Let’s be honest: We all have vices and we all deserve to treat ourselves.
But when it comes to picking between a glass of wine and a piece of cake, which one is better? Here’s how to choose your treats wisely.
What do alcohol and sugar have in common? Answer: They’re addictive, tasty and bad for our waistlines. But as we all know, everything is fine in moderation. Here’s how to make a smarter choice when you feel like indulging.
It might taste like heaven and give you that much-needed energy boost at 3 p.m., but sugar ain’t called “sweet poison” for nothing. Before you chow down that chocolate bar, here’s why sweet treats are something that should only be enjoyed every once in a while.
The sugar rush
Sugary treats get a bad rap because they tend to be high in calories and have little to no nutritional value. Since sugar isn’t filling, it’s very easy to eat too much of it — and it goes straight to that muffin top (it’s not hard to see where that name came from!).
As well as causing weight gain, sugar is bad news for a whole host of reasons:
- Decreases the growth hormone (the one that keeps you looking and feeling youthful and lean)
- Increases cholesterol
- Feeds cancer and osteoporosis
- Weakens eyesight
- Causes drowsiness and energy crashes
- Contributes to diabetes
- Suppresses the immune system (that piece of cake is so not worth spending a week in bed with the sniffles)
- Causes inflammation
- Raises blood sugar and insulin levels (which speeds up the ageing process)
How to cut down
Before you run away from the confectionary aisle and swear off baking forever, let’s put that list of side effects into perspective. The occasional sweet treat is not going to give you wrinkles and an extra kilo to love; that stuff happens when you eat a lot of sugar over time. There’s more good news: You can train yourself to reduce your cravings — in other words, you can have your cake and eat it too. Here’s how:
- Eat breakfast — have a filling meal to avoid that drop in blood sugar that will make you crave sugar come 10 a.m.
- Go for fruit — satisfy your sweet tooth with bananas and berries, which are naturally sweet but are loaded with good stuff like fibre.
- Dessert after dinner — if you’re going to indulge, do it right after dinner rather than later in the evening.
- Cut out the obvious offenders — ditch lollies, white chocolate, frappucinos, ice cream and soft drinks first.
- Try alternatives — when you’re cooking, use natural choices like stevia or xylitol instead of sugar.
If you’d kill for a stiff drink after a stressful day or you always have a booze blowout on the weekend, you’re not alone: Research has shown that alcohol is Australia’s biggest vice.
Your body on a martini
While the odd glass of red wine is great for your heart, too much alcohol does more harm than good. These effects on your body may make you rethink uncorking that second bottle…
- Dehydration (anyone who’s had a hangover will tell you how this feels)
- Takes a toll on your liver and pancreas
- Produces huge amounts of gastric acid (that’s why many people get a sore tummy when they drink)
- Kills brain cells (this applies to heavy drinking)
- Can cause high blood pressure
- Weakens the bones over time
- Linked to depression
- Raises cortisol and adrenaline (the stress hormones)
- Causes weight gain
- Disrupts sleep patterns
How to drink less
For many of us, alcohol is a part of our social lives and that doesn’t have to change. But if you want to be healthier, shed some kilos and have lower stress levels, it’s a good idea to cut back and see if you feel the difference.
- Ditch the sugary cocktails — think margaritas, cosmpolitans and pina coladas — once and for all.
- Only drink 1–2 glasses on any given night.
- Have at least 3–4 alcohol-free days a week.
- See alcohol as a well-deserved reward. Trust us, unwinding with a glass of wine on Friday night will be so much better if you’ve been looking forward to it all week.
While alcohol and sugar have their downsides, they are fine in moderation. The key is to treat them as “treats” and not something to have every day. If you’ve got a sweet tooth or the taste for booze, stick to these choices to stay guilt-free. But this isn’t a licence to indulge every day; treat yourself once or twice a week max!
- Dark chocolate
- Bliss balls
- Oat bran muffins
- Baked goods under 100 calories
- Fruit salads
- Red wine
- Low-carb or “light” beer
- Vodka and soda