10 Tips to Tame Sugar CravingsOctober 5, 2012
For as long as I can remember, I have gravitated toward anything sugary and I've had to find ways to tame sugar cravings. The pitfalls of sugar are that the more we eat it, the more we want.
Why do we crave sugar? Sugar is a carbohydrate but nutritionally void, unlike other carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Carbohydrates stimulate the release of the feel-good brain chemical serotonin. The taste and consumption of sugar release endorphins that calm and relax us, and we can experience a "high" from eating it. Many of us can seek that "high" again and again by repeatedly indulging in sugar.
Tips to Tame Sugar Cravings!
Irregular or Missed Meals
If you skip meals or eat at unpredictable intervals, your body can go into a state of starvation which deprives both your brain and body of fuel. This dynamic will set you up to crave starchy or sugary foods for energy. To make it easier to tame sugar cravings, make sure that you eat at regular intervals according to your body's physical cues. When you do this, your energy will be stabilized and will prevent impulse eating and decrease sugar cravings.
No Sugar Solution: Eat at regular intervals throughout the day.
Eat Fruits and Vegetables in Season
When we eat fruits and vegetables in season, they are especially sweet, packed with lots of flavor and can satisfy your sweet tooth. When you eat a full range of colorful produce that are in season, this benefits your nutritional intake and health.
No Sugar Solution: Deliberately shop for fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season to maximize flavor. Have fruits and vegetables easily available for you to eat. Cut veggie strips and beautiful fruits and place them in a bowl prominently displayed in your kitchen so you reach for them instead of the sugar stuff.y.
Substitute Sugar for Sugar-Free
Give in a little and exchange sugary treats for sugar-free. There are all sorts of sugar-free candy options, cookies, and even other treats in sugar-free versions.
No Sugar Solution: Seek out sugar-free options of your favorite items and have them on hand. To ward off sugar cravings, you could allow yourself to eat one sugar-free treat a day.
Slow Down and Plan
Focus on a plan to tame sugar cravings. As you log your food intake, review what you are eating. Many times your sugar cravings are a direct result of lack of planning and eating nutrition-packed foods. Slow down and plan your daily food intake. Eat what you plan to eat instead of eating out of desperation and reactive to cravings.
No Sugar Solution: Plan meal menus each week and stick to them. Log your food and keep track of your nutritional breakdown per day to ensure you are eating high-quality foods.
Low on Protein and Healthy Fat
If your food choices are heavy in carbohydrates, specifically if you rely on refined carbohydrates, you will more likely experience regular cravings for sweets. Your body requires a balance of nutrients. Protein and fat slow the release of carbohydrates into your bloodstream, thus stabilizing your energy. Protein-rich foods also pack important nutrients, and healthy fats and oils improve nutrient absorption, boost immunity and increase satiety at meals. Meals containing a mix of complex carbohydrates, protein and fat work best to stabilize energy and avoid sugar cravings. Carbohydrates digest quickly, providing fuel immediately after a meal. As the supply of carbs drops off, protein then becomes available. When that drops off, fat kicks in to provide the longer-term energy. Having a modest amount of protein and some healthy fat at each meal greatly slows the return of hunger and decreases those sugar cravings.
No Sugar Solution: Eat regular, balanced meals that consist of complex carbs, protein, and healthy fats.
Just Say No
Put a screeching halt to consuming sugar. Yes, the first few days will be difficult but when you get through them, it becomes easier to quit the refined sugary carbs. When you go cold turkey, it helps sugar cravings to decrease after a few days. Since sugar consumption is cyclical "the more you eat, the more you want, when you don't eat them, your cravings will reduce or diminish. Think of your cravings as stray animals. Feed them and they keep coming back. Stop feeding them and eventually, those stray desires will disappear!
No Sugar Solution: Stop eating simple, refined, sugary carbohydrates entirely.
Grab Gum and Mints
Keep sugar-free gum or mints on hand. Many times we just want to provide oral gratification. We can do that with sugar-free gum or mints without giving in to a complete craving for sugar. It has been shown that chewing gum or enjoying a mint can reduce sugar and food cravings.
No Sugar Solution: Keep sugar- free gum and/or mints of various flavors easy to grab.
Push the Salt Shaker Away
Processed foods and restaurants love salt. The reason is that salt stimulates your appetite and increases your cravings for other processed foods and drives you to eat more. Chips, dips, crackers, cured meats, and even condiments can make your desire for salt and sweets soar sky-high. Surprisingly, commercial bakery, frozen desserts, and candy also have a hefty dose of salt too. If you reduce your salt intake, you'll also decrease your sugar cravings.
No Sugar Solution: Slash your salt intake to normalize your appetite. Read labels and be a sodium detective to replace high sodium items with lower or non-sodium options. Season with herbs or lemon instead of salt.
Sugar Doesn't Solve Emotional Pain
Many of us, while growing up, chose food to soothe our emotions. When we wanted to celebrate a good report card, we went out for ice cream. When we were hurt physically or even had a bad day at school there was always the cookies and sweets to make things better. No amount of sugar will satisfy your emotional needs or take away your troubles. Eating high-sugar foods when you feel fear, anger, loneliness, boredom, depression or stress usually will give you nothing more than extra weight, aches, pains, indigestion, gas, and health problems that can make you feel even worse. Release pent-up energy and create balance in your life. Unwind with a walk, a nap or a relaxation CD. Reduce anger by running, riding your bike or taking a martial arts or other exercise class or DVD to move the blues away. Take up tai chi, make a vision board or collage, coloring with the kids or other craft or hobby, meditate, or just have fun.
No Sugar Solution: Find healthy, non-food ways to cope with emotions and satisfy your needs.
Move It or Lose It
When a sugar craving hits, walk away. Even changing your environment by going into another room, going outside to sit on your front porch or back deck will help. You can take a walk around the block (or longer) to pump some feel-good endorphins into your body rather than the fleeting sugar high and subsequent energy dump by satisfy a craving. When you move or give yourself a change of scenery, you also take your mind off the food you're craving.
No Sugar Solution: Get up and GO!
Takeaways to Tame Sugar Cravings
Sugar may be sweet to consume but the results to our body and health are not so sweet. Enjoying our good health is the ultimate sweetness of all.
You may need more than one strategy to tame sugar cravings. Use any (or all) of the ways above or find the successful strategies that work for you. To tame sugar cravings, have a bag of tips and tricks that you can use. Please share what you do to subside your sugar cravings by adding your comments below.
ABOUT THE AUTHORCathy Wilson, PCC, BCC, had RNY surgery in 2001 and lost 147 pounds. Cathy is a regular contributor to the OH Blog and authored the "Mind Matters" column in ObesityHelp Magazine. Cathy is a licensed pilot and loves flying. She is a member of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) and the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC).
Read more articles by Cathy!