I am posting this in honor of a client of mine who is working to tame her sugar cravings– she is not alone.
More and more research is showing that sugar can be an addiction and triggers the reward center in your brain in a powerful way. Some even think its toxic (read this interesting New York Times article). That said, I think a little dark chocolate can be a beautiful (and healthy) thing. From my perspective, moderation is key and choosing a best option or healthier substitution can be easier than you think.
Whether you are a candy junkie or just can’t say no to those office cookies, here are a few tips to decrease the sugar cravings.
- Avoid or cut down on the white stuff (foods with simple sugars and not much else).
This seems obvious but the more you cut the straight sugar out of your food choices the easier it will be to resist it next time. This means try your coffee/tea without two heaping mounds of sugar or avoid the white flour cupcake or breakfast muffin.
Replace with: Fresh Fruit! Nature’s candy which is more often than not has fiber to help slow down the sugar breakdown. Try whole wheat versions of that baked good, ideally make with less sugar. If you must add a sweetener, try a sugar that has a few (very few) minerals too (like brown sugar, molasses or maple syrup) and often have a more robust taste which enables you to need less.
- Eat regularly and eat right.
Often times our sugar cravings are just are body telling us we are hungry and want a quick fix of glucose. Try and eat regularly, at least a little fiber, fat and protein every 3-4 hours. By eating the right foods (whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruit, lean protein) your body will feel full and is won’t be screaming for instant sugar energy.
Try snacks such as: 2 tablespoons of hummus with a cut up carrot or two or some whole wheat pita. Yogurt and berries. 2 tablespoons of almond butter and 4-6 apple slices.
- Manage the other S’s….Sleep and Stress.
Studies have shown that sleep deprived people make poorer food choices (hello, I need instant energy because my body is so tired) and gain more weight than folks who get enough Zzzz’s. Additionally, stress is another trigger for your body to want simple sugars to get through what must be a survival crisis.
Enhance your lifestyle: Aim for at least 6-8 hours a night. Maybe your after dinner “treat” is getting to bed earlier. Find new ways to cope with stress. Breathing techniques, a brisk walk or other form of exercise or having a good laugh all help relieve stress. Finally a medical reason to watch funny YouTube videos at work!
- Track down Triggers
Work with yourself or a profession to identify what triggers you have around food and especially sweets. Do you “take care” of yourself with sugar because you really want a hug? Learn to get in touch with your true body cues of hunger with intuitive or mindful eating.
Practice Mindful eating by: slowing down when you eat, asking yourself if you are really hungry, taking 5 minutes between impulse and action.
You truly can have a sweet life with less sugar– which of these tips will you try today?