Nutrition Blog

Bust the Sugar Cravings!

9 ways to fight sugar cravings

Does that chocolate chip muffin you ate for breakfast have you craving another mid-morning treat? Do you find yourself staring at the vending machine longing for that candy bar or sweet in the middle of the afternoon? You might feel powerless to sugar’s charms but there are very good reasons why. Let’s break this down:

Why do we crave sweet things?

There are many reasons why we crave sugar.

Sweet is the first taste humans prefer from birth. Carbohydrates stimulate a feel-good hormone in the body called “serotonin”. The taste of sugar also releases endorphins that calm and relax us and offer a “natural high”. We also crave sugar because of hormonal shifts in our bodies as well as the psychological impact of seeing a delightfully decadent donut or a drizzle of caramel on an ice cream sundae. Sugar is a carbohydrate, but carbohydrates come in other forms like vegetables, fruits and whole grains.

Indulging in a sweet occasionally is not a problem, but when over consumed, which can be easily done when sugar is added to so many processed foods like bread, yogurts, juices and sauces, it can become a real problem.

The average American consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugar daily, according to the American Heart Association.

Just to give you perspective: women should try to limit added sugars to 6 teaspoons daily and men to 9 teaspoons daily. Eating excessive sugar can lead to substantial health risks like obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. In fact, a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, found that people who exceeded the recommended daily limit of added sugar (10% of total caloric intake) increased their risk of dying of heart disease by at least 30%!

Putting an end to sugar cravings can be hard, but the good news is that there are some smart strategies that can help significantly reduce those cravings!

How to Stop the Sugar Rush:

1) Listen to your body.

This one is super important. Take a minute to really understand what is going on in the moment you crave sugar: Do you have a headache, are you physically hungry, are you bored, stressed out or do you really want a sweet treat? When you truly understand the “why,” you can try to deal with the real issue at hand instead of turning to sugar.

2)  Take a pause before having that treat.

Take 4-5 deep breaths and sit with your feelings for a moment. If you are hungry, grab a snack that includes some healthy fats and proteins. This will satisfy you, and your cravings should subside.

3) Drink up!

Drink a tall glass of cold water before you grab that candy bar. Often times thirst can be misconstrued as hunger.

4) Get up and go!

Go for a walk instead of having that treat – try to get your heart rate up and your juices flowing. Changing the scenery and getting your mind off of the food you’re craving might do the trick.

5) Balance your meals.

Make sure your meals have plenty of fiber, healthy fats and proteins. These nutrients take longer to digest so you feel fuller longer. If you are satisfied you have less chances of craving sugar.

6) Pay attention to patterns.

If you find you crave sugar like clockwork at 3pm every day, that’s probably a sign your body is hungry. This hunger should be filled with a snack, not a treat. A snack fills a void, a treat is for fun. Make sure you have protein or healthy fats in your snack to fill that void and hunger.

7) Eat regularly.

Waiting too long between meals or skipping meals might set you up for sugar cravings and overeating. Help keep your blood sugars stable so you can avoid “mindless eating patterns”. Remember your body needs “to eat” every 4-5 hours, otherwise you are opening yourself up to more irrational eating behaviors.

8) Choose quality of quantity.

If you truly want that sweet treat, opt for a wonderful decadent treat like a perfect dark chocolate truffle or a delectable pastry or pie instead of a chocolate bar or boxed cookies. Take your time to savor and delight in the flavors. Don’t swear off treats completely, because you will end up craving them more intensely and your portions will be larger. Learn to incorporate good quality treats in your diet, but focus on filling your stomach with less sugary, more sustaining foods throughout the day.

9) Avoid the sugar pushers.

Although most people will support you on your health journey, there will be times when some folks will try to derail your efforts. There may be times when someone will insist you try their homemade apple pie at Thanksgiving, or a friend will roll their eyes when you pass on that cocktail.

Tell your family and friends what your goals are, and ask them for their encouragement and support. If they still try to lure you into eating sugary foods or sweet drinks, stay strong and know this: It is not about you. It is about them not feeling great about their choices and not wanting to be left behind. Stick to your plan, and they will likely stop trying to lead you astray. Your modeling might even help them make some positive changes of their own!

The Bottom Line: Be gentle with yourself. It may take time to get a handle on your sugar cravings. Remember: Sugar is not the enemy. It can definitely be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet. What you need is to slowly establish solid eating patterns and a plan that becomes easy and effortless to follow. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day, but with the right tools in your tool box, anything is possible.

Are you ready to stop dieting? I can help you find a healthy balance to your eating habits again (sugar, carbs and all!) Head over to my Contact Page to request an appointment or check my regular Facebook Live videos for more tips on healthy eating.

Voula Manousos’ writing is featured in the “Winchester Living Magazine” and “The Winchester Star” of Wicked Local.

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