Managing Sugar Cravings
Various food cravings are common for most people, but sugar cravings are perhaps the most common. Maybe it’s that yummy breakfast pastry as you’re heading out the door in the morning, that sweet treat to get you through the last few hours at the office, or a delicious dessert after dinner while snuggled on the couch watching your favorite show. Sugar cravings can strike at any time, and sometimes, they strike at the same time each day because of a habit we’ve allowed ourselves to form.
Unfortunately, sugar is one of the worst possible things you can consume. It has zero nutritional value and can actually cause a number of problems with your health and in your body, including inflammation, sickness, disease, and more. But when a sugar craving comes on, you may find yourself feeling powerless, as if there is nothing in the world you can do to combat it. Like the only thing that will make the craving go away is to indulge.
We know that’s not the best decision– but how do we resist the urge to give in to your sugar cravings? We have some solutions for you. Let’s take a look at some of the experts’ top tips for managing sugar cravings.
Understand Why You’re Craving Sugar
Over time, our bodies have been conditioned to love sugar. From our earliest years, we likely loved sweet juices,yummy candy, and delicious baked treats. When we reward ourselves with sugar-laced snacks and treats, we feed our cravings and our love of sugar. We can make consuming sugar a bad habit so that our brains and bodies continue to want it regularly, often giving us a solid explanation of why we’re having intense sugar cravings so frequently.
Sometimes, however, sugar cravings can be an indication of something different. While poor diet and lifestyle choices are the most common reasons, you may have some deficiencies in your diet that are the real reason behind your cravings. You may be lacking in protein consumption or your diet may be low in fiber or healthy fats. Some doctors have suggested that a deficiency in magnesium, calcium, zinc, or chromium may be linked to sugar cravings as well. Additionally, you may struggle with craving sweets when you’re excessively tired, not consuming enough calories, are under significant emotional stress, consume too many artificial sweeteners, or have a normally high sugar intake. All of these can bring about intense and recurring sugar cravings, but if you understand the source of the cravings, you can take steps to get rid of the cause to minimize the cravings.
Get Ahead of the Cravings
Being aware of your sugar cravings and having a plan to combat them is half the battle. You should eat more frequently if you struggle with sugar cravings or unhealthy choices at mealtimes, and you should be prepared for when a craving strikes with healthy snacks and a plan of action to combat it. Prep some healthy snacks, such as fruits, nuts, cheese sticks, and the like for a quick and easy snack that will stop a sugar craving in its tracks. You can also decide to take part in a physical activity when you’re having a craving so as to replace a bad habit with a good one. Instead of indulging in a candy bar, take a few moments to squeeze in some physical activity to distract from your craving. You can do jumping jacks, run up and down the stairs a few times, or do push-ups. As long as you have a plan to fight your sugar cravings, you can stay ahead of them and you’ll be far more likely to have success in beating them.
Know How Much Is Too Much
Generally speaking, it’s okay to indulge in a small sweet treat here and there. It can actually make it easier to not give in to big temptations when you allow yourself to enjoy something sweet every so often. However, it’s important to know what an acceptable amount of sugar consumption is and what is too much. Ideally, you wouldn’t consume any sugar at all, but for the majority of us, that’s not realistic. The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar daily (or 25 grams) and men consume no more than 9 teaspoons daily (or 36 grams). The average person takes in about 22 teaspoons daily, which is well above the recommendation. Try to stick to what’s recommended for you and be aware of all the sneaky places sugar hides in your diet (beverages, fruit-flavored items, cereals, etc.) to keep it to a minimum.
Evaluate Vitamin & Mineral Consumption
As mentioned above, a handful of vitamins and minerals can cause sugar cravings when you don’t consume enough of them. If you’re trying to get to the root cause of your cravings, try tracking your food intake on a food-recording app so you can see where you’re falling short in your vitamin and minerals. Additionally, you can take a supplement or a daily vitamin to try to meet your needs, and it always helps to up your intake of fruits and vegetables as well, which is a more natural way of getting more nutrients.
Make Changes in What You’re Eating
One of the biggest factors in managing sugar cravings is your diet. Minimizing sugar consumption will help you crave it less, and eating a more balanced and healthier diet will do the same. Eating fewer simple carbohydrates, more protein, more healthy fats, and more fiber are generally the most important changes to make when you’re experiencing sugar cravings. You should also add in more fruits and vegetables and as many “raw” foods as possible for maximum nutrient consumption and better craving management.
Get More Sleep & Drink More Water
When we’re sleepy, we tend to make poor choices in regards to our diet. But even more than that, sleep deprivation makes us more tired, and when we’re not well-rested, our bodies tend to crave sweets to give us a boost of energy. When we’re sleeping less, we also tend to consume more calories, many of which are not healthy calories. Not sleeping well and eating poorly is a self-perpetuating cycle because one leads to the other.
Additionally, drinking more water can help curb those cravings. Sometimes when we think we’re hungry, we’re actually just thirsty. So when you get a sugar craving, try drinking a giant glass of water. Try putting lemon, lime, or cucumber in it to mix it up a tad and add some flavor to it. The more water you drink, the healthier your body and brain will be, meaning you can make better choices with what you consume and you’ll have more willpower to fight those sugar cravings.
Find a Friend to Support You & Hold You Accountable
\Managing your sugar cravings can be incredibly challenging, but it is vitally important that you make an attempt to lessen the amount of sugar you consume so you can be as healthy as possible. Sugar negatively contributes to such a large variety of health issues, and simply reducing your intake can drastically improve your health and overall wellbeing. If you are struggling to manage your sugar temptations, find a friend who can support you and offer you some accountability. Maybe it’s as simple as texting your friend when you’re struggling, or maybe you are both trying to overcome sugar cravings and you can come up with an action plan together. Regardless of how you utilize your support system, having an accountability partner is a great way to stay on top of those sugar cravings and overcoming them with healthy choices.
If you’re struggling more than what you feel you can manage on your own, the experts at NCHS may be able to help. We offer nutritional counseling, obesity management, and more, and we can help you outline a plan of action to beat those cravings that have been holding you captive. Contact NCHS today or come in to one of our many locations to take the next step toward your optimal health.