Find yourself craving dessert even after a satisfying meal? While this can be totally frustrating, it’s actually pretty common — so many of us crave that post-meal treat, and for some of us, a sweet before bed is just part of our evening routine. But, let’s face it — we all know that too much sugar isn’t a good thing, and if that post-meal sweet tooth craving is getting in the way of your healthy eating goals, you’re going to want in on this.
We’re diving deep into some of the reasons we may crave dessert even after a filling meal, plus some totally guilt-free ways to combat sugar cravings a much healthier, yet still satisfying way.
What’s Behind Those After Meal Sugar Cravings?
Ok, so what’s actually behind these pesky post-meal sugar cravings? While there’s no one straight answer, research suggests there are a few things that may come into play here.
Number one is just plain old habit. If we’ve simply become accustomed to eating dessert after dinner, then it may just be a habit we have to work on breaking. For many of us, this may be an ingrained habit since childhood, so don’t beat yourself up if breaking the post-meal dessert habit takes some time.
Want to get away from that post-dinner sugary treat? It can be hard to quit cold turkey! But, by changing up your evening routine to either sipping on a mug of herbal tea instead of dessert, doing a five minute guided meditation, or even trying one of the sugar-free guilt-free treats below is a great way to get away from that post-meal sugar habit.
#2 You’re Meals Aren’t Quite Balanced, Leaving You Still Hungry
Another reason you may be reaching for a sugary treat after meals is that maybe you’re legitimately still hungry. This can happen if you’ve loaded up on carb-heavy foods and didn’t add enough clean protein, fiber, or healthy fats into the mix.
If you find yourself craving those sweets after a big bowl of pasta, try mixing things up a bit. Use spiralized veggies for some added fiber vs. heavy carb-rich pasta and add some protein and fat to keep things balanced, nourishing, and filling. Check out these five guilt-free pasta dishes for some ideas.
Chances are, if you’re feeling full and nourished, you may be less likely to reach for dessert.
#3 You’re Eating Dinner Too Early
If those post-meal sugar cravings tend to come on the strongest after the dinner hour, take a look at what time you are sitting down to eat. If you’re eating at 5:00 pm, but you’re not going to bed until 11 pm, that’s a large window of time to go without eating something, and a chance for those pesky sugar cravings to kick in too.
You can try to tweak what time you eat dinner to see if that makes a difference — maybe instead of eating dinner at 5 pm, you eat dinner at 6:30 or 7 pm. And when you do eat, remember to keep balance in mind here with plenty of fiber-rich veggies, clean protein, healthy fats, and keep your carbs complex vs. refined.
Here’s an some examples of nourishing foods to mix and match to create a balanced and filling meal:
- Chickpea pasta
- Sweet potatoes
- Nuts & seeds
- Nut butter
- Olives/olive oil
- Wild-caught fatty fish
#4 Eating Too Quickly
If you find yourself scrolling through social media and not taking notice of how quickly you’re actually eating, you may just be eating too fast. The fact is that many of us aren’t taking the time to really chew our food and enjoy it.
And, research suggests that the brain has to receive signals from digestive hormones to actually register that we are full. If we aren’t eating slowly enough, we may not be giving our brain enough time to catch up with our stomach. When we slow things down, it may be easier to tune into these hunger hormone cues and allow our brain to register that we are full before reaching for dessert.
The takeaway? Try to make mealtime a time where you sit and just be still — simply eat without distractions and really take the time to notice how your food tastes, chew well, and just slow things down. It’s a simple hack, but it may make a big difference in helping you actually feel full after enjoying a well-balanced meal.
#5 A Lack of Sleep
Believe it or not, a lack of sleep has been shown to have a huge impact on the foods we crave and may affect our hunger hormones. A study found that sleep deprivation was linked to an increase in ghrelin levels (the hunger hormone), as well as overall hunger and appetite, as compared to when participants slept 10 hours per night.
So, if you’re not getting enough sleep each night, here’s just one more reason to optimize your sleep quality. Check out 5 Things to Do Before Bed Tonight For Better Sleep.
If You’re Still Craving Dessert, Here Are 3 Fiber-Rich Options Without All The Added Sugar
The good news is that if you’re craving sweets after meals, there are tons of steps you can take to help combat sugar cravings — from improving your sleep habits to slowing down and really enjoying your balanced meals.
And, for the nights where you’re still hungry after dinner and want a sweet treat without the guilt, that’s ok too. We all have cravings that pop up from time to time, and there are much healthier ways to satisfy that sweet tooth without indulging in tons of extra sugar.
These three refined sugar-free desserts also make great fiber-rich snacks to help keep you full between meals.
#1 No Churn Chocolate Avocado Mint Ice Cream
Tip: Cut the avocado into cubes and freeze overnight before making!
- 1 avocado, cubed and frozen
- 1 frozen banana
- Splash of full-fat unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 tbsp raw honey
- 1.5 tbsp raw cacao powder
- 1 handful of fresh mint leaves
- For topping: raw cacao nibs, shredded unsweetened coconut
Add all ingredients to a high-speed blender or food processor and blend until it reaches a soft-serve ice-cream-like consistency. Add an extra splash of coconut milk if needed.
Diving into three servings and top with desired toppings.
#2 Strawberry Banana Almond Sweet Bread
- 3 ripe bananas
- ¼ cup coconut oil, melted
- 3 eggs
- ¼ cup raw honey
- 2 ½ cups almond flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- Pich of sea salt
- 1 cup strawberries, chopped
- For serving: coconut butter, raw cacao nibs
- Coconut or avocado oil for greasing
Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 9X5 loaf pan with coconut or avocado oil.
Add the bananas to a large mixing bowl and mash. Add the melted coconut oil, eggs, and honey and mix well.
In a separate bowl, add the almond flour, baking powder, and sea salt. Mix well and then add the dry ingredients to the bowl with the mashed banana. Stir to combine.
Gently fold in the strawberries and then pour the mixture into the greased loaf pan.
Bake for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool, slice, and enjoy with desired toppings!
*Store leftovers covered in the fridge.
#3 Baked Cinnamon Pecan Pears
Serves: 4 (1 pear half per serving)
- 2 ripe Barlett pears, halved
- 2 tbsp pecans, chopped
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tbsp pure maple syrup
Start by preheating the oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Add the pear halves to the baking sheet, and using a spoon, or melon baller, scoop out the core.
Add the chopped pecans to the center of the pear halves and sprinkle with ground cinnamon.
Drizzle with pure maple syrup and bake for about 20-25 minutes or until tender.
Allow to cool and enjoy!
Combat Sugar Cravings The Healthy & Delicious Way
Pesky sugar cravings are something that happens to all of us, and if you are trying to steer clear of those post-meal sweet treats, it may be time to take a good look at what may be under those cravings in the first place.
Is it out of habit? Are your meals not as balanced as they could be, or maybe you’re lacking some good quality sleep? The answer isn’t going to be the same for everyone, but getting a better understanding of what may be causing the cravings in the first place is a great place to start to help combat sugar cravings.
And, if you’re just looking for some healthy alternatives to traditionally sugary desserts, consider these three guilt-free treats. Not only are they delicious, but they are packed full of fiber to help support satiety and satisfy those cravings a much healthier way.