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How to fix that out-of-control sugar habit

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Sugar is delicious but can be dangerous, so here are some ways to keep your consumption in check.

I know I’ve written about my chocolate obsession before, but y’all. I made the colossal mistake of giving up something other than chocolate for Lent this year, and while my Lent has been fruitful, my chocolate consumption has reached critical mass.

In the past six weeks I’ve been through a rigorous training and interview process for a new job. I’ve always tended to reach for chocolate in times of stress, but this is a whole new level. It’s so bad that my mom started keeping a supply of emergency chocolate on hand for days when she can see that I’m about to tip over the edge of Stress Mountain.

I haven’t put on weight because I’m pretty active, but I’ve started to realize that my consumption of good, healthy food throughout the day is decreasing in direct correlation with my increasing chocolate consumption. Basically, I’m getting my calories from chocolate instead of food — and I’m not giving my body the nutrients it needs to function well.

So I’ve resolved anew to cut back on sugar everywhere in my diet, starting with nixing the chocolate. The New York Times recently posted a handy guide to giving up sugar, full of tips and tricks to help reduce sugar consumption in every area — including my personal Achilles’ heel, post-dinner pre-bedtime snack-time.

If you want to keep your sugar consumption under control, you can help yourself by getting out of the habit of having a full artificially sweetened dessert every night. There are other end-of-day rituals that can help you fill the void, like a cup of tea or …

Fruit. Fruit is really a miracle food. It’s sweet, delicious and full of nutrients and fiber. Yes, it’s possible to eat so much fruit that you end up getting too much sugar in your diet. But very few people have this problem. For people who want a sweet every day, fruit is the way to go.

The only time I’ve really had luck giving up chocolate entirely is when I replace it with fruit. In the summertime, cherries are my go-to dessert. In the fall, I love Honeycrisp apple slices sprinkled with cinnamon. And with spring coming up, I’m going to be scouting farmers’ markets for baskets of berries.

There are tons of other places that sugar sneaks into our diet besides dessert, though, and the NYT guide walks you through them all. Breakfast has become dessert-in-disguise for lots of us, but the simplest (and most delicious) way to change that is to swap yogurt and granola for the infinitely more filling bacon and eggs.

Other tips, like drinking seltzer water instead of soda and checking out labels on unexpected sources of sugar (like pasta sauce and bread), can help you scale back the sugar even further. But the biggest thing to remember when it comes to sugar — for me at least, and probably for you too — is that less is more. Sugar is meant to be a treat, but when we let sugar become a daily (or hourly) staple, it stops being a treat and becomes a compulsion.

We need to remember to treat sugar kind of like fire — it’s delightful on a birthday cake, but we have to handle it carefully to prevent it from becoming dangerous and uncontrollable. Luckily, controlling a sugar habit is way easier than controlling a forest fire!

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