The average American consumes too much sugar. This trend often worsens with age. If you’re a senior or a caregiver, learn what’s behind the craving for sweets and how to get around it.
Basic Facts about Cravings for Sweets
1. Cut your losses. At about the age of 50, you start losing large numbers of taste buds. New ones pop up all the time, but even they become less sensitive over the years.
2. Understand differences in taste. The 5 main tastes are sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and savory. Our sensations of bitterness and saltiness decline first. Sweetness is the last to go. That helps to explain why candy may become more appealing.
3. Look out for simple carbohydrates. Your blood sugar rises when you eat simple carbohydrates. Then it falls and leaves you hungry again. Check the labels on processed food to see how much sugar and white flour they contain.
4. Recognize the connection between taste and smell. Food seems blander as our sense of smell weakens over the years. Your doctor can perform simple tests to assess your condition.
5. Set your goals. The average American eats about 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day. The recommended guidelines are 6 for women and 9 for men.
Making Healthier Food Choices
1. Eat whole fruit. Whole fruit delivers fiber and lots of nutrients, whether it is baked or raw. Serve pears instead of cake for dessert.
2. Pair sugar with other ingredients. Bake your own whole wheat cookies. Create a trail mix with dark chocolate chips, unsweetened cereal, nuts, and dried fruit.
3. Switch to cinnamon. Use cinnamon instead of sugar whenever possible. Add it to hot chocolate or plain yogurt.
4. Sprinkle on salt. Salt and sugar enhance each other’s intensity so you can use less of both. If your diet permits salt, shake a little on half a grapefruit.
5. Limit artificial sweeteners. Even products with zero calories may have some drawbacks. In some ways, your body responds to artificial sweeteners as though they were sugar. Insulin levels rise and you want to eat more.
Developing Additional Strategies
1. Stimulate your appetite. Of course, some seniors become frail and need to eat more. Adding a little honey to brown rice may be just what you need to be sure you’re consuming enough calories.
2. Focus on quality. On the other hand, if you’re trying to lose weight, become pickier about what you eat. Savor a scoop of passion fruit sorbet instead of a bowl of generic ice cream.
3. Trim your portions. If you have no specific health issues, you can probably eat anything in moderation. Put one cookie on a plate and leave the box behind on a shelf that’s inconvenient to reach.
4. Become sugar free. Some people go cold turkey. Expect the first few days to be the toughest. After that, you may find sugar easier to resist.
5. Stay full. Hunger pangs aggravate all cravings. Sip water all day and eat frequently.
6. Exercise daily. When you feel like a milkshake, take a walk instead. The craving may pass.
7. Take care of your teeth. Good dental hygiene protects your sense of smell and taste. You’re more likely to prefer a balanced diet.
8. Consider taking supplements. Some cravings for sweets are caused by deficiencies in certain nutrients. Zinc or chromium supplements may help.
9. Talk with your doctor. Your physician can determine if your craving for sweets is linked to a more serious issue like Alzheimer’s or just needing to use a different antibiotic. Continue to see your doctor for regular checkups.
Life is too sweet to let empty calories ruin your golden years. Pacify your sweet tooth and satisfy it with more nutritious treats.