Sugar is devilishly addictive. The more you eat it, the more you want it – and before you know it, you’ve had a danish for brekkie, birthday cake for morning tea, a Nutella sandwich for lunch and a frappucino to get you through the arvo. While sugar gives us a high, it leaves us in a slump later. So here’s how to get rid of sugar cravings and kick the habit…
Cut back on coffee. Coffee’s cheeky: it gives us a short-term boost, but once the effects wear off, our energy dips. And when we’re low on energy, we turn to sugar as a pick-me-up. To combat cravings, stop at 1-2 cups of coffee a day, and fake future cups by sipping on dandelion coffee (it has the same bitter taste) or chai tea.
And green tea, black tea and matcha. These bevvies contain caffeine, too!
Start drinking apple cider vinegar. You can either shot it first thing in the morning (mmm), or add a few tablespoons to your water bottle. The sour stuff is also great for digestion, so sippy-sip before meals, too.
Eat protein at every meal – even brekkie! Protein is fuel. When you don’t eat it, your bod cries out for a quick source of energy: sugar. By adding protein to every meal, you’ll skip the blood sugar spikes and crashes that make you feel like shit. (Have you ever wanted to punch a broken vending machine at 3pm? Yep.) Go for lean proteins like chicken, lamb, fish, eggs, and lentils/beans/tofu if you’re vego.
Enjoy healthy fats. If you need another excuse to smash an avo, this is it. ‘Good’ fats – like nuts, seeds, salmon, hummus and olive oil – balance out your blood sugars and keep you feeling fuller for longer. When you’re satisfied, you’re less likely to reach for a sugar fix between meals. Plus, they’ll give you that good skin glow.
Snack on low-sugar fruits. Fruit is healthy, but some are super high in natural sugar, such as bananas and mangoes. The goal is to retrain your sweet tooth to crave the low-sugar fruits, like blueberries and green apples, instead.
Pair fruit with protein. This will calm your sugar cravings down even more and fill you up until your next meal. It’s easy: just smear peanut butter onto apple slices, or have a handful of nuts with your berries.
Load up on tyrosine. Do you tear your pantry apart when you’re not even hungry? Guilty! When you’re craving a block of Dairy Milk at 11pm, that’s not your tummy talking – it’s your brain. It wants a sugar rush, and it won’t stop until it gets one. Now for Science 101: to stop those cravings, you have to raise your dopamine levels. Dopamine is a hormone that controls our brain’s ~pleasure~ centres and makes us feel good. And to do that, eat foods high in tyrosine, like eggs, cheese, milk and sesame seeds.
And chromium. Found in oats, broccoli, tomatoes, asparagus, mushrooms and green beans, chromium, this mineral keeps your blood sugars under control.
Eat more bitter foods. Like lemon, grapefruit, and rocket. Soon enough, your tastebuds will think all those sugary treats you used to love are too sweet.
Choose your booze carefully. It’s no secret that a lot of alcohol is packed with sugar. Ditch the colourful cocktails and go for ‘cleaner’ choices like red wine and spirits (vodka, gin, tequila) and soda.
Sprinkle cinnamon on everything. Think coffee, oats and smoothies. It busts sugar cravings and speeds up your metabolism.
Give up artificial sweeteners (like Equal and Splenda). These are truly terrible for you. They mess with your blood sugars and gut bacteria, and can make you desperately crave sugar. Over time, they also dull your skin – no thanks!
Switch from sugar to stevia. If you add two spoonfuls of sugar to your coffee/tea, try stevia instead. It’s 100% natural, and is way sweeter than sugar. Win-win.
Experiment with natural sweeteners. Add flavour to your food with raw honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, vanilla, maple syrup and rice malt syrup. These goodies are high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and they won’t send you on a ride on the blood sugar rollercoaster.
Pop magnesium every night before bed. This mineral is the ultimate multi-tasker. It helps with sleep, soreness and sugar cravings. Boom.
Drink at least 2L of water a day. You know this one! When we’re dehydrated, we feel like crap. Our minds are foggy, and our bodies can’t function properly. Plus, our brain tricks us into feeling hungry when really we’re thirsty AF.
Avoid processed and packaged foods. Sugar has a way of sneaking into EVERYTHING – even savoury things like sauces and bread! Before buying that innocent packet of crackers, check the label. If it has more than 3g per 100g of sugar per serve, put it back.
Cut back on salty foods. This is an interesting one. Eating too much salt can cause you to crave the opposite flavour: sugar. Salt draws water out of the skin and dehydrates you, which also doesn’t help.
Go for complex carbs over white carbs. You’re not gonna like this one! White pasta, bread, rice and potatoes spike our blood sugars and then they come crashing down, causing cravings. Have you ever felt soo sleepy after a big bowl of pasta? That’s why. Eat wholegrains (e.g. rye and sourdough), gluten-free grains (e.g. brown rice and quinoa) and starchy veggies (e.g. sweet potato and pumpkin) most of the time, and treat yourself for the rest.
Don’t skip meals! If you wait too long to eat between meals, you’ll probably crave sugary or fatty foods later. Eat small, regular meals every few hours so your body doesn’t have the chance to reach the starving stage.
Ask your doc to check for deficiencies. When your body is crying out for something, it’ll let you know in the form of fatigue, low energy, poor digestion, and so on. If your sugar cravings have been out of control lately, you could be deficient in a mineral like magnesium or zinc.
Sleeeeep and stress less. Easier said than done, we know. But we also know how much harder life is when we’re tired and stressed to the max. While some people lose our appetite in that sitch, most of us want to eat every sweet in sight. On the flipside, when we’re well-rested and calm, we’re more likely to make healthier choices. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep a night, and do everything you can to ease your anxiety and stress. You’ve gotta look after #1: YOU.
Remember that the craving will pass! When sugar cravings hit, they feel uncontrollable – but if you don’t give into them, they’ll go away. The next time you need chocolate NOW, distract yourself for a few minutes by making a cuppa or going for a walk around the block. Chances are, you’ll be over it by the time you’re back.
Words by Katia Iervasi.