Sugar – a little on occasion is fine, too much too often leads to health-compromising inflammation in the body. Another issue with eating sugary foods regularly is that it leaves us wanting more. We may even begin to crave the sweet stuff on a regular basis. Here, some simple fixes to put to work in your everyday life to help halt sugar cravings. It’s all about balance and these 10 Tips to Stop Sugar Cravings will help you find it.
10 Tips to Stop Sugar Cravings
1. Consume clever combos.
Instead of focusing only on that indulgent sweet treat you’re craving, try to combine the sweet with a healthy food like fresh fruit. This can help slow the absorption of glucose into the blood, keeping blood sugar levels stable.
Some clever combos you may enjoy:
- 1 ounce of plain nuts or seeds (like almonds or sunflower seeds) with dark chocolate
- 1 or 2 gluten free peanut (or sunflower seed) butter cookies with a small apple
- 1 or 2 gluten free graham crackers (recipe in your December issue of “Food Solutions”) with a small amount of marshmallow cream and sliced strawberries
- Melted chocolate with banana slices or a half cup of strawberries or raspberries
2. Fill up on fresh fruit.
If you’re craving sugar and no specific food, try enjoying a piece of fresh fruit. The combination of natural sugars and fiber may just do the trick!
Try one of these suggestions to add a bit of excitement to your snack:
- Slice an apple and sprinkle it with ground cinnamon (Remember, McCormick single spices are all gluten free; for other brands, be sure to check with the manufacturer about gluten and gluten cross-contamination before using them.)
- Toss banana slices with lime juice and sprinkle with ground ginger.
- Combine watermelon cubes and a bit of diced avocado sprinkled with sea salt for a tantalizing (and filling) treat.
- Sprinkle fresh mango with unsweetened coconut and crushed nuts or sunflower seeds.
3. Choose quality over quantity.
When you do choose to indulge, make it a high quality indulgence.
If chocolate is your favorite treat, leave the run-of-the-mill full size candy bar on the shelf and splurge on a top-quality rich dark chocolate truffle and savor every bite.
If it’s cheesecake you crave, visit your favorite (gluten-free!) restaurant for a dessert-only indulgence and take someone along to share it with. The experience will be sweeter if you do and you’ll also benefit from a huge calorie savings and satisfy the craving!
4. Eat frequently.
Skipping meals is a sure way to increase the body’s desire for sweets. Waiting too long between meals leads to unstable blood sugar levels and causes us to crave sugar and fat.
Eat a small meal or snack every 4 hours to keep extreme hunger at bay and control blood glucose levels.
5. Limit caffeine.
While some caffeine can be beneficial to overall health, too much too often can influence our need for sugar.
According to a study by Canadian nutrition researchers from the University of Guelph in Ontario, caffeine increased blood glucose levels by 24 percent. As we all know, what goes up must come down; when the blood sugar drops after the caffeine spike, we naturally crave something sweet to help stabilize it. Reducing caffeine intake can reduce the spike/fall phenomenon and eliminate the associated sugar craving.
Drinking plenty of sugar-free (not artificially sweetened) liquids is essential to beating sugar cravings.
Dehydration lowers the blood sugar, which increases appetite, especially for sweet tasting foods. Sometimes, when we reach for a snack, our bodies are really signaling to us that we are thirsty, not hungry.
Keep a re-useable eco-friendly water bottle nearby at all times – at home, in the car, at your desk – and sip, sip, sip. Just be sure not to overdo it on fruit juice and avoid sugar-sweetened beverages. Also, avoid artificial sweeteners (see tip #9).
7. Take a nap.
It’s true, getting adequate sleep is vital to successful weight loss.
When it comes to fighting sugar cravings, snoozing enough is important, too, for two primary reasons. First, lack of adequate sleep disrupts the body’s hormonal balance, causing an increase in appetite. Second, when we feel fatigued, it is natural to seek out energy in the form of food to fight that feeling. Unfortunately, what we reach for more often than not are sugar-laden foods like sodas, candy bars and flavored coffee beverages to fight fatigue.
If you miss the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep doctors say we need to function properly each day and you find yourself making your way to the vending machine or the candy bar aisle, take a 15-minute power nap to recharge.
8. Avoid highly refined foods.
They are easy to grab and go, but “boxed” foods can be the end of a successful healthy eating regime if we aren’t careful.
These highly processed foods can also make us crave sugar. That’s because the more processed a food is, the less nutrition it contains. Most processed foods are also devoid of filling fiber, which goes a long way in controlling cravings.
After eating overly-processed foods, it is common to feel hungry within an hour. This hunger is often associated with a craving for sugar, salt and caffeine. To avoid this, consume satisfying foods filled with vitamins, minerals and fiber and be sure to get plenty of lean protein (either plant- or animal-based, depending on your preference).
9. Trash artificial sweeteners.
Although they provide a huge calorie savings, artificial sweeteners do not abate sugar cravings. In addition, research shows the use of artificial sweeteners has had no impact on reducing the obesity epidemic in America.
Go for the real deal when you want a sweet, in moderation, and you’ll fare much better long term without adding unnatural chemicals into the system.
10. Use multiple strategies and change them up often.
The above tips can go a long way in helping prevent sugar cravings. You may want to focus on one or two in the beginning, but in time, try adding an additional strategy or changing the strategies you use, alternating them over time. Research show this approach yields the best long-term results for sustained, healthy weight loss and maintenance. It is also a great way to discover the strategies that work best for you.