“Sweet is the first taste humans prefer from birth,” says Christine Gerbstadt, M.D., R.D., a dietitian and American Dietetic Association (ADA) spokeswoman. Sugar releases the feel-good serotonin brain chemical and endorphins, inspiring a blissful natural high, according to dietitian and nutrition consultant Susan Moores, M.S., R.D. Sweets promise delicious flavors too. Rewarding yourself with sweet treats reinforces this tempting inclination, making you crave sugar even more.
Giving in to an occasional weakness isn’t the problem. But daily overconsumption is easy to do with sugar prevalent in many processed foods including breads, yogurts, juices, and sauces. Americans overindulge an average of about 22 teaspoons of added sugars per day, according to the American Heart Association, which recommends limiting added sugars to about six daily teaspoons for women and nine for men.
Along with diet and exercise, Actos helps control blood sugar levels in Type 2 diabetics. But being able to combat sugar cravings and avoid gorging on unhealthy foods is one of the keys to maintaining a healthy diet and weight. Advice from nutritionists and dieticians can help you control your sugar cravings.
Chew gum: “Research has shown that chewing gum can reduce food cravings,” says nutrition advisor Dave Grotto, R.D., L.D.N.
Light a scented candle: Sometimes just the smell of something sweet or fruity that you enjoy is enough to curb a dessert craving.
Distract yourself: When you yearn for sugar, change your focus to “take your mind off the food you’re craving,” encourages registered dietitian and ADA spokeswoman Kerry Neville, M.S., R.D. Wash dishes or take a walk for 15-20 minutes. For stronger cravings, try three five-minute sets of vigorous exercises like squats or jumping jacks. Most cravings go away after a short time.
Eat regularly: Waiting too long between meals may prompt you to choose filling sugary foods. Eating every three to five hours can help stabilize your blood sugar so you can “avoid irrational eating behavior,” Grotto says. Select high-protein and fiber-rich foods like produce and whole grains. You can also break up your meals so you don’t overeat. Have part of your breakfast like a slice of toast with peanut butter early. Save your yogurt for a mid-morning snack. Likewise, reserving part of your lunch for a 3 p.m. snack can help you avoid the dreaded mid-afternoon slump.
Go cold turkey: Cutting out all simple sugars may help diminish your cravings after a few days, but “the initial 48 to 72 hours are tough,” Gerbstadt says.
Choosing Healthy Alternatives
Grab fruits: Certified addiction specialist Judy Chambers, L.C.S.W., C.A.S., recommends fresh and dried fruits for fiber and nutrients along with some sweetness.
Snack substitutions: If you desire the same types of snack continually, determine what you love about them. It may be the physical properties instead of the flavor. Replace crunchy snacks with healthier options of similar textures like carrots or raw almonds. Swap chewy snacks with low-sugar granola bars.
Know your triggers: Frequent cravings for the same food could be your body telling you that it needs a specific nutrient. If you long for chocolate, you may be low on magnesium. To up your intake, eat pumpkin seeds instead.
Drink more and eat less: Water, no-sugar-added fruit juice, green tea, and other healthy beverages curb cravings while making you feel full. The thirsty feeling that dehydration causes resembles food cravings, so drink first. If you’re still hungry after a few minutes, choose a healthy snack.
Seek support: Many people turn to the comfort of sweets when they feel stressed, angry, or depressed. But food doesn’t solve emotional issues. Consider whether your mood is involved in your sugar cravings and if you need help to find other solutions to those emotional problems.
Combine foods: Mix the sweets you crave with a healthy food to satisfy your sugar fix and get your fill of healthy nutrients. Neville advises dipping a banana in chocolate sauce or mixing chocolate chips and almonds.
Dark chocolate: Not only is it full of antioxidants, dark chocolate also increases your body’s production of leptin, the hormone that tells your stomach when you’re full. But limit your intake.
Choose quality over quantity: “If you need a sugar splurge, pick a wonderful, decadent sugary food,” Moores says. But keep it small. Choose a luscious dark chocolate truffle instead of a king-sized candy bar. Then “savor every bite — slowly,” she adds. Don’t completely swear off your favorites or you’ll come back later for larger portions.
Give in occasionally: Sticking to a diet that’s 90 percent healthy and 10 percent fun means you don’t have to give up sugar totally, according to health and nutrition expertJoy Bauer. Satisfy your craving with a small cookie or fun-size candy bar. Enjoying up to 150 calories of what you love can help you not feel deprived.
Schedule a cheat day: The fastest way to sabotage your diet is to forbid your favorite junk foods forever. Pick one cheat day per week for a little guilt-free indulgence.
Delay sugar: Eating sugary foods too early in the day makes you want more and more, Bauer warns, and resisting overindulgence becomes even harder. Instead remove all sugar from the first three-quarters of each day. Then save that sweet treat of no more than 200 calories until nighttime so you won’t have to fight off ongoing cravings.