Is it OK to have a sweet everyday?

Having something sweet is enjoyable for most people. The taste of sugar lights up the reward centers in our brain and gives us a feeling of satisfaction. However, regularly eating sweets, particularly in large amounts, can negatively impact our health. So how do we balance enjoying the foods we love with making healthy choices? Here are some quick answers to key questions on whether it’s okay to have something sweet every day:

Is having something sweet every day bad for you?
It can be, depending on the type and amount of sweet food. Eating excessive sugar is linked to increased risk for obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and cavities. However, enjoying sweets in moderation as part of an overall healthy diet is fine for most people.

How much added sugar per day is recommended?
Experts recommend limiting added sugar to no more than 25 grams or 6 teaspoons per day for women and 36 grams or 9 teaspoons for men. This includes sugar from baked goods, sweetened yogurts, cereals, soda, candy, etc.

What are some healthy ways to satisfy a sweet tooth?
Eating fresh fruit, plain yogurt topped with berries, or small pieces of dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa) are good options. Be mindful of portion sizes. You can also try naturally sweet foods like dates, figs, baked apples, or homemade oatmeal cookies using healthy ingredients.

Can artificial sweeteners provide a healthy alternative?
While artificial sweeteners like aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose have few to no calories, research on their health impact is mixed. They may change gut bacteria levels, promote cravings for ultra-sweet foods, and be linked to weight gain. They should be consumed in moderation.

What about sugar substitutes like honey, maple syrup, and coconut sugar?
These “natural” sugars contain minerals and antioxidants but are still added sugars high in calories. They should be used sparingly to replace white sugar, not in addition to it.

How Sugar Impacts Your Health

Eating too much added sugar and sugary foods on a regular basis can take a toll on your overall health in numerous ways:

Weight gain – Foods high in added sugars like sodas, candy, many breakfast cereals, and desserts are often higher in calories with less nutritional value. Eating these in excess can easily lead to consuming too many daily calories, which contributes to obesity.

Dental cavities – When sugary foods remain on your teeth, the bacteria in your mouth create acids that attack tooth enamel. This erodes and weakens your teeth over time, creating cavities.

Increased triglycerides – High sugar intake, especially in the form of fructose from sweetened beverages, has been linked to elevated blood triglyceride levels, a known risk factor for heart disease.

Type 2 diabetes – Frequent sugar spikes from eating lots of sweets requires more insulin from the pancreas. Eventually your cells become resistant to insulin’s effects, increasing your risk for type 2 diabetes.

Inflammation – Sugar triggers the release of cytokines, your body’s inflammation messengers. Chronic inflammation is associated with arthritis, heart disease, stroke, and even cancer.

Fatty liver disease – High fructose consumption has been shown to increase liver fat, which can progress to fatty liver disease and more serious liver damage.

What About Natural Sugars in Fruit?

Fruits do contain the natural sugar fructose, but they also provide fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Our bodies handle fructose differently when it comes from whole foods like fruit as opposed to sodas and processed sweets. Eating moderate portions of fruit each day can be part of a very healthy diet.

Here’s a breakdown of how natural sugars in fruit differ from added sugars:

Fiber – Fresh fruit contains fiber that slows digestion and absorption of the fructose. This helps prevent blood sugar spikes. Fiber also keeps you feeling full.

Nutrients – In addition to antioxidants, fruit provides vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that support good health and help prevent disease. Refined sugars have none of these nutrients.

Fructose alone – The fructose in processed sweet foods and sodas is isolated. In whole fruit, it works synergistically with glucose and fiber.

Whole package – You get the benefit of all the nutrients when eating the fruit itself. Fruit juice separates the sugar and makes it easy to consume too much fructose alone.

Less sweet – Sodas, candy, cereals, and other added sugar foods often use high fructose corn syrup, which is sweeter than regular sugar. This changes how your brain perceives sweetness.

For most people, getting 2-4 servings of fresh, whole fruit daily is great for health. If you have pre-diabetes or diabetes, checking with your doctor on appropriate fruit intake is wise.

Healthy Ways to Enjoy Sweets in Moderation

You certainly don’t need to eliminate all sweets from your diet. The key is keeping your intake moderate and focusing on healthier options that provide more nutritional benefit. Here are some tips:

Eat mindfully – Savor a small treat, like a few squares of dark chocolate or a scoop of ice cream, by eating slowly and paying attention. You may feel satisfied with less.

Read labels – Watch out for sneaky added sugars like cane juice, honey, etc. Pick cereals, yogurts, granola bars and baked goods with under 10g of sugar per serving.

Portion control – Share a dessert, choose mini sizes, or portion treats out yourself rather than eating the whole package. Stop when satisfied rather than over-full.

Boost nutrition – Enjoy treats that also provide fiber, protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals like fruit & yogurt parfaits, peanut butter oatmeal cookies, and mixed berry muffins.

Hydrate healthfully – Replace sodas and sweetened drinks with water, unsweetened tea, seltzer with a squeeze of citrus, smoothies with Greek yogurt, or herbal iced tea.

Natural sweeteners – Use fresh or frozen fruit, small amounts of honey or maple syrup, vanilla extract, or cinnamon to naturally sweeten foods instead of sugar.

Satisfy cravings – Keep fruit, nuts, baked whole grain crackers, or other healthier snacks on hand to reach for instead of candy or cookies when cravings strike. Planning ahead helps prevent grabbing sweet treats impulsively.

The Bottom Line

Having something sweet each day can be part of an overall healthy diet when you focus on small portions of treats made from wholesome ingredients. Savor your favorite desserts, just eat mindfully and balance indulgences out with plenty of nutrient-rich, nourishing foods like veggies, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats and lean protein. Moderation and variety are key to finding long-term balance.

The Pros of a Daily Treat

Mental health benefits – Enjoying something sweet you love each day can increase production of feel-good brain chemicals and reduce stress. Deprivation often leads to intense cravings and bingeing.

Teaches mindful eating – Allowing daily treats, if portioned appropriately, helps promote a healthy relationship with food rather than labeling certain foods “good” or “bad” that should always be avoided.

Provides joy and satisfaction – Humans have a natural taste preference for sweet flavors. Having sweet snacks or desserts you look forward to eating can increase your daily enjoyment.

Weight loss potential – Eating sugary foods more regularly in small doses may keep cravings in check so you’re less likely to overindulge and gain weight.

Supports social connections – Sharing sweet treats or desserts after meals is often part of gatherings and celebrations. Saying yes on occasion supports social bonds.

The Cons of Daily Sweets

Weight gain – If treats contribute excess daily calories beyond your needs on a regular basis, especially empty calories without nutrition, weight gain is likely over time.

Blood sugar imbalance – Frequent sugar spikes from sweets may overtime cause your cells to become insulin resistant, driving diabetes risk.

Dental issues – Bacteria feed on the sugars in treats, releasing acid that can decay tooth enamel and lead to cavities, gum disease, and tooth loss.

Nutritional deficits – If too many nutrient-poor sweets displace healthier options, you may become deficient in important vitamins, minerals, fiber and other compounds.

Inflammation – Regularly consuming added sugars from processed foods and beverages can trigger widespread inflammation in the body, damaging blood vessels, joints, and other tissues.

Healthy Alternatives to Common Sweet Treats

You can often make simple substitutions to still enjoy your favorite sweet flavors in a more nutritious way. Here are some ideas:

Instead of chocolate candy – Reach for a small square of dark chocolate with 70% cocoa or greater, which has antioxidants and less sugar than milk chocolate. Or try cacao nibs.

Instead of cookies – Swap in oatmeal or oat bran cookies sweetened with a small amount of maple syrup or mini dark chocolate chips. Add nuts or dried fruit for extra nutrition.

Instead of cake – Enjoy a serving of chilled chocolate pudding made with avocado and dates. Top with fresh raspberries for fiber, vitamin C and sweetness.

Instead of ice cream – Blend up frozen bananas into “nice” cream. Mix in a little nut butter or dark cocoa powder for flavor and protein. Top with your favorite fruits.

Instead of doughnuts – Make a baked apple crisp with oats, cinnamon, chopped walnuts and a touch of honey or maple syrup for topping. Warm with a dollop of Greek yogurt.

Instead of candy – Snack on plain or roasted nuts with just a light drizzle of honey, maple syrup or melted dark chocolate for sweetness. The protein and fiber keep you satisfied.

Instead of soda – Quench your thirst with refreshing, naturally sweetened fruit-infused water, iced tea, or a fruit smoothie blended up with veggies and yogurt.

Tips to Break a Daily Sweets Habit

If you currently eat sugary treats, desserts, or candy every day and want to cut back, it pays to have a plan to help manage cravings and find healthier substitutions. Here are some useful tips:

Gradually cut back – Eliminate sweets slowly instead of going cold turkey if intense cravings are an issue. Start by giving up your least favorite treats first.

Read labels – Identify hidden sugars like evaporated cane juice, corn syrup, honey, etc. in packaged foods. Choose options with 10g or less sugar per serving.

Limit portions – Share a dessert out onto smaller plates or divide into snack bags to help restrain overeating sugary foods when cravings strike.

Boost protein – Eat protein like eggs with breakfast or have Greek yogurt, nut butter, or hummus with fruit to help stabilize blood sugars and appetite.

Eat more veggies – Fill half your plate with non-starchy veggies to increase fiber and nutrients. Their water and fiber content is satisfying.

Drink more water – Carry water with you and sip throughout the day. Sometimes we mistake thirst cues for sugar cravings. Water helps keep hunger at bay.

Manage stress – Anxiety and emotional eating often trigger sugar cravings. Try relaxing practices like yoga, deep breathing, taking a walk, or calling a friend.

Get enough sleep – Being tired leads to greater cravings for sugary pick-me-ups and reduced willpower. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night.

Healthy Dessert Alternatives to Make at Home

Concocting healthier desserts at home lets you control the amount of added sugars. Here are nutritious ingredients to use in moderation as substitutes:

Unsweetened applesauce – Replaces butter or oil in baked goods recipes. Provides fiber and vitamin C.

Ripe mashed bananas – Imparts moisture and sweetness in place of sugar in muffins, breads, pancakes and more. Potassium helps regulate blood pressure.

Pureed avocado – Makes chocolate puddings and frostings creamy. It’s a healthy fat that keeps you satisfied.

Pureed prunes or dates – Sweetens smoothies, cookies, and brownies naturally thanks to high fiber fruits.

Pure maple syrup – Has antioxidants and minerals. Use just a tablespoon or two as sugar substitute in baking recipes.

Pure vanilla extract – A little goes a long way to add sweetness without sugar. Has an anti-inflammatory compound.

Cinnamon – Sprinkle on oatmeal, toast, coffee and baked goods. May help stabilize blood sugar.

Unsweetened nut or seed butters – Provide protein, fiber and healthy fats. Swirl into smoothies or use as cookie dough binder.

Dark chocolate – A small amount of dark chocolate chips or baking cocoa adds rich flavor and antioxidants.

Extracts like almond, vanilla, orange – Use just a teaspoon in place of sugary syrups to flavor treats.


Having a daily treat can absolutely be part of an overall nutritious diet when you focus on controlling portions and picking healthier options full of fiber, protein, and nutrients. The key is re-setting your taste buds to enjoy simpler baked goods flavored with chocolate, cinnamon, fruit and nuts instead of saturated with sugar. Pay attention to ingredients and sweeten smartly in moderation at home. Savoring smaller amounts of the sweets you truly love can satisfy your cravings without the downsides of excess sugar when eaten mindfully.

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