Just the mention of a decadent dessert or crave-worthy candy probably makes your mouth water and your pupils dilate with desire. Sugar’s powers of seduction are a scientific fact—consumption of the sweet substance is known to release dopamine and endorphins, two hormones that directly increase your happiness.
But the good feelings it promotes never last. In fact, sugar often ends up making you feel way worse than before you indulged. That’s why ditching added sugars—even just for three weeks, as you do on my Sugar Free 3 program—can be incredibly beneficial. “You’ll reduce cravings for sweet stuff, have more stable blood sugar, and experience fewer energy fluctuations,” says dietitian Keri Glassman, RD, founder of Nutritious Life. You’ll also likely lose unhealthy, excess weight.
In addition, overdoing it with sugar can mess with your mood and increase mental distress. Even if you aren’t overly worried about your mental health, you might want to mitigate less serious consequences, such as how sugar ages your face (two words: sugar sag).
Read on for some of the unhealthiest sugar-filled snacks to avoid, and what to eat when you’re craving sugar instead. And for more, make sure you know the 7 healthiest foods to eat right now.
These chewy candy animals may be cute, but they are just pure sugar—they offer no nutritional value. So, eating them won’t keep you satisfied for long. If you’re really craving that rubbery texture, at least opt for a more virtuous version, such as the gummy bears made by Smart Sweets—they are sweetened with natural monk fruit and allulose.
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The combo of peanut butter and chocolate is hard to beat, but most brands mix added sugars in with the peanut butter, giving the candy a satisfying melty mouthfeel, but damaging any nutritional value (like protein) that you might get. The relieving news? There are lots of alternatives that boast the same amazing texture, without all the added sugar. Lilly’s make dark chocolate peanut butter cups sweetened with erythritol, a natural low-cal sweetener. However, it’s in a class called sugar alcohols that do sometimes cause intestinal distress, so go slow.
Related: 100 Unhealthiest Foods on the Planet
Many of us have happy childhood memories connected to scarfing down bowls of sugary cereal (and then slurping the sweet milk left behind). But that breakfast ritual surely resulted in a late-morning slump. Magic Spoon to the rescue. This relative newcomer to grocery store shelves is a higher-protein, lower carb replica of those nostalgic morning bowls. It’s sweetened with monk fruit, stevia, and allulose. Close your eyes and you will never know the difference.
Just FYI: Know that eating any kind of cereal every day may not be the best idea.
Okay, dried fruit is not the worst thing you can eat (studies show that certain types are packed with antioxidants). But it is not a super healthy food either. The reason: Many brands actually add sugar, turning what is typically a nutrient-dense, fiber-rich snack into a piece of sugar leather. A better choice? You know what’s coming… whole fruit (it’s nature’s candy!) The water and fiber content keep the naturally occurring sugars (sucrose, fructose, and glucose) from flooding your bloodstream, so you get all the vitamins in a softer and more satisfying bite. Check out the lowest-carb fruits if you’re trying to lose weight.
Really want the dehydrated kind? Try Rind, which is skin-on dried fruit.
The concern isn’t just that you might break a tooth or get an instant cavity, it’s that this hard candies-on-a-stick are straight-up sugar. With no nuts, chocolate, or other ingredients to tide you over, you’ll be reaching for another lolli in no time. A better pop (one that’s unlikely to send you to the dentist): Frozen, chocolate-covered banana on a stick, which you can customize by rolling in nuts or coconut flakes to punch up the nutritional benefits even more.
P.S.: The #1 danger sign you’re eating too much sugar can be found here.
Don’t let the fat-free label fool you. Many gelatin desserts are packed with non-nutritive artificial flavors, sweeteners, and colors—making them chemical concoctions you can do without. If you want a dessert you can eat with a spoon, try chia-seed pudding or chocolate avocado pudding—both boast healthy fats and protein.
For more healthy eating tips, follow these 20 ways to end sugar cravings for good, according to nutritionists.