Most of us have experienced intense sugar cravings at one point in time – and we can all agree that once a sugar craving hits, it can be tough to ignore. Unfortunately, the key to reducing sugar cravings is actually eating less of the sweet stuff. While some may choose to completely stop consuming added sugar all at once, many of us find this approach unrealistic and unsustainable in the long run.
For those wanting a less restrictive approach, here are three easy tips to reduce sugar cravings for good.
1. Drink Plenty of Water
Dehydration often masks itself as hunger – particularly in the form of sugar cravings. This is because even mild dehydration can make it difficult for our body to tap into energy stores, particularly glycogen, the body's main storage for carbohydrates. When your body can't access simple carbs quick – especially after exercise – your cravings for them increase, often in the form of a sugar desire.
- Drink a minimum of 64 fluid ounces (8 cups) of water daily. Split it up by drinking 32 ounces (4 cups) before lunch and another 32 ounces before dinner is over.
- The next time a sugar craving strikes, drink a tall glass of water and wait 15-20 minutes. Your craving might just disappear!
2. Cut Back on Artificial Sweeteners
A 2013 study at Yale University suggested the brain is not easily fooled by artificial sweeteners in lieu of sugar-sweetened foods and beverages. The study looked at a specific brain signal involved in choosing between real sugar and no- or low-calorie sweeteners. This signal regulates dopamine levels which, in turn, mediates pleasure in the brain. Not surprisingly, the brain finds greater reward from real sugar than it does from artificial sweeteners. These findings suggest frequent consumption of artifically sweetened food and drinks, particularly when we're hungry or overtired, may lead to great future consumption of higher sugar- and calorie-laden alternatives as the brain seeks that reward.
Tips to Cut Out the Imposters:
- Instead of diet soda, reach for a club soda with a splash of fruit juice.
- Use half the amount of artificial sweetener you usually add to your coffee, and continue to cut back over time.
3. Gradually Ease Up on Sweeteners
Gradually reducing the amount of sugar you consume can be an effective approach in reducing cravings. It may take a bit longer to feel the difference, but when you gradually reduce sugar intake, you don't enfure the physical side effects and feelings of deprivation associated with cold-turkey withdrawal. Making just two or three of the following small changes can make a big difference in reducing sugar consumption and curbing cravings.
Ideas for Cutting Back:
- Order lattes and other sweetened coffee drinks with half the amount of sweetener.
- Prevent overeating by pre-portioning sweets and other packaged foods that list sugar (or one of its many nicknames) within the first five ingredients.
- Mix plain yogurt into your usual sweeneted yogurt.
- Dilute soda and juice with club soda or plain water.
- Pair sweets, like chocolate, with nutritious foods rather than eating them alone. (Think: apple slices with peanut butter and chocolate chips.)
- Reuce the amount of sugar in recipes by 1/3 or up to 1/2.
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Written by Elle Penner, a nutrition and wellness writer, recipe developer, blogger and nutrition consultant.