Summer – the season when food is at its tastiest and clothes are at their tiniest. As soon as it breaks 70 degrees, ice-cream men everywhere don their little white suits and hop into their trucks. The streets flow with sweet tea, and the scent of funnel cakes is everywhere. It’s a sugar-coated mine-field out there, and running the gauntlet isn’t easy. But you don’t have to spend the next three months in Antarctica to get through the summer sugar rush with your health intact. Hold your ground by putting these 5 tricks to use this summer.

1. Sweeten With Stevia. Unlike other chemical sweeteners, stevia earns Mother Nature’s stamp of approval. That’s because this sugar substitute comes from the leaves of a little green plant. You can buy this zero-calorie sweetener in powder or liquid form at your local grocery store, or you can go the extra mile and plant some stevia in your garden. Pluck the leaves from your stevia plant and use them to sweeten summer drinks like lemonade and tea instead of piling on the calories with scoops of refined sugar.

2. Retrain Your Sweet Tooth. Sugar substitutes can go a long way toward curbing your cravings, but when your body wants sugar, sometimes it won’t take no for an answer. Slug down a crate of diet Cokes and you may still find yourself tackling a bowl of ice cream. The solution? Give your body what it wants – the healthy way. When you crave sugar, grab a piece of fresh fruit. Your body will thank you, and the added fiber you get from fruit – not to mention the lower glycemic index score – will keep you from crashing and craving more sugar later.

3. Keep Your Eyes on the Prize. Visual reminders can be a great way of keeping your goals in sight, but plastering your walls with Victoria’s Secret models isn’t just creepy, it’s kind of depressing. To help yourself remember to stay on top of the sugar fight, use a visual reminder that you can carry with you without weirding everyone out – like a bracelet. Of course, a bracelet can quickly become just another accessory, but a diabetes bracelet can do the trick. They’re no longer all just stainless steel and chain links, you know. You can engrave your own bracelet or create a design that holds a special meaning for you. When you reach for that second helping of birthday cake, your bracelet will catch your eye and remind you to stay on track.

4. Sleep On It. Some of the best things you can do to lower your sugar consumption happen far away from the kitchen. Take sleeping, for instance. If you aren’t getting a solid eight hours, you’re setting yourself up for a vicious sugar cycle. Here’s what happens – you don’t get enough sleep, so you wake up tired and in need of energy. Your body tells your brain you need to fuel up fast. Your brain then seeks out the best source of energy at your disposal – refined carbs. Suddenly, you’re eating a box of donuts and chasing it with a Starbucks smoothie. Stop this nightmare before it happens. Solid sleep should be a summertime priority.

5. Prepare for the Fair. Amusement parks, county fairs and neighborhood block parties – they’re all about the sweets and goodies. So how can you stay social this summer without ingesting a metric ton of carbs in the process? Like the Boy Scouts say, be prepared. Before your day at the park, have a healthy breakfast full of fiber and protein, like Greek yogurt with granola or steel-cut oats topped with fresh fruit. Then pack some healthy snacks for the day. Bring a refillable water bottle with you instead of soda. Not only will you save on sugar and calories, you’ll save a heap of money too!

Summer should be all about fun. So this year, instead of torturing yourself with crazy fad diets, be a little more practical. Adopt a sugar-fighting strategy you can actually stick to without losing your mind and wasting your summer in the process. The five tricks above are just the ticket – and do you want to know the best part? They’re all sustainable. These are things you can do for the rest of your life, and that means the weight you’ll lose this summer won’t wiggle its way back to your waistline by fall.

Eric Seahess

Healthy Living Advocate

Email: eric.seahess@gmail.com