7 Ways to Stop Craving Sugar
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, giving up the sweet life is challenging. But if you’re looking to decrease your sugar intake, you don’t have to swear off all sweets forever — there are healthy ways you can decrease your sugar cravings.
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Why Do We Crave Sugar?
From an evolutionary standpoint, the role of our taste buds — which detect sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and umami flavors — is to help us determine if food is safe for consumption or potentially dangerous.
“We’re essentially hard-wired to prefer sweet things likely because they tend to be not poisonous, and offer energy in the form of calories, which evolutionarily speaking were critical at one time when food was scarce,” explains Andrea N. Giancoli, M.P.H., R.D., nutrition manager at Openfit.
“Sugar is this fun and yummy thing that is so predominant in our food supply, it can be hard to resist,” says Giancoli.
Is All Sugar Bad for You?
There are naturally occurring sugars in good-for-you foods, such as fructose in fruit and lactose in milk.
However, generally the kind of sugar we want to watch out for — the kind of sugar craving you want to curb — is for added sugars, not the kind that’s naturally occurring in your delicious apple or glass of milk.
“The brain loves sugar — it needs it to run smoothly, and it’s pleasurable,” says Max Lugavere, who contributed to Sugar Free 3. “But it’s exponentially more pleasurable when it’s added to packaged, processed foods, which we now eat with abandon. And when we over consume these types of foods, the brain might not work as well.”
How Do You Stop Craving Sugar?
Now that you know why you crave sugar and what makes it so hard to avoid, here are some strategies for managing your sugar cravings.
1. Eat a Balanced Diet
The benefits of eating a balanced diet are endless, sugar cravings included.
“When you consume a healthy balanced diet with adequate calories (not too much, not too little) and a good mix of good-for-you foods, you tend to be more satisfied,” says Giancoli, “which can often help curb cravings.”
2. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep deprivation can mess with your appetite-controlling hormones, ghrelin (aka the hunger hormone) and leptin (the hunger-inhibiting hormone). When you skimp on sleep this can cause your ghrelin levels to go up and your leptin levels to go down, which could increase sugar cravings.
3. Stay Hydrated
Drinking enough plain H2O keeps you hydrated without increasing your sugar intake.
4. Manage Stress Levels
“Researchers have found you tend to eat more sweets when you’re highly stressed, especially for women,” says Giancoli.
Sugar may seem like a quick fix when you’re feeling anxious, but might actually make things worse.
5. Go for a Walk — or a Workout
“Sometimes just removing yourself from the situation works,” explains Giancoli. When the cookie jar is screaming your name, walking away could be your best strategy. A brisk walk or even a quick workout will release endorphins and help you forget about that needy box of cookies.
6. Reach for Nature’s Candy
Instead of cupcakes, cookies, and candy, snack on fruit-based treats. Fresh fruit salad is a great option — and a baked apple sprinkled with spices is a delicious substitute for apple pie.
Just be mindful of portion size and sugary coatings when you’re eating dried fruit.
7. Have a Small Treat
“Some people can go cold turkey when it comes to sugar,” says Giancoli. “Others can’t — for some, allowing yourself a small, appropriately portioned treat can help.” It will satisfy your sweet craving and let you get on with your day.
How Long Does It Take to Stop Craving Sugar?
The amount of time it will take your body to stop craving sugar is not an exact science and differs from individual to individual.
“Everyone is different,” says Giancoli. “The important thing is to stick with it and don’t give up. If you fall off the wagon, just get right back on.”