Last Updated on August 25, 2023 by Lori Walker
Sugar is an essential component of the human diet. However, decades of studies have also shown that high sugar intake is harmfully associated with various risk factors, including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hyperuricemia, gout, dental caries, and some cancers.
Additionally, dietary sugar consumption — such as in sugar-sweetened beverages — is associated with increased body weight.
Eating desserts or enjoying your favorite treats can be disheartening, especially if you’re actively trying to lose weight. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in sweet foods without worrying about weight maintenance.
In this post, we’ll look at four ways you can enjoy sweet treats and not gain weight:
Reduce Sugar Content
Sugar consumption is associated with gaining weight because sugar is high in calories. People sometimes refer to sugar as “empty calories” because they do not provide nutrients alongside energy.
This is why turning to healthier, more nutritious weight-loss options is recommended. Rather than relying on store-bought treats, cooking for weight loss is the best way to control your sugar intake.
It’s best to choose recipes that contain less white and brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup. Instead, use natural sweeteners in ingredients such as applesauce, pumpkin purée, or bananas. This way, you can still have your sweet treats — just healthier.
If a recipe specifically requires sugar, you can also try lessening the recommended amount so that you aren’t consuming unhealthy levels of it.
Try Dark Chocolate
As mentioned above, there are natural and healthier alternative ingredients to using sugar in your recipes. However, certain products in desserts and treats don’t feel the same when you use healthier options, like chocolate.
While chocolate contains high sugar levels, it has been linked to mental and physical health benefits. These include reducing symptoms of depression and fighting inflammation.
The good news is you don’t have to give up chocolate completely.
Dark chocolate, which has a high percentage of cocoa solids and low sugar content, can provide the mood-boosting benefits of chocolate without the added harm of sugar; 85% dark chocolate, in particular, is known to improve negative moods through the gut-brain axis.
They can also help stabilize blood sugar levels, so choose darker varieties of chocolate when possible.
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Share Your Sweet Treats
Despite your best efforts, some foods, desserts, and treats will contain sugar, often in amounts you can’t control.
This is especially true if you aren’t the one cooking or if you’re eating out. In that case, practicing portion control by sharing your treats with friends or loved ones is a great way to reduce your sugar intake without having to refuse dessert altogether.
When eating out in cafes or restaurants, be mindful of portion sizes so you don’t overeat with added sugar.
In fact, portion control has been proven to be more effective for weight loss than intermittent fasting.
Researchers found that meal timing — a crucial aspect of intermittent fasting — is not associated with weight change, but the size and frequency of your meals do impact weight reduction.
Increase Physical Activity
Finally, one of the best ways to enjoy your sweet treats without gaining weight is by integrating regular physical activity into your lifestyle.
This is standard advice for weight loss in general, but exercising regularly can help you maintain your weight without feeling guilty about what or how much you’ve eaten — sugar or not.
Physical activity helps your body burn fat by converting the food you consume into energy. Even light exercises like walking and stretching can help your body use more energy when done routinely.
If you’d like more of a challenge and additional fat burning, you can also try more intense workout routines like resistance training, as it keeps your body burning calories even when the exercise stops.
By combining physical activity into your daily routine, you won’t have to worry too much or feel guilty when faced with occasional sweets.