The conversation about sugar seems to be a continuous spiral. And if there’s any holiday associated with sugar-filled treats, it’s Halloween. Between chocolate-filled grocery aisles, sweet treats at work, and candy in your children’s trick-or-treat baskets, the temptation of sugar comes in full force this time of the year.
Halloween serves as a reminder to consider our relationship with sugar and how we are managing our sugar cravings, but assessing our sugar cravings is something we can do on a regular basis to make choices that support overall health.
Assessing Sugar Cravings
At Integrative Nutrition, we encourage you to take a look at the imbalances in your life when assessing your cravings. While many things can contribute to sugar cravings, such as hormonal imbalances and vitamin and mineral deficiencies, our eating habits are influenced by a wide variety of factors.
For example: Are you feeling fulfilled in your career? How are your relationships? Do you have a spiritual practice that works for you? Are you exercising on a regular basis?
We call these areas primary food as they nourish us as much as, if not more than, the food we put on our plates. When primary food is imbalanced, many physical and emotional symptoms can appear. A great way to assess your primary food is to complete the Circle of Life – a brief exercise that helps you tune in to different areas of your life. Take some time to reflect on where you are thriving and what areas might motivate you to reach for that sweet snack at 10pm.
“I'll never forget the moment while I was a student at IIN, listening to the lectures about primary food. The cause of my longtime candy cravings became clear. I was working at a job that I was not fulfilled in, challenged by, or excited about. I was eating a bag of candy a day for my lunch. If only I had met a Health Coach back then to help me recognize it…but it's all meant to be…my out-of-balance cravings led to my interest in nutrition, to finding IIN, and eventually to creating HunnyBon,” said Kimberly Silver, IIN grad and founder and CEO of HunnyBon.
Managing Sugar Cravings
Once you assess the underlying cause(s) of your sugar cravings, there are many ways to work with them without completely depriving yourself (hello, healthy Halloween treats)!
Start by prioritizing the areas of your life that might need more attention. Everyone is bio-individual – we experience different stressors that can lead to craving chocolate, cookies, cake, etc., and we deal with our eating habits differently. What works for your best friend may not work for you!
That said, here are some valuable tips for working with those sugar cravings.
Make sure you’re getting enough sleep – Research shows that a shortened sleep cycle can lead to more stress and an increased appetite. Lack of sleep is also associated with a greater intake of sugary drinks. When you are sleep-deprived, you naturally want a pick-me-up. So how much sleep should you be getting to help maintain healthy eating habits? The amount of sleep each person needs has varied over the years, but if you’re getting 7–9 hours of sleep, you are in the healthy range.
Bonus tip: Turn off all electronic devices thirty minutes before you plan on going to sleep to ensure a quality, well-rested night.
Balance your diet – Are you eating enough protein? Are you making sure you have fiber in your breakfast? Eating enough to feel satisfied and a variety of whole foods will help curb your cravings, especially between meals. We encourage embracing bio-individuality at Integrative Nutrition, so one diet will not be better than another when it comes to managing your own sugar cravings. Listen to your body and do what works best for you.
Bonus tip: Keep the 80/20 rule in mind when it comes to balancing your diet. As long as you’re sticking to a healthy diet the majority of the time, you can certainly indulge in your favorite foods, like a piece of dark chocolate or pumpkin bread.
Read labels – It’s important to read the ingredients and nutrition facts before purchasing an item. Hidden sugars are often masked by names you might not recognize, so it’s always good to take a look at the label. Opt for naturally sweet foods that will be more digestible by your body and won’t cause sugar spikes. Bananas, apples, clementines, and sweet potatoes are all naturally sweet foods that don’t negatively impact your body the way artificial sweeteners do.
Bonus tip: When making or buying healthy Halloween treats, make sure you know every single ingredient to avoid the possibility of eating added or artificial sugars.
A Healthier Chocolate Treat to Make This Halloween
These rich truffles by IIN graduate Sari Tile Diskin (HCTP May 2017) are the perfect guilt-free treat. The ingredients are simple, and there’s no baking necessary!
- 4 dates, pitted
- 2 tablespoons fresh coffee beans (or coarse coffee grounds)
- 2 tablespoons coconut butter
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup creamy almond butter
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder (Dutch pressed for optimal taste)
- 2 tablespoons coconut flour
- 1/2 cup dairy-free chocolate chips
- Pink sea salt (optional)
- Soak dates in water for 5–10 minutes to help them break down more easily in the food processor.
- Grind coffee beans into coarse grounds – not too powdery. If you want the coffee bean crunch to be more prominent in the truffles, skip this step.
- Add coconut butter, water, almond butter, and soaked dates to food processor. Pulse until thick paste is formed. Make sure there are no big chunks of coconut butter or almond butter.
- Add cocoa powder, coconut flour, and coffee beans. Continue to pulse/mix until all ingredients are well combined.
- Once everything is combined, roll mixture into 10–12 small balls. Lay them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and place in freezer for at least 1 hour.
- Melt chocolate chips in microwave on medium for 1–2 minutes at a time. Mix in between.
- Remove truffles from freezer. Dip them one by one in melted chocolate and coat completely.
- Place coated truffles back on cookie sheet, sprinkle with sea salt (if desired), and freeze again for at least 1 hour.
- Store truffles in freezer. When ready to eat, defrost for at least 1–2 minutes.
Ultimately, staying mindful of sugar should not be complicated, and fortunately, you will continually learn about different foods and tools to curb your cravings. Tuning in to primary food and paying attention to when you want a bite of chocolate are two great ways to decrease your cravings.
Want healthier Halloween treats? IIN grad Kimberly Silver, founder of HunnyBon, knows a thing or two about sugar cravings. We’ve teamed up with her to bring you nutritious, easy Halloween treats with clean and simple ingredients! Click here to get the guide!