Our diets have been hijacked and sabotaged by food manufacturers and sugar producers. As a result, Americans eat more than 150 pounds of sugar per year.
This number may have you picturing someone standing at a sugar bowl downing spoonfuls of the white stuff. But you would be wrong. Less than 20 percent of our total sugar intake comes from table sugar. The rest comes from foods and drinks. Some of those foods are healthy (a little sugar from an apple isn’t destroying our health). But sugar has been hidden in all sorts of foods, including yogurt, ketchup, peanut butter and bread. All have added sugar.
Obviously, one of the best things you can do for your health is to consciously limit the amount of sugar you consume. But how do you do that when sugar cravings threaten to weaken your resolve? Here are six tips for taking charge of your sugar cravings once and for all.
Reduce your stress
You may be thinking “easier said than done” and you may be right, but the truth is stress triggers a craving for sugary foods. To reduce your stress, go for a walk, regularly get a good night’s sleep and work to reduce your sugar cravings. It makes sense that stress and anxiety increase cravings: Carbs cause a release in serotonin which is a “feel good” neurotransmitter in our brains that helps ease stress.
Go “cold turkey”
Going “cold turkey” or completely quitting something abruptly is rarely easy. But it is effective. Completely removing sugars – including fruits, juices, and packaged foods (which are often loaded with sugars) – is the best way to get over cravings. A minimum of a week is typically recommended, but it may take a month or more to break a sugar habit. Be aware when you do a sugar fast, your body is used to operating on these simple carbs and you’re likely to feel lethargic, have headaches, and possibly have some body aches. The headaches, especially, should subside after about three days. Stay hydrated to keep the side effects to a minimum.
Also, when you break the sugar fast, you will be shocked at how sweet typical foods are and how much your tastebuds will have changed. Keep this in mind because it’s easy to reverse the benefits if you add a lot of sweet foods and fruits right back to your diet.
Avoid diet drinks and artificial sweeteners
This is crucial, especially if you’re going to try to break sugar cravings by going cold turkey. While you may know your drinks have zero calories and are sugar-free, your body doesn’t know that. Some studies are showing that artificial sweeteners such as sucralose (Splenda) can cause an insulin spike and show a blood glucose response. For dieters and people trying to control sugar, this is not a good thing. It can create a real craving for sweets and causes you to eat more than you normally would if you drank water. If giving up diet sodas and flavored drinks is a problem for you, try switching to seltzer water or club soda. To add a little bit of flavor, squeeze lemon or lime into your drink.
Start your day with a high-protein breakfast
We’ve all been told to start your day with a good breakfast. But for many adults a “good breakfast” often includes far too much sugar. Pancakes, juice, cereals, milk, etc. — all are high carb, high sugar foods that are traditional for breakfast. It’s no wonder that a sugary breakfast creates cravings soon after. The quick sugar spike and drop creates a cycle of cravings. Eating more protein at breakfast makes you feel full and satisfied longer. You also avoid an insulin spike and blood sugar drop, which leads to increased cravings. Stick with eggs, bacon or turkey sausage, add in vegetables and you have a healthy high protein breakfast.
Eat a little unsaturated fat, such as coconut oil
Many people have had success controlling cravings by eating a small amount coconut oil. One redditor used a teaspoon of coconut oil and a drink of water to control cravings. If you are going to try this, make sure you start with no more than a teaspoon. If your body is not use to this type of oil, it can cause stomach discomfort. Also, opt for brands labeled extra-virgin which commonly give you a nice, coconut flavor. Good, high-quality fats control have no effect on blood sugar, keep you satiated, and provide your body with quick energy (much as simple sugars do).
Go for a walk/run/jog
When a sugar craving comes on strong, if possible, go for a walk or jog. Move around and do something to change things up. Sometimes a little distraction goes a long way to controlling those cravings. Bonus: walking and jogging are great exercises by themselves.
Getting all the excess sugar out of your diet won’t be easy. You may have some weak moments, but don’t be too hard on yourself about it. If you get overwhelmed and have something sweet, then enjoy it for the moment then get back on track. The best thing you can do is to understand that it’s sometimes difficult to make a radical shift in your lifestyle but it’s worth it. Keep the tips above in mind and crush your sugar cravings once and for all!
Do you have tips and tactics for controlling your cravings? Share them with us in the comments.
Bio: Elyssa Blissenbach, M.D., is a Board Certified Internist who has practiced medicine for more than 15 years. She is the founder of Blissful Wellness, a medically supervised weight loss clinic within her practice to help patients safely lose weight. She also offers low-carbohydrate food products online at LowCarbCabana.com – readers can enjoy 10% off their purchase of $100 or more with coupon code LCC10100 (one time use/one coupon per customer).