How should I satisfy a nighttime sweet tooth?
I have three main strategies I like to employ to keep the reins on evening sugar cravings:
1. Eliminate all artificial sweeteners. This may surprise you: Artificial sweetener intake can sabotage your weight control and healthy lifestyle goals. Numerous studies have shown both lack of weight-loss success and worse—increased cravings for other sweets—as a result of artificial sweetener consumption. It all relates back to how our taste buds—and brains—perceive artificial sweeteners. Try to eliminate your intake of artificially sweetened yogurts, desserts, beverages, etc., and use a small amount of real sugar if you want to sweeten your coffee, tea or oatmeal.
2. Fuel well throughout your day. If you try to “be good” or “eat clean” all day, only to blow it at night, you may be too restrictive during the day. Do include all food groups, including complex carbs, with all meals—even during your off-season. You still need energy to move, think and complete your workouts, and by fueling well all day you can decrease late-night cravings.
3. Keep only portion-controlled, satisfying “treats” in your home. Anything you can eat and enjoy one serving of is allowed in your home. Anything you cannot stop eating once you start is out! My favorites include individually wrapped frozen fruit or fudge bars, fresh or frozen fruit you can blend with a 1/2 cup of dairy or soy milk and a good dark chocolate bar you can savor one square at a time.
Lauren Antonucci, R.D., is a board-certified specialist in sports dietetics, three-time Ironman finisher and the founding director of Nutrition Energy in New York City.