Do you need sweets to get through the day? Are you constantly thinking when you can get your hands on your next sugar fix? If so, you need to know how you can conquer your sugar cravings.
Too much added sugar in your diet is harmful for your health. Excess sugars promote weight gain, can lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, metabolic syndrome and increase your risk for many chronic diseases. Why? Because sugar, like stress, is inflammatory. And even though it can give you a short "high", it could also lead to depression, and increased stress (1).
You should also know that sugar is more addictive than cocaine (2, 3) and cravings are not always under your control.
What? Someone is controlling your food cravings?
Well, no …not someone but something – your gut flora (4). It’s survival of the fittest. If I want my offspring to grow and flourish, I am going to try my hardest to provide and environment in which they grow and flourish. For our gut microflora, this means producing chemicals and hormonal interactions to manipulate the gut-brain axis in a way that gets you to eat foods creating an environment in which their offspring can grow and flourish. Another name for this brain-gut manipulation tactic is called as CRAVINGS!
But … It’s 2018, and you are ready to break your sugar cravings! It’s time to take back control, and manipulate your gut flora! This can easily be accomplished by employing the following 5 Strategies to Kick that Sugar Habit!
Now, before you start these 5 Strategies, I want you to develop your “WHY” list:
- Why do you want to be healthy?
- Why do you want to eat healthy?
- Why do you want to stop eating sugar?
Take a plain piece of paper – and give me three responses to each one of those questions – really deep, personal, very real responses. Make your quitting that sugar habit a really mindful process. You can learn more about developing your "WHY" by clicking here.
When implementing these 5 Strategies to Kick that Sugar Habit go slow. All my clients know that I am a huge fan of making Tiny Habits – so, On day 1, do Tip 1; On day 2, do Tip 1 and Tip 2; On day 3 follow Tip 1, 2, and add Tip 3, and so on and so forth for 5 days. Then, after that, continue to stick to all of these strategies for at least 3 weeks! By the end of two weeks, you should have silenced your cravings – and by week three, your gut microbiome will have changed – and your cravings will be gone!
Tip #1: Cut out all sources of liquid sugars in your diet: This includes soda, juice, smoothies (yes, smoothies), sweetened coffee and tea, sweetened dairy, sports beverages, and supplement powders you mix into fluids. Did you know that sodas and other sweetened beverages provide about half of all the added sugar in the American diet? They don’t help you feel full, so why welcome these calories? Why no smoothies – Read my post on Juicing, Blending/Smoothies. Unless you have no appetite, are trying to gain weight, need to maintain calories to support training for an athletic event, or have a chronic illness with cachexia or malnutrition, I do not advise drinking your calories. What should you drink instead – water. Yes – I am encouraging you to be one of those people who walks around with a water bottle. Feel a craving coming on – take a sip of water. It's actually not uncommon to mistake dehydration for a sugar or salt craving … and lack of sleep. Yes, lack of sleep can also result in craving sugar - for more information see my post on Sleep.
Tip #2: Avoid using sugar substitutes: Sugar substitutes are more intensely sweet than cane sugar, once you get accustomed to their level of sweetness, it takes more natural sweeteners to be sweet-satisfied. They may affect the natural hunger hormones, making it harder to for you to control your appetite. And recent research shows that artificial sweeteners could reduce the body's control of blood sugar levels, exaggerating post meal glucose levels, which could predispose consumers to developing type 2 diabetes (5).
Tip #3: Become a Sugar Detective: Start reading the Nutrition Facts Labels and Ingredient List on the foods you buy. If “sugar” listed on the Nutrition Facts Label is more than 8 grams, go directly to the ingredient list and see if you find any form of added sugars in the ingredient list. If sugar is not listed in the ingredient list, it means that the food or beverage contains natural sugars; if you do not have Diabetes, you don’t need to worry about natural sugars because they are often packaged with fiber or protein and not “metabolically equivalent” to added sugars. Think this Tip #3 is easy? Think again – sugar has over 61 names. Of course it does - we live in a nation that is built on capitalism - and the goal of any food company is to make money - not to worry about your health. They know sugar sells and is addictive. They also know consumers are getting smarter - so they use several different names - like barley malt, honey, fructose, fruit juice, maltodextrin, palm sugar, sucrose, etc. Why? Well, they may be trying to hide the fact that sugar is really the number 1 ingredient in their food product. If you want to familiarize yourself with these 61 plus names for sugar, Click HERE, scroll down and look on the right side of the page.
Tip #4: Eat Whole, Unprocessed Foods that are Naturally Sweet: Still craving? Well, stop thinking about what you can’t have, and focus on what you can eat and drink. There are many foods that provide natural sweetness - they're just forgotten because the food companies do such a great job at marketing that very addicting crystal white sugar. My go to includes dried fruit like dates, mango, and raisins. And if your still craving something sweet, try some fresh fruit, frozen grapes, or 1/2 cup Greek yogurt with berries. These are great sweet treats to add in after dinner and especially as a night time snack so you don’t wake up in a sugar crash looking for your next sweet, refined treat, like doughnuts, muffins, sugar sweetened cereals, bagels, toast and jam, and waffles or pancakes with syrup. Don't think a sugar crash in the AM is a real thing? Well, think again, that's why Tip #5 is next!
Tip #5: Drop the Refined Carbohydrates for Breakfast: Start your day with a balanced breakfast. Everyone knows that breakfast can help fuel your day, keep you focused in the AM, and reduce cravings in that late afternoon slump around 3/4PM. Research shows that when people eat eggs for breakfast, compared to toast or bagels, they eat fewer calories over a 24-hour period, and do not get as hungry mid-morning. So for breakfast, aim to fill your 3 food buckets - 1/4 Starch, 1/4 Protein, and 1/2 fruits and/or Veggies - with whole foods.
- Choose fiber rich starches like: Whole grain oats, quinoa, brown rice or brown rice cakes, unsweetened cereal, or Starchy Veggies, like yams or sweet potato/sweet potato toast, red, yellow or blue potatoes with skin, or roasted butternut or acorn squash.
- Choose nutrient dense protein sources: Plain yogurt, eggs, turkey or chicken sausage, or nut butters. For some added protein toss in flax, chia, sunflower or pumpkin seeds.
- Choose a variety of fruits like berries, melon, citrus, bananas or apples – dice them, slice them or pour them into your grains – or make an omelet with spinach, roasted peppers, mushrooms, or sliced tomato. Any leftover cooked veggie will do!
After 14 days of being sugar-free, your desire for sweets should conquered. One more week, and you will have impacted your gut flora to keep you on a steady track of no Sweet Cravings.
Mindfully make an effort to not fall back into impulse buying, or storing sweet snacks in the house. If you're tempted to grab something that attracts you at the grocery store, force yourself to keep walking. Five minutes later you will probably just forget about it. If not, go back to you "WHY's" and buy something else non-sugary and non-addictive that you really like instead.
If, in the future, you want to reintroduce small amounts of added sweeteners, start by incorporating them into meals full of fiber and protein, which can help your body metabolize sugar at a slower rate. Try to keep your sugar intake to the American Heart Association’s limits for added sugars: 100 calories (6 tsp) for women and 150 calories (9 tsp) for men (6).
More than anything, know that this process isn't easy, and if you fail and fall off that wagon - know that this is very normal. We are human - we're not perfect (that’d be boring) – so if you cave to your sweet tooth, don’t berate yourself. Instead, go back to your list of “Why's”, pick yourself up, and start again.
If binge eating or overeating is really difficult for you and having a significant impact on your life or health, consider a 12 step group like Overeaters Anonymous.
To discuss your nutrition needs, learn more about how to form new habits, live a healthier lifestyle, adopt an exercise program, or plan meals full of whole foods that heal, nurture, and maintain a healthy mind, body, and soul, Contact me at B3yond Nutrition LLC 973.852.3335.
- Stress, Food, and Inflammation: Psychoneuroimmunology and Nutrition at the Cutting Edge
- Sugar Addiction: Pushing the drug-sugar analogy to the limit
- Sugar Addiction Explained by Dr Lustig
- Food for thought: How your belly controls your brain
- Artificial Sweeteners Alter Gut Response to Glucose
- AHA Added Sugars