Tricks to outsmart your sweet tooth
Halloween is around the corner, and trick-or-treating is sure to bring in a ton of sugary loot. Before the holiday, consider the cavity-causing effects that candy can have on teeth. Enjoying sweets in moderation and managing cravings can help you avoid tooth decay.
Start taming your or your family's sweet tooth now by learning how much sugar is OK to eat. The Food and Drug Administration recommends no more than 12.5 teaspoons, or 50 grams, daily for those over the age of 3.1 Because the sugar contents of fun-sized candies vary from 2.4 grams to 14.5 grams, there's no general rule for how many you can eat each day.2 Check the packaging and brand websites to calculate the number of candies you should limit yourself or your children to. And remember to factor in the added sugars from all the other foods and drinks you consume. It adds up fast!
If you reach your daily limit but the candy bowl is still tempting you or your family, try these tips to defeat the craving:
- Chew sugar-free gum. Popping in a stick of sugar-free gum instead of a bonbon helps in a couple ways. A study by Louisiana State University found that chewing gum may reduce snack cravings.3 It's also useful for cleaning your mouth. Gum washes away leftover food particles and reduces acids that threaten tooth enamel.4
- Distract yourself or a family member when a craving hits. Taking a walk has been shown to reduce the urge to eat treats. Plus, it gets you away from the candy bowl.5 You know what they say – out of sight, out of mind. And if you don't feel like taking a stroll, do another activity to get you out of the house. Pick something fun that rewards you and your family for skipping the sweets.
- Keep healthy substitutes close by. When you or a family member really want something sweet but already ate too much sugar, choose naturally sweet foods like fruits and vegetables. Apples, cherries, bell peppers, carrots and others will give you the taste you want along with the nutrients you need.6
- Eat at consistent intervals. If the tummy is grumbling, you or your family might make unhealthy decisions like reaching for a candy bar instead of a nutritious snack. Eat every three to five hours to keep blood sugar in check and maintain a level head.7
- Power up with protein. Low protein levels can cause sugar cravings. The body wants an energy boost and sugar is a quick source.8 Plan to get protein throughout the day with foods such as beans, eggs, nuts, fish and lean meats.9
Even with moderation, good oral health habits are still essential for avoiding cavities. Clean your teeth and gums after consuming sugar by brushing for two minutes with fluoride toothpaste and flossing. If you aren't able to sneak away to the bathroom, chew sugar-free gum and drink plenty of water.