Kicking a sugar habit can be difficult, that’s because the sweet stuff can be addictive. Cravings for sugar have been linked to irritability, depressed mood and feeling a lack of energy, which can in turn lead to more sugar cravings! Regardless it is possible to eradicate your sweet desires by simply changing your diet and even a bit of your lifestyle too. Use these six tips to cut your sugar cravings for good.
Tip #1 – Include More Fiber Rich Foods in Your Diet
If you’re diet is lacking in fiber, you’re more than likely suffering with sugar cravings, lack of energy and increased hunger. Fiber rich foods are digested slowly by the body, which results in a sustained release of energy to the body without spiking blood glucose levels. If your diet is loaded with simple carbs like bread and white rice this causes a spike in blood glucose levels, which is followed quickly by an energy crash leading to low energy levels and subsequently more sugar cravings.
What to Do About It: Choose foods that are high in fiber, are low in sugar and have a low glycemic load, which allows for slow digestion, sustained energy and reduced cravings. The recommended dietary intake of fiber is 38 g/day for men and 25 g/d for women. Include fiber rich foods such as apples and berries, vegetables such as squashes, broccoli and green beans, or even whole grains like oatmeal.
Tip #2 – Eat More Frequently
Eating frequently helps balance and stabilizes blood glucose levels, which means sugar cravings can be sidelined. In fact, research suggests that those who eat more frequently – more than three times per day have less cravings and hunger than those who ate less frequently. In a meta-analysis of 15 studies, it was also shown that frequent eating was positively associated with reductions in fat mass, body fat percentage, as well as an increase in lean mass. What’s more eating more frequently can also reduce blood glucose levels and insulin response. Why is this important? Frequent insulin spiking can lead to insulin resistance, when the body has problems processing sugar, which can further exacerbate sugar cravings!
What to Do About It: Eat within 30 minutes of getting up, and then eat every 2.5 to 3 hours or approximately 5 to 6 mini meals per day of roughly the same amount of calories to maintain energy levels, reduce sugar crashes and keep hunger side-lined.
Tip #3 – Don’t Skip Breakfast
Considered the most important meal of the day for good reason, breakfast can help stimulate your metabolism, while also reducing cravings and hunger for the rest of the day. In a recent, randomized study, participants were given a 350 Kcal breakfast containing low amount of protein (13 g), a high amount of protein (35 g) or no breakfast at all. After 6-days it was shown that eating breakfast increased daily fullness and reduced late night snacking, especially when consuming the high protein breakfast.
What to Do About It: Be sure to eat a high protein breakfast. Make yourself some eggs, have an omelet, or try a protein smoothie with non-fat Greek yoghurt and or whey protein. For even more hunger reducing effects combine with a fiber rich carb like whole grain sprouted bread, oatmeal or even quinoa.
Tip #4 – Increase Your Protein Intake
Protein has a satiating effect in the body – which means eating more of it can help keep hunger and cravings reduced. Studies have shown that those who follow high protein diets experienced less hunger and ate less versus those who followed high carb diets of the same calories. What’s even better about eating more protein is its thermogenic effect. Protein takes more energy to digest than other foods of the same caloric value, which means the process of just eating protein helps you burn calories! Eating protein also helps maintain lean mass, which also has a metabolic effect.
What to Do About It: Eat a portion of protein with every meal. Protein should make up approximately 40% of your daily calories. Choose from poultry, non-fat dairy like yoghurt, cheese or whey protein, whole eggs, or lean red meat.
Tip #5 – Decrease Your Stress and Get More Sleep
Stress can have a major impact on your hormone levels particularly those that are involved in appetite, mood and food cravings. When stress goes up, cortisol levels go up, this in turn can cause an increase in epinephrine, which can lead to an increased use of sugar in response to the flight or fight response, but this short burst of energy can lead to a subsequent fall, along with an increase in hunger and cravings for more sugar. A recent study showed that women who experienced more stress also craved sugar and had significantly larger waist circumferences, along with higher levels of the hunger hormone leptin and lower levels of the happy hormone serotonin.
What to Do About it: Get more sleep and stress less. Sleep at least 7 to 8 hours per night to help with recovery and balance hormone levels. In addition invest some time in exercise, meditation or even yoga to help reduce stress and keep cortisol levels in balance.
Tip #6 – Stop Crash Dieting
Instead of strict dieting, crash dieting, or following fad diets start eating healthy for life. Dieting on too little calories, abstaining from certain foods, and eating too few carbs will only result in fatigue, low energy levels, hunger and of course sugar cravings. You may get results quickly, but this will only be short-lived, eventually your cravings will get the better of you and you will end up giving in eventually.
What to Do About It: Follow a diet that is sustainable and balanced in carbs, protein and fats and provides the right amount of calories that can sustain energy levels for your activity levels and goals. Your diet should be made up of fresh, wholesome and natural ingredients including vegetables, fruit, lean proteins, and complex, fibrous carbs.
Nutrition Director for Kcal