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The mental side of dieting can often be just as tough as the physical process. Cravings – particularly for sweet and sugary foods – are a huge issue for many. You needn’t give up your sweet treats entirely, you just need to find zero-calorie alternatives.

The Problem with Sugar

Many dieters think they need to avoid sugar like the plague when losing fat. Though this isn't the case.

While it’s true that sugar is nutritionally void, and contains little more than empty calories, sugar in itself won’t prevent, or even slow down your fat loss. In the context of a balanced diet, moderate sugar consumption won’t even have a detrimental effect on health and wellbeing.

The trouble with sugar, however, is its calorie content.

Like any other carbohydrate, sugar contains 4 calories per gram. This isn't as much as fat, which comes in at 9 calories per gram, but the main issue with sugar is how easy it is to consume a large amount of it.

Take a sugary coffee, such as a caramel Frappuccino for instance – a large one has over 60 grams of sugar (240 calories) and wouldn't fill you up one bit. Add sugar to your drinks, sip on fizzy drinks or soda, consume cereal bars and chocolate bars, and even ready made sauces on a regular basis, and your sugar count easily racks up.

Additionally, by eating more sugar, you’re giving yourself less room for more nutrient-dense, high fibre foods. If you’re aiming to eat 200 grams of carbohydrates per day, and get 150 grams of them from sugar, that only leaves you with a miniscule 50 grams of carbs from more nutritious foods, such as vegetables, whole-grains and beans.

By now, hopefully you’re starting to see that while sugar isn't a dietary devil in itself, the way most people consume it, and the effect it has in terms of altering the rest of your diet makes it far from the best thing to be pounding down when dieting.

Additionally, eating sugar can often increase sweet cravings. When you eat something high in sugar, your blood sugar levels rise fairly rapidly, particularly if you eat sugar by itself. This leads to an energy spike, followed by an energy crash, leading to lethargy and an increase in hunger.

So you’re in a catch-22 – you've got sweet cravings, but fulfilling them by eating sugar will only exacerbate them and make you want even more sugar. What do you do?

The trick is to find calorie-free ways to get your sugar fix. Often, just a small taste of something sweet is enough to satisfy a craving, without making you reach for the biscuit tin or pack of cookies.

You needn't go completely calorie-free when making your sugar switches, as eating or drinking something with zero calories may well make you even hungrier, and though it may satisfy your cravings, won’t do much to really solve your hunger issues. Therefore, the suggestions are split into two parts – calorie-free ways to get something sweet, and lower-calorie, lower-sugar alternatives to your favorite sugar-packed snacks.

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