How can I overcome my sugar cravings?

Ms. Ashley Koff, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
In recognition of the health benefits of reducing sugar intake, here are some tips that can help curb the cravings:
  1. Switch from food "products" to food: Nature supplies a manageable amount of sweet in its food. Try an apple vs an apple fruit-roll up.
  2. Some assembly required: Products use sugar to add shelf life as well as for taste -- thus we often find much higher levels of sugar in a product vs a food. Buy ingredients and assemble yourself to reduce sugar intake. Plain yogurt, add your own berries, nuts, and even a little honey or stevia -- you will still be lower in sugar naturally than the one with the fruit mixed in.
  3. Watch your salt consumption: The mind, mouth, and reward system love the 1-2 salt-sugar punch. If we have salty food, do we crave sweet soon after? Often. So skip the soy sauce at sushi and perhaps an orange as dessert will satisfy vs needing ice cream or frozen yogurt.
  4. Get sleep: When the body is tired it calls out -- rather it screams -- for energy (carb). What it really needs is recovery. Try going to bed when visions of ice cream overwhelm you while watching late night TV.
  5. Aim for nutrient balance: Too much carb or no carb at an eating occasion can set up a blood sugar hi /low that later translates to feeling like you need a sugar fix. Try pairing nutrients and keeping it to 1-2 servings of carb per eating occasion. Have an apple with almond butter vs just an apple to get carb + pro + fat. Instead of having 2 slices of bread for your sandwich and a piece of fruit at your meal -- try an open faced sandwich with veggies and save the fruit (with a pro + fat) for a later eating occasion.
  6. Our body's a race car: Think pit stop vs filling up the gas tank. If we have nutrient balanced eating occasions about every 3 hours our body's energy stays in harmony -- this can help fend off sugar attacks due to low energy.
  7. Go for it, knowingly: Just know that the effects of sugar in the system can last a few days -- meaning that mental memory of how good it tasted and how good it made you feel (it really can give a high) will stick around long after it's been digested. You may need to remind yourself the next day and the day after that your residual sugar cravings were earned by the delicious treat you enjoyed the night or two before.
  8. Keep it natural: The artificial sweeteners are thousands of times sweeter than mother nature's sugar. Thousands of times…that's pretty powerful and tough to match.
Ximena Jimenez
Nutrition & Dietetics

These are some tips to control your sugar cravings:

  • Decrease the amount of sugar in your diet gradually. For instance, start adding less sugar to your coffee or tea.
  • If you have a strong desire for sweets, select one small treat per day
  • Start your day with a balanced breakfast. Skipping this important meal may lead you to crave carbs later in the day
  • Don't skip any meals. This will keep you blood sugar and other hormones in balance
  • Out of sight, out of mouth. Instead of keeping sugary foods around the house, maintain healthy satisfying foods around the house: grapes, home-made popcorn or almonds
  • Pay more attention to your serving sizes. In case of a specific craving, you can eat one cookie but not 10
  • Don't deny yourself favorite foods. This will lead to obsessing over food and the idea is to enjoy all foods in moderation

Sugar cravings can be challenging, especially when trying to develop new healthy diet and exercise habits. Plan ahead and be ready with some simple strategies. 

  • Brush your teeth. Take your time and even floss if you like. By the time you're finished, the craving will probably be much more manageable.
  • Do some sit ups or push-ups.
  • Listen to some music you love. Get your mind to a more positive state with your favorite songs.
  • Make sure you are getting enough sleep. It's easier to avoid temptation when you're well rested.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.