I once read about a study where given the choice between white sugar and heroin, captive mice would choose the sugar every single time. This lead the researchers – or at least the person writing the article I was reading – to conclude that sugar is more addictive than heroin.
While I’m sure that it’s not that simple, it certainly gets the point across. And if you’ve ever ransacked your pantry looking for something, anything to get your sweet fix then you know what they’re talking about.
We all know the consequences of consuming too much sugar (and if you don’t, I suggest watching this video The Science of Sugar for a quick overview), and yet the siren song of the sweet white stuff is fierce. Even as a nutritionist I am not immune – sugar cravings are also my biggest health challenge.
So here are a few tips for keeping those sugar cravings under control.
Quit cold turkey
Have you ever noticed that giving in to a sugar craving is like opening the door to Narnia, only you find yourself instead in Candyland? Sugar is a stimulant and like any other drug it makes you feel goooood at first only to leave you feeling worse off and wanting more when you crash.
The best way to manage sugar cravings is to cut it out of your diet and your life completely. Find out all the places that sugar is lurking – sugar is added to all kinds of packaged foods and goes by almost 100 other pseudonyms – and go cold turkey. Same goes for processed and refined foods like white bread and white rice.
Avoid getting hangry
When you let yourself get too hungry you’re prone to give in to sugar cravings as your blood sugar is crashing and your body is searching for a quick source of energy to bring it back up.
Make sure that you’re eating before you’re past the point of no return. I always have an emergency snack in my bag like a handful of almonds and a piece of fruit or hummus with carrots to make sure I have something to tide me over in a pinch.
Balance your meals and snacks
Excellent nutrition is a long game; you want to eat to satisfy your hunger now but also ensure that you’ll feel great later on.
Meals and snacks should be well-balanced with a good source of fibre from complex carbohydrates like whole grains or sweet potatoes; a source of protein and a little bit of good fat like a schmear of nut butter or some avocado. This will keep you feeling full for longer periods of time and won’t spike your blood sugar or leave you crashing later on.
Keep natural sweeteners to a minimum
Natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup or coconut sugar may be better options than refined white sugar because they at least contain some nutrients, but they are still sugar and have the same effect on your body as white or brown sugar.
Just because a cookie or cupcake contains a natural sweetener doesn’t mean that you can eat the whole tray with reckless abandon!