Sweet Sweet Cravings… Under Control

My sister asked me what advice I have for dealing with sweet cravings. I have many.

But first, I have two caveats.  

My husband optimizes for flavor. I optimize for function. It’s not uncommon for me to come barreling into the kitchen and proclaim, “I’m craving protein”. My husband thinks I’m crazy. 

At the same time, he is open to trying my bizarre concoctions. In his own words, “Flavor knows no bounds.” Meaning even that gluten-free vegan chocolate cake could be good. 

For the record, I’m not into gluten-free vegan cakes. I like sweets just as much as the next person. But I might have less sensitive taste buds than you because more often than not, my husband, The Flavor King, does not approve my desserts. 

Caveat #1: You might not like my suggestions.

Next, it seems the world can’t handle balance.

For the longest time, it was implied by the powers that be (advertisers, marketers, where did it actually start? … something to unpack later) that women should be slim. No desserts. Watch your weight. Feel guilty if you eat something “bad”. 

Happily, we are undoing that rhetoric. But sometimes the “eat what makes you feel good” message results in behaviors that are counterproductive to our health and/or physique goals.

So what is the right balance? Can you have treats while working towards weight loss or weight maintenance? 

Caveat #2: This isn’t judgement if you want to eat sweets. 

With that out of the way, what do you do if you have sweet cravings but you are trying to reduce calories?

First, decide if the craving is real.

If you don’t eat that chocolate now, is the craving going to last forever? Probably not.

When I quit smoking nearly 10 years ago, I was astounded by how intense a craving for a cigarette would be. I would tell myself to get a glass of water or go for a short walk or write one more email and then see how I felt.

Every time the craving would subside. 

Twice this week, I wanted dessert after dinner but I knew I wasn’t really hungry. One night I grabbed a zero calorie flavored water. The craving disappeared. The other night, I left the kitchen, brushed my teeth and read in bed. By the time I brushed my teeth the craving was gone. 

Advice number one is to have a couple of tricks up your sleeve so you can separate yourself from the craving a bit.

If in 5 minutes, you still want the sweet, go for it. 

Some tricks to separate yourself from the craving and the decision include: 

  • Go for a walk after dinner

  • Brush your teeth right after dinner

  • Drink water or herbal tea 

  • Do one or two chores

If ultimately you want a dessert, go for it. 

Advice number two is to understand serving sizes. 

One or two squares of chocolate is very easy to fit into a weight loss plan. A scoop of ice cream isn’t horrific. A pint of ice cream… that’s potentially over half your calories for a day. 

You don’t have to weigh all of your food. But measuring calorically dense foods can make a huge difference. 

I also find it helpful to have individually wrapped, small sweets hanging around. It’s easier to control portion sizes. 

Lastly, I’m someone who enjoys quantity. This is yet another difference between The Flavor King and me. He has no problem slowly eating a true serving size of pasta and doesn’t feel deprived on the other side.

I prefer to eat spaghetti squash over pasta because I can have a massive bowl of food and eat for a long time, for the same or less calories. 

Sometimes I want more than one square of chocolate. 

Advice number three: find your go-tos.

I have a list of high protein and fairly low or at least reasonable fat and carbohydrate desserts.  

Protein Powder Pudding with Whipped Cream

Mix together a scoop or two of protein powder, add milk slowly and stir until you have a pudding-like consistency. It’s usually about ¼ cup of whole milk for me. Top with 3 servings of whipped cream. This comes out to about 200 calories (10 grams of carbs, 6 grams of fat and 27 grams of protein). 

I’m not going to lie… this is a snack more days than not. Maybe even breakfast… I top it with cereal for crunch.

My favorite protein powder is from Unico Nutrition. It has by far the best consistency and flavor among the protein powders I have tried. And I’ve tried a lot… No affiliation with them.

Halo Top Protein “Blizzard”

This one gets a zero rating from The Flavor King, but I love it. Dish out one serving of Halo Top (the light ice cream) and mix it with ½ scoop of protein powder. Stir until it’s a Blizzard like consistency. This is 180 calories (14 grams of carbs, 4 grams of fat, 19 grams of protein). 

Protein Mug Cake

Blend protein powder, a tiny bit of baking soda and milk into a slightly thinner pudding-like consistency (but not runny). Microwave for 40-50 seconds. Voila, you have a cake. This is 170 calories (8 grams of carbs, 3 grams of fat, 28 grams of protein).

There are a ton of other options. I’ve made high-protein black bean brownies before and they were amazing…. Even the Flavor King agreed. The key is to remember advice number 2… know what a serving size of these things looks like.

Of course, if it is your birthday, eat your cake!

In fact, today is my sister’s birthday and I hope she ignores this email. 🎂

P.S. I have a logo! It was designed by Felice Della Gatta, a fellow Substacker who writes After Hours.

🙏 Thank you for reading. 

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