You have a mission to lose weight. You know how many calories you need to be eating. You’re doing your time at the gym. Everything is going well. Except… you keep getting intense sugar cravings that threaten to undo all your hard work.
Look, sugar cravings are normal, and eating sweet/sugary foods from time to time won’t derail all your progress. However, if you are finding yourself craving a sweet treat more often than not, it may be an indication of something either physical or emotional going on.
Let’s take a look at what sugar cravings mean, how to stop them and the healthier options you can reach for the next time that sugar monster inside of you decides to take over!
6 Reasons Why You Might be Craving Sugar
1. Blood Sugar Imbalance: When your blood sugar levels are low, you may crave sugar to give you a quick energy boost. To stop this, try eating a balanced diet of whole foods, including protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates. Importantly, you should avoid consuming high-sugar foods that lead to a rapid increase in blood sugar levels.
2. Emotional Eating: We’ve all been there. Emotional eating happens when you use food to cope with negative emotions like stress, anxiety, or sadness. Emotional eating can be curbed with either the help of a psychologist or therapist to get to the root of your emotions, or you can try practising mindfulness techniques like deep breathing or meditation on your own.
3. Nutrient Deficiencies: There isn’t a whole lot of scientific evidence to back this up but some schools of thought believe your body may crave sugar if it’s deficient in certain nutrients like magnesium, chromium, or zinc. The solution to this would be eating a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrient-rich foods.
4. Dehydration: Are you drinking enough water? Dehydration can easily lead to sugar cravings. You should be aiming for 2-3L of water per day to stay hydrated and help curb sugar cravings. Add some lemon or mint, or even some berries to add some flavour.
5. Lack of Sleep: Ever found yourself reaching for something sugary after a bad night’s sleep? Lack of sleep can affect the hormones that regulate hunger and fullness, leading to sugar cravings. So, try your best to get 7-9 hours of shuteye per night to regulate your hormones and keep sugar cravings at bay.
6. Habitual Craving: Sometimes, sugar cravings are simply the result of a habit. If you’re used to having a sweet treat every day, your body will become accustomed to this sugar hit and crave it more and more. To break this habit, try replacing sugary foods with healthier options like fruit, nuts, or dark chocolate.
How to Stop Sugar Cravings
Stopping sugar cravings won’t happen overnight, but with some determination and motivation, you can begin to tame those sugar cravings ASAP. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Give in, just a little. You can eat a small amount of what you’re craving – just don’t go overboard. For example, one cookie instead of a whole bag. Enjoying a little bit of what you love can help you avoid feeling restricted, which may lead to a bingeing episode anyway. If you can stick to 100-150 calories of what you’re craving, then go ahead and eat that cookie!
- Combine foods. If you know your body and know you’ll struggle to stop at one cookie, try combining the craving food with one that’s a bit healthier. For example, eat a cookie alongside a banana, or a handful of nuts. You’ll get your sugar fix while also getting the nutrients from something a little healthier.
- Go cold turkey. Sometimes, cutting out sugars altogether and going cold turkey is the only way to curb those sugar cravings. The first few days will be hard, but after a while, your body will get used to the lack of sugar and eventually you won’t crave it as much.
- Chew some gum. To stop yourself from reaching for sugary foods, try always having some gum on hand. Research has shown chewing gum can reduce food cravings. Just make sure you buy sugar-free gum!
- Stick to fruit: When sugar cravings hit, try a piece of fruit instead of that chocolate bar or cookie. You’ll get fibre and nutrients along with some sweetness. Win-win!
- Take a hike. You don’t actually have to hike, but getting up and moving your body can take your mind off the sugar craving. A walk around the block, some squats or even a stretch might do the trick.
- Drink water. Remember how we said dehydration can cause sugar cravings? Well, if that sugar craving strikes, try down a glass of water and see how you feel after. It’s likely your sugar cravings will reduce, if not disappear altogether.
- Eat regular meals. Waiting too long between meals is a surefire way to choose sugary, fatty foods that cut your hunger quickly. Try eating every 3-5 hours, and don’t wait until you’re ravenous until your next meal. For the most part, choose a protein, fibre-rich foods like whole grains and produce.
Healthy Foods to Eat When You’re Craving Sugar
When you’re craving sugar, it’s a good idea to reach for healthy foods that can satisfy your sweet tooth while also providing essential nutrients. Here are some healthy foods to eat when you’re craving sugar:
- Fresh fruit: Fruits like berries, mangoes, and bananas are naturally sweet and packed with vitamins, fibre, and antioxidants.
- Greek yoghourt: Greek yoghourt is a great source of protein and calcium, and you can add a little honey or fresh fruit to sweeten it up.
- Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate is lower in sugar than milk chocolate and contains antioxidants that’s good for your health.
- Nuts: Nuts like almonds, cashews, and walnuts are a great source of protein, healthy fats, and fibre. They can help keep you feeling full and satisfied.
- Smoothies: You can make a healthy smoothie with fresh fruit, yoghourt, and leafy greens like spinach or kale. Smoothies are a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth while also getting a dose of nutrients.
- Sweet vegetables: Vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, and beets contain natural sugars and can be roasted or steamed to bring out their sweetness.
- Herbal tea: Herbal tea can be naturally sweetened with a little honey or a splash of fruit juice. It can also help to calm your mind and relax your body.
It’s OK to Indulge from Time to Time
Remember that it’s okay to indulge in a little bit of sugar from time to time. However, to stop more incessant cravings, it’s important to identify the underlying causes of your cravings and address them; whether you need to get better at eating a balanced diet, practising mindfulness, staying hydrated or simply breaking the bad habit of eating sugary foods every day.
Balance is key when it comes to sugar cravings and weight loss, and with some patience, determination and willpower, you’ll be well on your way to stopping your sugar cravings and reaching your weight loss goals.