Ten Tips to Tame Sugar Cravings
Sugar cravings are strong urges to eat something sweet. When our body is out of equilibrium, such as when we’re overly tired, have strong emotions, or are very hungry, cravings are a call for us to find balance. Sugar gives us a quick mood boost and instant energy when we’re feeling stressed.
If you’re experiencing these cravings, you might have difficulty regulating your internal sugar balance. Drastic swings in blood sugar can affect you physically, mentally, and emotionally. Over time, this may lead to a host of lifelong health problems such as diabetes, certain cancers, heart disease, and even dementia. So, while we may be drawn toward a quick pick-me-up, the returns could be far more harmful.
Here are ten strategies to stave off the sweets:
#1. Eat natural and avoid artificial.
Choose healthy alternatives such as raw honey, coconut sugar, or dates. These foods have health benefits. But eat them sparingly. Even small amounts may start a cascade of craving and binging.
Artificial sugars are best avoided as they are linked with negative health effects. These have brand names like Nutrasweet, Sweet N Low, Splenda, and Newtame, to name a few.
#2 Keep junk food out of your house.
Junk food is considered a type of food with poor, if any, nutritional value and is usually loaded with saturated fats, sugar, and/or salt. If it’s not in your house, car, workspace, or any place within reach you are less likely to eat it.
#3 Have fruits and vegetables easily accessible.
Grapes, apples, pre-cut cucumber slices, red peppers, or baby carrots are handy for snack urges. Eating more fruits and vegetables will help curb your sweet tooth.
#4 Recognize and manage stress levels.
Decreasing stress in your life helps reduce your fight-or-flight coping response. In turn, your body’s blood sugar balance will stay more even. There are many ways to lower stress including getting a good night’s sleep, eating meals at regular times, and managing emotions. Small lifestyle changes can make big impacts on how we deal with our stress.
#5 Notice how sugar plays a role in culture.
Learn the “sweet” history of holidays and make observations on how sugar is used as a reward. Our culture has a sugar obsession, choose how you want to navigate it. Get support from your friends and family to make changes.
#6 Crowding out.
This is a practice of putting more healthy food choices on your plate and limiting the amount of treats, desserts, or comfort foods. That may be a better place to start than “cold turkey.” Decide what level of change you are most likely to stick with.
#7 Eat fat, fiber, and protein.
You will slow down the amount of time your body absorbs food by eating fat, fiber, and protein. In turn, you will stay full longer. Consider a healthy snack like apples and peanut butter or wheat toast and hummus instead of a mocha latte with whipped cream.
#8 Read food labels and check the ingredients.
Know if you’re eating hidden sugar and start to recognize which foods contain it. Remember, sugar is not a nutritional need. Look for added sugar on nutrition labels and look for sugars in the ingredients list. There are many different names for sugar on food labels, over 100 in fact. Decreasing your sugar intake will keep your blood sugar steady and hold back sweet cravings.
#9 Stay hydrated.
We can confuse hunger for thirst. Drink water and see if you still have sugar cravings in thirty minutes. Limit your alcohol intake. In excess, alcohol dehydrates you and can throw off your blood sugar levels.
#10 Think of your food as an investment.
Foods high in sugar tend to be cheaper and more readily available. In saving a little time or money, you may not realize the accumulated effects sugar is having on your health. Look for ways to save money and eat real food. Prioritize your health and live a more purposeful life.
Robin Fillner, RN, BSN is passionate about wellness and being outside. She is a health writer and an oncology nurse at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital. She is also a Certified Functional Nutrition Counselor through the Functional Nutrition Alliance. Find her at: www.linkedin.com/in/robinfillner