10 Ways to Conquer Sugar Cravings
Oh boy, did I love sweet treats when I was a kid.
Captivated by all manner of lollies and chocolates, I was next-level excited about the prospect of getting more. I remember hiding little boxes of sweets under my bed like some kind of sugar-obsessed squirrel, and feeling infinitely more calm knowing my secret stash wouldn’t run out anytime soon.
Even throughout my teens, I was infatuated, and would quite happily have eaten a chocolate bar over a meal, any day of the week.
In many ways, I wonder if sugar was my first addiction.
I certainly remember my sugar journey’s lowest point. I was twenty-three years old and had begged my then-boyfriend to stop on our way home so I could buy a chocolate bar.
Annoyed with me, he refused at first. Just a day earlier, I’d sworn off sweets altogether in an attempt to lose the additional pounds that had decided to throw a party on my hips.
But ohhhh, how I begged, and pleaded, and swore it was just this one last time… (I can stop anytime I want, I promise!)
Setting his face into a grimace, he pulled into the carpark and I sprang out of the car with the kind of adrenalin driven by pure desperation. Inside the store, I quickly snatched three chocolate bars and made for the register.
“What!” he exclaimed in hot pursuit, as he attempted to grab them from my hands. “One, not three. Put them back.”
“No!” I hissed, as I clung to them for dear life.
Seeing the look on my face (and no doubt wanting to avoid a scene), he let go. Filled with shame, I fought back tears as we made our way through the checkout.
I felt completely out of control.
Sugar has been a sizzling hot topic for the past few years with the release of documentaries, The Men Who Made Us Fat, Fed Up, and That Sugar Film, and I for one am tickled pink to see it gaining so much attention.
Sugar has been shown to increase the risk of diabetes, dementia, cancer, and heart disease. It’s a leading factor in excessive weight gain, tooth decay, inflammation, and skin conditions.
And as for mood swings, podgy middle sections, bloating, and 3pm energy slumps? Yup, our sweet little friend strikes again.
If your inner 3-year-old is throwing a tantrum and screaming ‘But it tastes sooooo goooood!’, you’re not alone. Humans are genetically programmed to enjoy sweet foods and the white stuff is highly addictive.
Sugar cravings can be particularly fierce when we’re in the process of ditching the drink, and it can be incredibly tempting to simply switch one addiction for another.
The keys to controlling cravings are gentle behaviour change and balance, and for that, we’re gonna need a Game Plan! The next time you find yourself wanting to sink elbow-deep into the cookie jar, try one of these tips instead. Here are 10 of my favourite ways to conquer sugar cravings…
1. Reduce Caffeine
I know, I know… I loved my morning cup(s) of coffee too, but sadly, the ups and downs of caffeine include dehydration and blood sugar swings (and for many, increased anxiety), all of which can cause sugar cravings to become more frequent.
Just another reason to limit your cup of Joe to one (or less) per day. Or, better yet, try switching to decaf (from the many brands who now use the Swiss Water Process, rather than chemical methods). Same scrumptious taste, with none of the downside. Win win!
2. Drink More Water
Soft drinks, soda, energy drinks, and packaged fruit drinks are typically loaded with sugar that can add up fast! Try drinking sour or bitter drinks instead, or adding freshly squeezed lemon, lime or grapefruit juice to sparkling mineral water.
Sometimes, sweet cravings are just a sign of dehydration. Before you reach for sugar (whether in the form of cakes, chocolates, or in liquid form), drink a glass of water. Wait a few minutes to see what happens. You might just find the desire passes right on by.
3. Eat Sweet Vegetables
Pumpkin, corn, beetroot, carrots and sweet potato are naturally sweet, healthy, and delicious. Packed with vitamins, minerals and fibre, they’ll keep you satisfied for longer and will help curb your cravings for added sugar.
Experiment with herbs and spices too. Coriander, mint, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and cardamom will naturally sweeten your foods and help reduce cravings. Try a little sprinkle of cinnamon to naturally sweeten your coffee or decaf – so good!
4. Choose the Most Natural Form
Let’s get real. It’s unlikely that you’re going to avoid desserts forever. So if and when you do treat yourself, avoid chemical, artificial sweeteners and foods with added sugar.
Instead, experiment with natural sweeteners like medjool dates, organic maple syrup, and coconut sugar. They’re still sweets and moderation is key, but they also come packed with vitamins and minerals, plus the fibre from dates will keep you feeling satisfied for that much longer.
5. Ditch the Fat-Free / Low-Fat Labels
Fat-free and low-fat foods compensate for the lack of flavour from fat with high quantities of sugar, which will send you on a rollercoaster ride of sugar highs and lows.
Unsaturated fats are known as the ‘good fats’ because they’re good for your heart, cholesterol, and overall health. Foods high in good fats (like avocado, oily fish, nuts and seeds) actually kill sugar cravings, while balancing hormones and feeding the brain and skin.
Forget the marketing hype and get friendly with the good stuff – real food, straight from nature.
6. Reduce Your Consumption
The less sugar you eat, the less you’ll crave. Eventually your tastebuds will change and desserts you used to enjoy will taste too sweet. Hurray!
Trust me, I this is one strategy I thought would never work, so I was shocked when it actually did! When shopping at the store, choose the smallest portion of each treat (even if it costs slightly more). Let’s face it, the first few licks or bites always taste the best, and after that, it’s a law of diminishing returns. So why sink yourself in a whole family tub of ice-cream, if you can just have a tiny kiddie size that will satisfy your craving?
Slowly, over time, start to focus more on quality over quantity. Often the best quality chocolates, or treats infused with natural sugars, are richer in flavour and will keep you feeling satisfied for longer – which means you’ll eat less of them overall!
Also try eating a piece of fruit immediately before indulging in a high-sugar snack or dessert. It’ll make the treat last that much longer (and taste that much sweeter), which means you’ll be naturally inclined to eat less of the dessert.
The delicious bonus is when you focus on getting your sweet fix from low-sugar snacks, good quality dark chocolate (Lindt 85% is my favourite!), or whole fruit instead, fruit (especially organic) begins to take on a whole new, richer flavour that will blow your mind. Try it for yourself!
7. Move Your Body, Lady!
Even if it’s just simple activities like walking or yoga. Start with 10 minutes a day and gradually increase.
Being active helps balance blood sugar levels, boosts energy, clears the mind and reduces tension, which will help you to navigate all of life’s ups and downs, and eliminate the need to self-medicate with sugar.
8. Catch Some zzzzz‘s
Embrace more sleep, rest and relaxation. Simple carbohydrates, such as sugar, are the most readily usable forms of energy for an exhausted body and mind.
If you’re in a chronic state of stress and/or sleep deprivation, your body will crave the quickest form of energy there is – sugar. Ensuring you get enough rest will save you from this toxic, never-ending cycle.
Create your own soothing bedtime ritual to help you wind down, and aim to hit the hay at the same time each night.
9. Tap It Out
Emotional Freedom Technique (also known as EFT or Tapping) can be a huge help in not only reducing alcohol cravings and steadying emotions, but also in reducing sugar cravings.
Check out this demo video from Gabby Bernstein on how to end sugar cravings with EFT, and engage in some self-soothing. The best part about EFT is that it’s free, and you can do it anywhere!
10. Find Sweetness in Non-Food Ways
Cravings – especially for sweets – often have a psychological component. If you find yourself craving or eating too many sweet things, ask yourself if your cravings are the symptom of something deeper? Are you really craving more fun, adventure, affection, or freedom in your life?
Bust out your journal, take a deep breath, and really explore the topic. What feels out of balance for you right now? What small steps could you take to address this? How could you better deal with emotions you might be trying to comfort with sweets?
When life becomes sweet enough itself, sugar can’t add anything we don’t already have. ♥
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