What Can You Do When You Can’t Seem to Stop Eating Sweets and Sugar?
I love sweet things. I love chocolate, ice cream, cakes, cookies, and desserts just as much as the next person. And while I tout a healthy lifestyle, I am adamant in the belief that fruit is not a replacement for ice cream, cakes, or cookies.
But that doesn’t mean there is no joy in fruit.
Bad advice to avoid when it comes to cutting down sugar
If you search “How to cut down on sugar” on Google, many listicles will come up, with many of them sharing similar advice —
“Swap your cookies for orange slices!”
“Eat frozen bananas instead of ice cream!”
“Baked sweet potato is just as good as cake!”
Yet it would be hard to have a cup of banana nice cream and believe it to be equivalent to a cup of Ben and Jerry’s Half Baked ice cream — they just aren’t the same. In fact, choosing to have fruit over ice cream for dessert is often treated like a sacrifice in the United States.
While this kind of advice is well-meaning, it makes the fatal mistake of framing a healthy choice as a choice of deprivation. But while I don’t think fruit is a replacement for the classic desserts we all know and love, that doesn’t mean that fruit is the antithesis of sweet deliciousness.
When fruit for dessert is not a punishment
When I was living in the United States, I barely had a basic understanding of when fruits were in season. Watermelons were in season during the summer and apples probably the fall, but when did blueberries or strawberries come in? How about oranges? Grapes? Mangoes? In fact, I didn’t even think to ask these questions because these fruits would be available at my supermarket all year round.
But coming to Japan, I discovered that many fruits were only available seasonally, and so their appearance in markets was celebrated. When it became strawberry season, you would know — you would see many posters of red strawberries in the supermarkets, restaurants would serve strawberry-themed desserts, and tourism sites would begin offering strawberry-picking vacation packages. The same goes for almost any fruit: clementines, apples, peaches, melons, or grapes. When the season for them arrived, you would know.
Because fruits are celebrated in Japan, they are often promoted as stand-alone desserts, honeyed and refreshing sweets to enjoy after a filling meal or mid-day snack after a long study session. They range in expense, some artisanal fruits going for as much as several hundred dollars.
If you’ve grown up thinking about fruits as second-tier choices, you would wonder who would spend so much money on such an item — but in a culture where fruits are celebrated as desserts and quality sweets, it makes absolute sense for there to be a market for artisanal fruits as there would be for artisanal cakes, cookies, and other baked goods.
You can’t be depriving yourself, to live healthfully
When we enter the healthy eating mindset with the assumption that we are depriving ourselves of previous joys, we are doing ourselves a disservice. We end up paying attention to what we are missing rather than what we are enjoying, which is the problem with seeing fruits as replacement for classic, sugary desserts.
For when we see fruits as replacements for things they are not, we end up missing the refreshing texture of a juicy and soft peach slice, the crisp bite of a fall Fuji apple, or the delicate tartness of an orange. Instead we feel deprived, and later set up for a dessert binge to satisfy a sweet craving that didn’t feel was met.
What can you do when you can’t seem to stop eating sweets and sugar?
If you have a strong sweet tooth like me but are looking to cut down on sugar, fruits are definitely part of the process in helping one get there. They are sweet and juicy, yet full of fiber, nutrients, and other minerals to help one feel fuller on less. But instead of seeing fruits as replacements for something else, acknowledging them as delicious foods in their own right is the first step to enjoying them.
So enjoy your bowl of sweet watermelon, crispy red apples, garden-fresh clementines, or jammy strawberries! Embrace what they can do that baked goods can’t, and savor the joys of something whole and fresh. For fruit for dessert is not a punishment, it’s a joy.