The amount of sugar we crave has been conditioned by the food industry, our early family experiences, and our food choices. We know that larger quantities of sugar have been added to products over the years. Even if your diet hasn’t changed much in 20 years, you are most likely eating more sugar, which means you probably prefer things sweeter without even realizing it. Your early family experiences matter too. Think of the foods available to you as a child- cookies and other baked goods and of course every celebration included a cake. These are wonderful memories and your current eating habits are heavily influenced by those experiences. The same holds true to what you feed your kids as they are growing now.
Just as our palates have been conditioned to crave sugar, they can be conditioned to crave it less. If you repeatedly eat a food, your affinity toward it will increase even if you didn’t like that food in the first place. We have created too much of an appetite for “sweetness”. The key is to train your palette to prefer less sweet. Notice I said “sweet” and not “sugar.” Artificial sweeteners taste sweet and sometimes even sweeter than sugar. Using these will only feed your sugar addiction, not reduce it.
The “deconditioning” process is the same regardless of the food category. The idea is to slowly and methodically reduce the amount of sugar or sweetener in the foods that you eat. As you reduce, you will notice your palette changing to prefer less sweet. Remember, the key to success is doing this slowly which means that you will gradually come to prefer less sugar.
Here are a few ways you can begin to condition your palette to prefer less sweet:
- Try subtracting one packet/teaspoon of sweetener you add to your coffee/tea. Do this for one/two weeks until you get used to the flavor. Then subtract another-repeating this process until you are down to one packet or even none.
- The same concept applies for sweet snacks. Figure out how many grams of sugar are in your typical snack then find similar options that have fewer grams of sugar. Beware of artificial sweeteners in lower sugar versions as discussed above. You might also begin to include some snacks that are not sweet at all.
- Reduce the number of days that you have something sweet after a meal so that you stop craving sweet directly after eating. Also, it is important to undo the habit of ordering desserts in a restaurant every time you go. Save dessert for truly special occasions and take time to savor and appreciate the flavor.