a bit of debate about cheat meals when you’re on a healthy eating plan. Should one indulge in cheat treats, and how often?
Judith: Cheat meals are part of a well-balanced lifestyle. I believe in the 80/20 principle of sticking to your overall plan but indulging if the social occasion demands it, or you simply haven’t been shopping. Then it’s ok to ‘cheat’ about once a week. But it’s not a licence to go overboard. Even cheat food needs to be controlled in terms of quantity. But, if you are on a specific program of healing, or following an elimination diet, or you are a celiac or have diabetes, then ‘cheating’ is not recommended at all.
ELLE: What is the best advice you’ve ever been given about sticking to a healthy diet?
Judith: Listen to your appetite. Never eat to that full feeling. Allow yourself the occasional food that is not too good for you, but stick to the 80/20 principle. Half your plate needs to consist of ‘colour’ such as salads and vegetables.