How many calories are in that candy bar?
If you’re seriously craving something sweet, you might hear that voice inside your head.
You know, the nagging one trying to keep you on track, when all you can think about is munching your way through a candy bar, a piece of cake, an ice cream sundae.
The conversation goes a little something like this:
You walk into a store and head to the candy aisle. You find the nearest vending machine. Or you break out the secret stash of sweet treats you promised to throw away when you started training and eating better, but decided to save for “emergencies.”
And now your sugar-crazed self, and your eat-right-train-hard self are in an argument.
“That candy bar is 250 calories, and it’s mostly carbs. It probably doesn’t fit your macros, and might make you go over your daily calorie limit goal. You should probably check before you eat it.”
Swipe, tap, tap. You check your food tracker app. And sure enough, the candy bar you’re about to devour would put you about 200 calories over your limit.
“Yeah, yeah. I know. But who really cares. I’m stressed out. I’m tired. I’ve had a long day, and I deserve something sweet. I can’t stop thinking about it. Why do you have to be so annoying?”
Ever had an argument with yourself about satisfying a sweet tooth craving?
Who won? Your sugar-crazed self or your eat-right-train-hard self?
If your sugar-crazed self won the last argument about dessert, it’s not the end of the world.
But let that turn into a daily habit, and that extra 250 calories a day can turn into an extra pound of fat in just two weeks. Dessert every day for a year, and you could pack on 30 pounds. Yikes!
If you’re serious about shredding fat, building muscle, and transforming your body, you can’t let your sugar-crazed self push you around.
Sugar Addiction High-Jacks Brain’s Pleasure Center
If you eat sugary treats or snacks on a regular basis, your brain gets used to expecting a release of dopamine that makes you feel good.
It’s not that big of a deal if you eat healthy most of the time, and treat yourself now and then. But when satisfying your sweet tooth becomes a daily habit…well, it can be just as addictive as nicotine or cocaine. 
Or as University of California Berkeley researcher Raisa Jakubiak puts it: Sugar has the potential to high-jack the brain’s pleasure center.
“Just like nicotine and cocaine, sugar triggers the release of dopamine neurotransmitter in the nucleus accumbens,” says Jakubiak. “…Regular sugar intake leads to a long term decrease in dopamine signaling. This means that the reward pathways of the brain are continuously heavily excited, and the individual feels the need of higher doses of sugar to be able to excite the receptors.”
In other words, the more sugar you consume, the more addicted you become. And if you want to kick a sugar habit, you’ll have to suffer through a kind of detox and withdrawal symptoms to curb your cravings.
A Fruity Way to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth
I don’t know about you. But if I open a package of Tim Tams (an Australian-made cookie with chocolate frosting and cream filling), it’s next to impossible to eat just one biscuit, and put it away. I’m better off not eating any and finding another way to satisfy my sweet tooth. And that’s true for any sugary treat like candy, dessert, and ice cream.
So what can you eat that will satisfy your sweet tooth without overloading on empty calories? In a word: Fruit.
In the world of bodybuilding and dieting, fruit sometimes gets a bad rap. Some fruits are higher in calories than others. And most fruits contain a natural forms of sugar called fructose.
But you can hardly compare an orange to a candy bar just because of its sugar content. Most fruits also contain:
- Vitamin C
- Folic acid
- Vitamin A
Research shows these vitamins and nutrients found in fruit can help control hunger, support weight management, protect against heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, and even prevent certain types of cancer.
Pretty sweet. Right?
The next time you get into an argument about a sweet tooth craving, grab some fruit, and tell your sugar-crazed self to get lost.
These fruits contain 100 calories or less in a single serving (less than half the calories of a candy bar, and even fewer than a typical 400-calorie slice of cheesecake):
1. Apple. If you have to choose between a candy bar and an apple, listen to your eat-right-train-hard self. It contains more calories than most fruits, at about 100 calories per apple. But it’s still healthier than a candy bar, cookies, ice cream or dessert. It’s sweet enough to satisfy a sugar craving, and contains fiber to help regulate appetite.
2. Banana. It’s probably one of the fruits hated on the most for dieting. Why? One medium-sized banana will set you back about 100 calories, and that’s more than a lot of fruits. But it’s high in fiber, good for digestion, blood pressure, heart health, and weight control.
3. Blackberries. You might think of whole grains as a good source of fiber. And they are. But many vegetables and fruits actually contain more fiber than whole grains. For example, a cup of blackberries contains 8 grams of fiber. But there’s only about 4 grams of fiber in a typical cup of oatmeal. Blackberries are sweet too, and only contain about 60 calories in a cup.
4. Cucumber. Technically, it’s a fruit. Eat the whole thing if you want. One cucumber contains about 40 calories. It’s mostly water and high in fiber to help control hunger.
5. Grapefruit. This sour-tasting citrus fruit is packed with vitamin C. And it’s high in fiber, which can help control weight and hunger, lower cholesterol, and improve blood pressure. Eat the whole thing, and it’s only about 80 calories.
6. Honeydew melon. If you buy a whole honeydew melon, you’ll have to remove the rind and the seeds. But it’s worth the effort. An entire cup of cubed honeydew contains about 60 calories.
7. Orange. This easy-to-pack citrus fruit is from the same family as grapefruit and packs a long list of vitamins, nutrients, and health benefits. It’s sweet and sour, and contains about 60 calories per medium-sized orange.
8. Plum. A little sour. A little sweet. At just 30 calories per plum (the European or Japanese variety), this fruit is a great snack to help you satisfy your sweet tooth without packing on the pounds.
9. Strawberries. You’re probably not going to find another strawberry like the 250-gram berry behemoth found in Japan that set a new world record. But you could add strawberries to smoothies, cereal, a salad, yogurt or oats. About 50 calories per cup.
10. Watermelon. Crisp, sweet, and juicy. That’s the hallmark of a perfectly ripe piece of watermelon. Only 50 calories in a cup.
Still craving something sweet? If fruit isn’t enough to settle the argument with your sugar-crazed self, check out these lower-calorie recipes for healthier desserts.
1. Avena, N.M., et al. (2008). Evidence for sugar addiction: behavioral and neurochemical effects of intermittent, excessive sugar intake. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews. From: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17617461
2. U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2015). Why is it important to eat fruit? Choose My Plate. From: https://www.healthyeating.org/Healthy-Eating/All-Star-Foods/null