Simple, realistic key tips to help you beat sugar cravings. Filling your body with an abundance of wholesome, sugar free food is where it’s at!
Do you always feel like you need something sweet? There are lots of different quick fix tactics out there, but I think the best bet is to actually train yourself off the sugar highway for good. These are my top tips for shaking off sugar cravings and making sustainable change.
There are a lot of sugar substitutes out there including artificial sweeteners (e.g. sucralose, aspartame), sugar alcohols (e.g. maltitol) and stevia (a naturally super sweet product derived from a plant). Foods made with these no-calorie/low-calorie sweeteners are labelled “sugar free” because they are sweetened with something that’s chemically different to sugar.*
But dang, don’t those sugar free items have such a sweet taste! A little sachet of sweetener makes your coffee taste like a dessert. And diet soft drinks – all the intense sweetness, yet no calories.
Now, putting aside whether these sweeteners have health benefits or detriments (that’s a different subject), let’s focus on the potential effect of these sweetened foods on your sugar cravings. Consuming artificially sweetened food may actually condition you to desire more sweets; even more than you did before. Research indicates that artificial sweeteners may stimulate an increased appetite, cravings for sweeter foods, and dysregulate our hunger signals (so that we end up consuming more food than needed). Artificial sweeteners could potentially trick our minds into thinking we’re starving, so we think we need to hunt down extra, even sweeter, food.
So, though you think you’re sorting your “sugar fix” without sugar, you’re intensifying the craving (and potentially encouraging overeating)!
I’m not saying you should NEVER EVER have something that has a sweetener in it. Sometimes I use stevia extract to make a really sweet dessert or when making raw chocolate. (However I don’t ever use artificial sweeteners like sucralose). But, if you feel like you seem to want sweet things all the time, cutting out the regular consumption of foods with that super sweet taste might help shift your tastebuds and beat sugar cravings.
Probably the most common culprit in this super (artificially) sweet game? DIET SOFT DRINKS. Get rid of them, or at least make them a very “occasional” drink.
You know when you’re so hungry you could eat your own arm? When it’s 3pm, you’re feeling like that, and then there’s an office birthday with CUPCAKES…you know how this story ends.
It might sound silly, but reducing your consumption of overly sugary, processed foods is not the same thing as reducing your consumption of food full stop. We often seem to couple the concepts of going on a “health kick” and cutting calories. But improving your health isn’t necessarily achieved by slashing calorie consumption.
If you’ve chosen not to eat sugary food, then you need to eat something else. Your body needs energy and nutrients from a variety of foods. This includes some or all of the following; vegetables, fruit, animal and/or non-animal proteins, whole grains, nuts, seeds, dairy and other healthy fats eg avocado. If sugar is out, then naturally nourishing, satisfying foods are IN. These foods will make you feel full and they are DELICIOUS.
For example. Skip the sweet blueberry muffin. Eat crackers topped with boiled egg, mashed avocado, salt and a squeeze of lemon.
If you want to ditch sugar but feel constantly hungry, lethargic, and/or have a really hard time saying no to cravings, it might be helpful to evaluate how much you are eating. Signs of under eating might include: changes in mood, hormone imbalance, dry skin, hair loss, digestive trouble (constipation) and difficulty sleeping. This article on signs of under eating over on ChrisKresser.com talks about some of these signs in more detail.
Beat sugar cravings tip #3: Ensure that you haven’t gone too low on the carbs as part of “cutting out sugar”.
This kind of ties in with the don’t under eat message above, but in particular, let’s talk about carbohydrates, because (a) they are one of the first things that go in many popular diets and (b) there’s a connection between carbs and “sugar” you might be thinking about.
“Sugars” – here referring to table sugar and other caloric sweeteners including honey, maple syrup, date syrup, agave, coconut sugar, etc. – are a kind of carbohydrate. Chemically, all carbohydrates are saccharides. Sugars are simple groups of saccharides, broken down easily by the body to provide energy.
So, if you’re cutting sugar…cut the carbs, right? No! You need to remember the carbohydrates group is a lot broader than just these types of sweet sugars.
When avoiding the sweet stuff, you want to focus on complex carbohydrates (bigger, more complicated groups of saccharides) which provide your body with sustained energy release. Good carbohydrates also provide our body with starches and fibre, substances which help to keep us full and also make out guts love us. Fibre is especially great at filling you up – smash those sugary snack cravings! You should be aiming for 25 grams of fibre a day for females, 30 grams for males (Australian recommended intake). Over the course of a day, if you ate half a cup of oats, a banana, 1 cup sweet potato and 1 cup of cooked brown rice, you’d be at about 16 grams already. These are all great healthy carbohydrate choices.
Nourishing carbohydrates can be found in whole grains, fruits and veggies (particularly starchy veg like potato or sweet potato). These foods do not need to go when reducing the amount of sugar we eat. Again, that might sound obvious, but it’s worth reinforcing! If you cut out carbs too drastically, you’ll probably experience a big slump in energy, irritability…and hey presto, I bet you’ll feel like a sweet treat. Eating good carbs is also especially important for many women because an appropriate amount of carbohydrates is needed to keep your hormones happy. You may see negative hormonal effects – even losing your period – if you go too low carb.
Put these tips into practice and start filling your plate with a rainbow of fresh, whole foods. Arm yourself with savoury snacks – one of my favourites are my Savoury Buckwheat Carrot and Feta Muffins!
If you are feeling confused about what and how much to eat and want personalised advice, please consult a qualified nutrition professional.
p.s. I’m sure you’re sugar-savvy enough to know that natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, agave, coconut sugar, dates etc. are technically/chemically just another form of sugar. I have assumed you know they’re a ‘sugar’ for the purposes of this article. That said, I don’t hate on all of these things! I prefer using these alternatives to table sugar in my sweets recipes, just in moderation!