Most of us have at least one sweet tooth, but some of us consume it often enough to develop a dependency. If you fall into the second group, you may be wondering how to keep your cravings in check. Don’t worry, I’ve listed several tips below to help you shake your sugar habit.
- Morning Protein – Protein keeps your blood sugar stable. Starting your day with enough of this vital nutrient (approximately 15-20 grams) and not overloading on carbohydrates can help your insulin and blood glucose levels stay more even throughout the day. This translates to fewer hunger pangs and spikes in energy. To achieve this, go for eggs, milk, yogurt (without too much added sugar), nuts and nut butters, or healthy protein shakes. Try to steer clear of sugary breakfast items like syrupy coffee drinks, juice, doughnuts, or muffins.
- Eat Regularly – Timing your meals and snacks right keeps your appetite tamed. Skipping meals or waiting so long to eat that you are starving by the time food comes into view primes you for questionable choices and overindulging. After your protein breakfast, try to eat every four to six hours, stopping a few hours before you go to bed.
- Be Mindful – Sometimes we think we have a sugar craving, but it’s actually our body craving water, sleep, air, or a different food. Before grabbing that candy bar or frappuccino, see if a glass of water, a healthy snack, or a quick nap doesn’t do the trick.
- Sugar Should NOT Stand Alone – Eating a sugary snack all on its own can cause that insulin spike we talked about earlier. If you are having a sweet treat, try to have it with a fat or protein source (say, after a healthy meal) to make the insulin spike less severe.
- Don’t Deprive – Completely eliminating sugar can make your cravings even worse. Instead, focus on only enjoying the treats you truly love. Have them just once in awhile as a special treat, not as a daily habit, and make sure to use portion control.
- Sub out the Sugar – You can still get a sweet taste from healthier foods. In fact, the less sugar and sugar substitutes you expose your taste buds to, the sweeter other foods such as fruit, grains, and seasonings will seem. Try any kind of fruit, super dark chocolate, lightly sweetened nuts or cereals, or experiment with making your own healthy desserts and snacks.
- Throw out Diet Drinks – No, artificial sweeteners are not healthier than regular sugar. Splenda, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, and saccharine can actually make your sugar cravings worse because their super-concentrated sweetness confuses the body.
- Sleep – Lack of shut-eye messes with your hunger hormones, ghrelin and leptin, making you feel hungrier and less satisfied. Try to get 7-9 hours every night.
- By Morgan McManimon-Myers, RDN, CD, LD