The holidays are a time of happiness, family, friends, and indulgence (including the indulgence of sugar), to name a few. Often times when we get caught up in the holiday cheer, we tend to replace healthy foods with sweets and baked goods that are high in sugar. While everything in moderation is fine, some of us tend to overdo it and binge on things we have held back from during the first three quarters of the year. Because of the irreversible dental consequences (and other health consequences), it’s important to at least try to keep your cravings for sweets under control. For this reason and many others, we’ve compiled a list of tips to help curb those cravings this holiday season.
Tips for Avoiding Cavities and Cravings
When we overindulge on sugary treats, we put ourselves at a higher risk for cavities in the mouth. Why? Sugar acts as a food source for the bad bacteria that exist in our mouths. When the bacteria “eat” the sugar left on our teeth, they produce an acid that attacks the enamel (outer layer of the tooth). Over time, the continued loss of enamel creates a hole (also known as a cavity) in the tooth. Symptoms of dental cavities may include pain upon chewing, tooth sensitivity to hot and cold, a toothache that has no apparent cause, and in some cases, a visible hole in the tooth.
During the moment that you feel a craving coming on, take inventory of what is going on around you, and be mindful of your thoughts and feelings in that moment. Can you identify any triggers? Is something common about this moment that you have noticed before during a previous craving? For instance, is the time 3 pm a common time that you start craving something sweet? Are you usually in the same physical space (a restaurant, room, party, etc.) that could be causing this craving? If so, you’ve already taken an important step. Now you can plan for this before it happens next time and have an idea of what to do when the craving comes on.
Are you going to a holiday gathering? Do you expect to see more sweets around the lunchroom at work during the holidays? Sometimes it helps to simply make the plan and stick to it, and you’ll feel better knowing you’ve completed your goal. For example, plan to bring your own sweet snack on a day that you expect your co-workers to bring in a holiday treat. If you’re attending a gathering full of serving bowls of cookies, cakes, and candies you can do the same! Bring a to-go bag of your own healthy, sweet snack from home and eat it in private if you feel self-conscious. Whatever works!
Substitutions are a recurring tip amongst food bloggers and nutritionists touting tips for avoiding over-indulgence for a reason. They work! If you find that you’re craving something sweet, opt for a crisp, fresh apple and some peanut butter, or a cup of grapes. There are endless fruits that are packed with nutrients and are still delicious (but not dangerously high in additive sugars) that will satisfy your sweet tooth.
Take some time to go for a walk, drink a large glass of water, or do whatever you need to do to physically remove yourself from being near whatever is triggering you. Is someone else eating something that looks delicious and irresistible? Excuse yourself, go to the bathroom, take a few deep breaths, and try to go for a short walk.
Adding in different varieties of food groups to your daily meals can actually help curb your cravings and hunger in general throughout the day. For example, try to add more carbs to a meal that is mainly protein and vegetable-based. Don’t try to restrict yourself from any recommended food groups if you don’t have to (no, sugar is not a food group!).
If you find that self-help methods are just not enough to curb your sugar cravings, speak with your primary care physician for a more individualized approach. In the meantime, make sure that you are attending your regularly scheduled (usually 2x a year or more) dental check-ups for further cavity prevention. Schedule your bi-annual dental cleaning and check-up with Advanced DDS at 516-825-1100 for a dentist in Garden City, NY.