7 ways to reduce sugar cravings
Many of us want to quit sugar and reduce our cravings, but it’s often easier said than done, especially if you have a sweet tooth.
Here, we reveal exactly why sugar is so addictive and share some simple tips for reducing cravings.
What sugar does to our bodies
One of the reasons that sugar is so hard to quit is because it’s incredibly addictive.
After a bite of something sweet, sugar causes our brain to release a surge of feel-good chemicals, including serotonin. After the initial high, our body will be left wanting more, creating cravings for sugar and potentially leading to a longer-term addiction.
If that wasn’t enough, it seems our love of sweet foods is actually part of our evolution. The general consensus among scientists is that being able to detect sweet things helped our ancient ancestors to survive.
Sweetness signals the presence of sugars which, in days gone by, were an excellent source of calories. Ideal when days were spent foraging for hours on end. But when you’re sat at the computer each day? Not so much.
Help is at hand though, as we reveal how to reduce your sugar cravings once and for all.
How to reduce sugar cravings
Give yourself a minute
When you notice yourself hunting for a chocolate bar at the back of the fridge, pause and give yourself a moment. Do you actually want something sweet, or is your body trying to tell you something else?
Notice, if you can, where the source of the craving is coming from. Are you hungry? Tired? Or are you just bored?
Once you’ve found the source of the craving, consider if there are better ways to support your needs rather than reaching for the biscuit tin. Get outside for a walk or drink a glass of water. If you’re hungry, find a high-protein, low-carb snack to keep you feeling full.
If chocolate is your Achille’s heel, try swapping milky varieties for a darker alternative.
Liz is a big fan of dark chocolate as an indulgent treat but can be bitter if your palate isn’t used to it. The trick is to ease yourself in gradually. Start with a bar that has a minimum of 70% cocoa solids. As you become more used to the flavour, you might want to opt for a bar with a higher percentage of cocoa solids.
The better quality dark chocolate you consume, the more health benefits you can enjoy. For instance, studies suggest that dark chocolate is more filling than milk chocolate, and can also help to reduce cravings for salty, fatty or sugary items.
Balance your blood sugar
Consider how you start your day. If you find yourself reaching for a sugary bowl of cereal in the morning, it’s probably setting you up for craving something sweet later in the day.
Instead, opt for nutritious sources – a boiled egg with some grilled veggies, for example – that won’t send your blood sugar soaring, and will keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Check your sleep
While it can be tempting to use something sweet as a quick pick-me-up, low energy levels could be a sign that you’re not sleeping well at night.
Poor sleep directly impacts the food choices we make the next day. If we’re tired, we’re more likely to eat high-sugar foods to keep us going.
Overeating – especially sweet treats and junk food – has been linked to a lack of sleep, so it’s important to practice good sleep hygiene if you’re trying to kick the sugar habit.
Aim to go to bed at the same time each night, and resist the temptation to scroll on your phone at nighttime. Liz shares her tips for a good night’s sleep here.
Plus, don’t forget that menopause can also impact our sleep too. Fluctuating hormone levels, along with menopausal symptoms like anxious thoughts and night sweats, can disrupt our sleep and cause havoc with our energy levels. A HRT prescription can help to alleviate symptoms. Find Liz’s guide, The Truth about HRT, here.
Slow your eating
Finish your meal and immediately fancy something sweet? It could be that you need to take things a little slower.
It can take up to 20 minutes after eating to feel full, so slow your eating and take time chewing each piece. In doing so, you’ll also help your digestion, making it easier on your gut.
Don’t let yourself get super hungry
Avoiding snacks between meals might seem beneficial if we’re watching our weight, but if you find yourself feeling super hungry between meals, it could increase the likelihood that you reach for something sweet, or make unhealthy choices come dinnertime.
Planning your meals and making sure they’re nutritionally dense will keep you feeling satisfied for longer.
Plus, if you do find yourself feeling hungry between meals, swap the sugar for something more nourishing such as nuts and seeds, energy balls or crudités and dip.
Give yourself a break
A little treat every now and then can do you the world of good!
There are a number of low-sugar alternatives to enjoy, including plenty of recipes on Liz Earle Wellbeing to enjoy. Try Liz’s dried fruit and spelt menopause cake, or for a chocolatey treat, make our almond, chocolate and berry shortcake with dark chocolate.