One of the best ways to manage sugar cravings is to stop them before they start. Here are 10 nutritionist-proven tips to help you beat your sugar cravings.
1. Eat regularly
Eat six small meals or snacks spaced every 3-4 hours. Eating regularly can help keep blood sugar stable and help you avoid irrational eating behavior. Eat whole foods as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
Try to identify times of cravings and eat a healthful snack before the craving occurs. Mid-afternoon is the most common time to experience a craving for carbohydrates. At this time blood sugar levels are low and tryptophan is at its lowest point of the day.
2. Add a healthy source of protein to each meal
Adequate protein intake is important to stabilize your blood sugar and supply amino acids for serotonin production and hormone regulation. For animal sources, choose free-range eggs and chicken, and wild fish. Black beans and lentils provide an inexpensive, vegetarian protein source.
3. Eat low glycaemic load meals
To create sustained energy, eat meals that are low in glycaemic load (GL). To create a meal of low GL, start with unprocessed whole foods such as whole grains, vegetables, and beans. They are high in fibre, which is particularly important because it moderates the speed at which the sugar is absorbed by the body. Also, make sure you include a moderate amount of good fat and lean protein to slow down absorption and increase satiety.
4. Choose quality over quantity.
If you need a sweet treat choose dark chocolate instead of a king-sized candy bar, then enjoy every bite. Look for a brand with at least 70 percent cocoa content. The higher this percentage is, the healthier the chocolate.
5. Avoid extreme yang foods
You can reduce your sugar cravings by eating less extreme yang foods as red meat, salt and eggs and, instead, choose foods that are more neutral on the spectrum. Examples are whole grains, fish, sea vegetables, beans, root vegetables, and squash.
6. Avoid caffeine
You will also want to avoid coffee and caffeinated beverages, which often times increase your sugar cravings by creating blood sugar fluctuations and exacerbating mood swings. You can explore coffee alternatives that often contain less caffeine and are less likely to cause jitters. Examples are green tea, white tea, and coffee substitutes as roasted chicory root.
7. Identify Food allergies
The best way is to do an elimination diet with the guidance of a trained health professional. During this diet you eliminate the suspected foods over the course of a few weeks, and then slowly add them back into your diet and observe your reactions. You can also do a food allergy test.
8. Manage your stress
As I mentioned earlier, when we are stressed, our body produces the stress hormone cortisol, which affects blood sugar level, and promotes cravings for fatty, salty and sugary foods. Plus, if you are stressed, you can’t relax and get the rest you need, which further spikes cortisol production and creates a vicious cycle.
Try adaptogenic herbs such as ginseng and rhodiola, or relaxing herbs such as chamomile and lemon balm.
Calcium has a calming effect on the nervous system, so load up on calcium-rich foods such as yoghurt, leafy greens or bone broth during dinner.
Besides nutrition-based strategies, you can also try relaxation techniques to help reduce stress such as meditation and breathing exercises, yoga, stretching and journalling.
9. Exercise regularly
Exercise, especially cardiovascular exercise, releases endorphin, which is a feel-good hormone. It will take your mind off sugar, and most people report a decrease in food cravings and appetite a few hours post-workout. It can be as simple as taking a walk around the block for fifteen or thirty minutes during your lunch break – just start moving, and build on it.
10. Get support
Many people turn to sweet foods when they’re stressed, depressed, or angry. But food doesn’t solve emotional issues. Consider whether emotions are involved in your sugar cravings and whether you need help to find other solutions to those emotional problems.
You may need more than one strategy to beat your sugar cravings. What’s important is to try different tricks and figure out what works for you.
Lastly, go easy on yourself. It may take some time to get over your sugar cravings but as your sugar intake declines, your preference for whole, nutritious foods will increase. Research says it takes twenty-one days to implement a new habit.
If you need help with your health and nutrition, CALL Healthy U Turn at 416 876 4634 to book an appointment OR Sign up for a FREE Clarity Session with holistic nutritionist, Dr Maha Nasr to discuss your health concerns and learn more about how we can help.