Strategies for Sugar Cravings

Because of the abundance of luscious fruits available, late spring and summer are definitely thefresh-start-2 best times to eliminate sugar from your diet for a few weeks.  30 days is just the right amount of time, as many believe that it takes at least 21 days for your tastes to change and that repeating an activity for 30 days helps solidify a new habit.  By entirely foregoing sugar for a few weeks, you will realize how much sugar you were eating and how it made you feel.  Even if you don’t plan to forego sugar forever, these realizations will lead to more awareness when choosing to consume sugar. If you’re the least bit interested in assessing your sugar intake and possibly cutting back, read on.  First, determine what the rules will be for your 30 days of sugar free. If you already know that you are eating a lot of sugar and corn syrup-laden foods, maybe it’s enough for you to cut out all processed sugar (anything in a package), but anything you make yourself is acceptable.  In this way, you could make your own teriyaki sauce with brown sugar instead of buying it in a bottle, yet you would donate or throw out anything with high fructose corn syrup in it.  If you are still consuming artificial sweeteners, maybe your rule will be to entirely cut out all artificial sweeteners but homemade products with sucanat or demerera sugar are permitted.  If you’re like me and think you are aware of your limited sugar consumption, cut it all out. If you allow yourself a cheat treat or cheat day every now and then, you’re missing the opportunity to reset your taste for sugar, and the cravings will begin again with every exposure to sugar.  Instead, define your parameters so the 30 days is a challenge but not impossible.  Omitting sugar will draw from your willpower reserves, so I recommend not implementing any other new habits during this time. Sugar ingestion causes neurochemical changes (release of dopamine) similar to drugs of abuse (Neurosci Biobehav Rev 2008; 32(1):20-39)  therefore, you’ll likely encounter sugar cravings.  Here are some strategies for dealing with those cravings. Strategies for Overcoming Sugar Cravings

  1. Make a list of sweet foods that you can eat.  Each week stock your fridge and pantry with these items so they are available when you crave something sweet.

Here’s my list:

    • Loads of fresh fruit (apples, watermelon, cantaloupe, grapes, pineapple, strawberries, etc)
    • Fat free muffins
    • Carrots (solo or dipped in guacamole or hummus)
    • Baked sweet potatoes topped with fresh pineapple
    • Fruit compote (1 c frozen blueberries simmered in 2T of water)
    • Fruit compote jam (refrigerate compote and then mix with nut butter and spread on sandwich or use as dip for apples)
    • Soft serve ice cream
    • Dried fruit
    • Unsweetened yogurt with fresh or frozen fruit
    • Sweet potato pies made with date paste instead of sucanat or no sweetener at all
    • Freshly squeezed orange juice
    • Unsweetened vanilla almond milk

2.  Have hearty snacks readily available.  My go-to hearty snacks were anything with avocados, hummus, or chickpeas.  Make hearty snacks such as Three Bean Salad without sugar, Easy Guacamole, Black Bean Mango Salsa, and Roasted Chickpeas at the beginning of the week to have available for snacking while making dinner or late at night when you would otherwise turn to sugar.  I invented Fake Steak Fries during my month of no sugar when I realized that microwave-baked Yukon gold potatoes sliced into steak fry shapes and salted were a great quick snack.  Have the ingredients for snacks like Soft Serve Ice Cream or small meals like Savory Oatmeal in your pantry to whip up in less than 5 minutes whenever needed.

3.  Plan out all of your meals (and many of your snacks) in advance.  In addition to planning out all of your meals, prep many of them in advance to ensure you stick to the plan.  Include lots of well-seasoned meals to stimulate your taste buds without sugar.  If your family prefers less seasoned meals (as mine does), use freshly ground pepper and hot sauces liberally on your own dish to kick it up a notch and satisfy those taste buds.

Finally, there’s no better time to start the 30 days than now.  There will always be events that Do_ityou associate with sugary treats, there will always be inconveniences and times when you’ll have to turn down something sweet offered by a friend or relative.  But that’s real life.  There will always be people trying to convince you to be less healthy.  Maybe they don’t know the data.  Maybe they don’t have a strategy.  But now you do, so take action.   Photo Credit: Fresh Start: You can do it: