Okay confession time – I’ve always struggled with a sweet tooth and it’s been an ongoing battle for me for years!
Sugar cravings can derail an exercise and diet program faster than you can say “Hersheys!” When you eat processed, simple sugars they’re usually empty calories with nearly no nutritional value. And due to their high glycemic index (the rate at which they convert to blood sugar) they also spike your insulin levels, make you feel hungry again, and take you right out of a fat burning state.
So how do you battle the cravings? Here’s my Top 10 tips that have helped me in my own life – hopefully they can work for you too…
1. Eat More Fiber – Surely by now you’ve heard about the importance of fiber in your diet. It reduces cholesterol, improves heart health and aids in keeping you ‘regular’. But what we’re after is appetite control, and fiber helps by slowing down digestion and keeping you fuller, longer. The more fiber you eat, the less likely you’ll be to be binge and eat refined carbohydrates.
2. Eat Regularly – Usually when people wait too long between meals, they end up reaching for a quick, sugary or salty snack. The best way to avoid ever getting hungry is to eat before the pangs start. Shoot for a meal or snack every 3 hours to keep yourself “fed” and temptation away.
3. Eat Full Fat Foods – Yep, you read that one right! Some foods are high in sugar content, but when you combine them with other proteins and fats, the digestive process slows. So you’ll effectively reduce the sugar spike. That’s one reason fat free foods are so terrible, and I usually recommend the full fat versions of sweets instead. Be sure to try and have all the food groups represented when you eat.
4. Avoid Sugar Substitutes – I’m guilty of this one and admittedly use Splenda in some diet and hot drinks. But science suggests that the fake stuff elicits a response in your body similar to real table sugar. Plus, it stimulates your taste buds with its excessive sweetness, which could activate your sweet tooth. I’ve recently tried sugar in the raw (less sweet), or even honey as sweeteners and they tastes great. Try them…
5. Eat Apples – Yes they have sugar in them, but if you ate an apple before every meal, I’ll bet you’d lose weight! Why? They’re not just loaded with pectin (fiber), but also bulky. An average apple only has 100 calories, provides some sweetness, and one study I read suggests people eat up to 30% fewer daily calories when they consumed 3 apples per day. An apple (or 3) per day, really does keep the doctor away!
6. Grab a Nut – I’ve recently started carrying prepackaged bags of almonds in my car. Nuts are full of antioxidants, some fiber, a little protein and healthy fats. The fiber and fat slow digestion, and their crunchy nature is satisfying. And because they’re portable, they work in a pinch.
7. Drink More Coffee – Caffeine has received both good and bad press, but one thing is clear – it’s an appetite suppressant. 1 cup of coffee, consumed 30 minutes prior to a meal, can significantly reduce the amount of calories eaten. Plus, it provides a bit of a metabolic stimulus – so you eat less and burn more! BUT, don’t ruin your coffee by loading up on the sugar and cream. Either try it black or with a touch of skim milk.
8. Don’t Skimp On The Green Veggies – Green veggies are great for one reason – they’re usually negative calories, meaning it “costs” your body more calories to burn and process them than they contain. Foods like broccoli, green beans, lettuce, peppers, etc all have awesome nutrition, are super bulky, and take forever to eat. By loading up on these foods, you’ll keep hunger at bay. You can literally have a salad bowl sized portion of the green goodies and stay under 150 calories!
9. De-Stress – It sounds strange, but learning alternative coping skills can help reduce sugar cravings. Why? Because in times of stress, we reach for sugary foods – they taste good, release endorphins and honestly, due to a serotonin release, just make us feel good. Many emotional eaters will overindulge with sweets. So next time you’re feeling stressed or anxious, be aware and avoid eating sugar as a way of dealing with your issues.
10. Go Cold Turkey – This is for those of you that CAN’T moderate your sugar intake. If you can’t limit yourself to just ONE cookie, or a SMALL piece of cake, without bingeing, cutting out the sweets altogether may be just what you need. I’ll warn you, the first day or so is terrible, both mentally and physically. But once you’re over the hump, it’s smooth sailing, and you actually won’t crave sugar at all.
You may notice that many of my tips are not necessarily about controlling your sugar cravings. The fact is that biologically sugar cravings are set off my one thing – hunger. And having sugar issues can become a revolving door – the more you eat, the more your body craves. By learning to regulate how and what you eat, not only will you be eating better overall, but also your sugar cravings will subside.
When you eat infrequently and choose refined or processed foods high in sugar, you set yourself up for constant cravings. Learn to break the cycle through awareness and better choices, and watch the cravings disappear.
But do you agree? What other tips or tricks would you include? What’s your favorite sweet indulgence? Let me know, I’d love to hear your comments.