Sugar is one of the most toxic substances we consume – it triggers hunger, stimulates us to store fat, lowers the immune system and is a contributing factor to a whole host of diseases and health conditions. But despite knowing this, it is so hard to kick the sugar habit to the curb!
1. Drink up
A sugar craving can be a sign of dehydration so drink a glass of water and see if the craving is still there! Also, too much caffeine mimics a blood sugar crash – it gives you an initial surge of energy followed by a lower “low” which could be driving your craving for sugar. Again, flushing it out of your system with water may help!
2. Healthy Sweet Fix
Your tongue has sweet taste buds that demand to be satisfied from time to time so instead of holding out, add naturally sweet foods and spices to your diet like squash, carrots, beets, berries, dates, apples, cinnamon and nutmeg. If you are going to use fruit for your sweet fix, always have the whole fruit rather than the juice as the fibre will slow down the absorption of sugar into the blood, avoiding the unhealthy spike in blood sugar levels. If you want to make guilt-free desserts at home, xylitol and stevia used in moderation will also not cause your blood sugar levels to rise sharply.
3. Go Back To Bed
If you are in a sleep deficit, and you are chronically tired (high cortisol levels may be masking this so you may not actually feel tired), your body will look for energy in the form of sugar or caffeine. Power down and prepare for bed an hour earlier than usual or take a power nap (science tells us 26 minutes is the ideal length) and watch how your cravings diminish.
4. Check Your Protein Levels
Studies have shown that eating too much or too little protein can actually increase sugar cravings (especially too much animal protein)! You need to find the optimum level for you (many people eat too much)! Keep an eye on your own diet or work with your nutritionist to determine the best level for you.
5. Check The Labels
There is hidden sugar in so many products you never would have imagined, from pasta sauces to salad dressings to even the “healthier” cereals disguised under a whole host of names such as high fructose corn syrup. Also watch out for things that are labelled “low-fat” or “fat-free”. When manufacturers take out the fat out of foods, they often replace it with some form of sugar! If you are unsure, there are many apps now that you can use to scan labels of food packaging and they will tell you the level of sugar and nutrition in your serving! The more sugar you eat, the more you will crave.
6. Get Moving
Movement is another kind of fuel for your body – it releases stress, makes you feel great releasing happy hormones and when you don’t get enough, your body looks for other ways to let off steam or stimulate that dopamine kick with your favourite chocolate bar for example!
7. Create A New Post-Meal Ritual
If you always feel like eating something sweet after your meal, this is more than likely just a learnt behaviour pattern, which, with a little attention, can be reversed. Retrain your neuropathways by creating a new post-meal ritual and over time you will reinforce this habit instead of seeking that sweet fix. Good post-meal rituals could include a nice herbal tea, going for a gentle, leisurely walk or stepping away from the dinner table and reading a newspaper or magazine in another room – see what works for you!
8. Reward Your Restriction!
Instead of seeing sugar as a reward (your child did well in school, let’s take them for ice cream), find other, non-food related treats so you don’t have the mental association of something sweet and feeling good. And whenever you do manage to resist temptation, turn that restriction into a habit by rewarding yourself with something meaningful for you (for example put the ice cream money into a treat jar and save up for something you’ve always wanted!).