So, you woke up early, went to the gym, ate a healthy breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner, and you’re on the home stretch before bedtime. But suddenly, out of nowhere, the cravings hit. Before you know it, you’re raiding the pantry for anything sweet, and undoing an entire day of hard work in the process. Sound familiar?
This happens to most dieters, even the smartest ones. You see, the body craves sugar because it fuels the brain. And because the brain registers sugar as a reward, it’s not uncommon for you to crave it, especially if you’ve been used to eating a lot of it. In fact, studies show that sugar is addictive, which can prompt those who already eat a lot of sugar to get to the point where they don’t just want sugar, they need it.
But sugar is extremely bad for your health. Not only is it calorie dense, it’s also completely void of any nutrients, and the more you eat, the more you want. Overloading your body with sugar can eventually cause insulin resistance, meaning your cells begin having trouble absorbing glucose. This can eventually lead you on to a dangerous path towards type 2 diabetes.
Usually, sugar cravings peak when blood sugar levels drop, though hormones can also play a part in controlling your sugary-urges. Luckily, there are various tricks which can be used to help you resist sugar cravings, decreasing the frequency of them over time.
Try out the 10 tips below to take control of your sugar cravings once and for all.
10 quick tips to reduce your sugar cravings
1 Don’t let yourself get too hungry – Sugar cravings often hit when your blood sugar hits a low, and this is because your body’s looking for an instant energy rush. By planning ahead and ensuring you never get to this stage, you can begin to avoid a large proportion of your cravings.
Plan ahead and make sure you eat regular, healthy meals. Cooking large batches of healthy foods which can be frozen into reasonable portion sizes and defrosted when needed is a great way to make sure this actually happens.
2 Reach for an alternative – Let’s get real: You’re still going to experience some sugar cravings, no matter how many improvements you make. As such, you should keep something on hand to eat that’s sweet, but doesn’t ruin your diet. Dried fruit is a great example. In fact, a small portion of dried fruit is a great way to keep your diet on track without feeling as if you’re deprived. Just make sure you count your serving; dried fruit is much higher in sugar than its fresh counterpart!
Stock up on healthy treats, and make sure they’re available when you need them. It’s important you always have something nutritious to reach for to prevent poor choices when a craving hits.
3 Reach for whole foods with a sweet kick for main meals – There are plenty of sweet, healthy foods you can reach for when you feel your sweet tooth rearing its ugly head! Sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and carrots are all great examples of foods you can eat when you’re feeling like a sweet treat, but don’t want to ruin your diet. Because they’re high in fiber, the sugar won’t rush to your blood either, keeping blood sugar levels in check and your diet well on track.
4 Chew gum – Sometimes, distracting yourself is the simplest way to kick your cravings to the curb. Chewing gum is a great way to reduce all food cravings, not just those of the sugar variety. Similarly, brushing your teeth can taint the taste of food for a good hour or so, helping you to delay your urges just that little bit longer – hopefully until your next regular meal time.
5 Eat at regular times – A predictable food schedule keeps your body running efficiently, blood sugar stable, and will help reduce the frequency of any food cravings you might experience. Ideally, you should eat every three to five hours. Doing so will make it easier to reach for healthier foods. When you do eat, choose whole foods packed with protein and fiber to help keep you fuller for longer.
6 Boost serotonin levels – Serotonin boosts happiness, and contrary to popular belief, eating sweet treats isn’t the only way to give it a good boost. This important hormone is kept well regulated when you exercise and sleep well. When levels drop, you run the risk of sugar cravings. So move more and make time for quality sleep – you’ll be happier all round for it.
7 Drink more water – Just like you think you’re hungry when you’re dehydrated, sugar cravings can also be covert signs that your body is dehydrated. You can make water more interesting by adding a slice of orange or lemon. Sip it regularly throughout the day and you’ll be making sure issues caused by dehydration never arise.
8 Eat more greens – Greens nourish your body, and believe it or not they help you to crave less sugar and processed foods. This happens due to their high levels of complex carbohydrates. Complex carbs in vegetables are broken down by your body to give you energy naturally. This of course allows your body to maintain more consistent blood sugar levels, as opposed to being susceptible to the sudden rush caused by the sugars in simple carbohydrates.
Incorporate leafy greens such as spinach or kale into smoothies and main meals to sneak more into your diet without your taste buds even noticing.
9 Incorporate fermented foods into your diet – If you frequently find yourself bloated, gassy or craving sugary foods, you could have an imbalance of good vs bad bacteria in your system. Fermented foods introduce more ‘good gut bacteria’ into your small intestine, which actually helps to alleviate all of these symptoms and in turn leads to a flatter stomach, regardless of whether or not you cut down on sugar.
Foods such as natural yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh and pickles are all created using the fermentation process, so stock up on these to ensure your cravings subside.
10 Indulge if you need to – If you’re honest with yourself, you know you won’t always be able to resist sugar cravings. But if you’re going to give in, there’s a right and a wrong way to do it. Choose something small but decadent to satisfy your sweet tooth without eating too much of it. And when you’re eating it, eat slowly. This will help you to appreciate it more, and your brain to acknowledge that you’ve actually eaten it. This way, you won’t be so desperate to eat more of the same immediately afterwards.
Incorporating small amounts of sweet treats into your diet in a controlled manner is actually essential in order to keep your new lifestyle sustainable.
Put sugar cravings in their place and stay on track
Sugar cravings can derail even the most committed dieters. But if you want to reduce the likelihood of you falling victim to the sugar-beast, try incorporating the tips above into your daily routine. You’ll soon find yourself having an easier time giving the sweet stuff a miss.