Sugar addiction can be a very real, serious problem. The issue has nothing to do with indulging in a sweet treat every now and then – it lies in over-consumption, and how easy it is to do these days.
Sugar is added to pretty much every variety of processed food in order to improve taste. That means even stuff that is supposed to be good for you – like breads, juice, yogurt and cooking sauces – are loaded with unhealthy levels of sugars.
This leads most Americans to overindulge – a lot. According to the American Heart Association, American adults average around 22 teaspoons of sugar each day, which Is well over the recommended six to nine teaspoons each day.
Too much sugar can lead to insulin resistance and eventually diabetes, as well as tooth decay, obesity, high cholesterol and heart disease.
But before you try to kick your sugar addiction, it’s important to know the biological reasons your body craves sweets. Unfortunately, some people are genetically predisposed to having a taste for sugary goods – it’s based on the makeup of their taste buds.
However, that doesn’t mean that everyone isn’t susceptible to sugar cravings. When you eat something sweet, it’s typically loaded with carbohydrates which release the feel-good brain chemical serotonin. Plus when sugar hits the tongue, it also tends to release a rush of endorphins that relax you and simultaneously produce a natural “high.”
Sugar seems pretty irresistible. But it’s not impossible to limit your intake or even to learn to live without it entirely. Here are ten steps on how to stop craving sugary foods:
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1) Quit Cold Turkey
Train your taste buds to live without sugar. Try cutting out all simple sugars for 48-72 hours. This will help diminish your cravings and help you learn how to be satisfied with fewer sweets.
2) Eat More Fruit
You know what they say about fruit: it’s nature’s candy. So fill your cupboards with fruit – both fresh and dried. This will allow you to get your sweet fix, along with fiber and a ton of other essential vitamins and nutrients.
3) Combine Sweets With Nutritious Foods
It can be hard to quit sweets entirely – so it’s important to learn balance. Try only allowing yourself to have sweets if it’s in tandem with something healthy. For example, strawberries with whipped cream, bananas dipped in chocolate or oatmeal mixed with chocolate chips.
4) Walk it off
When an insatiable sugar craving hits, sometimes it’s best to just walk away. Literally. Exercise can help get your blood flowing and release endorphins – a similar effect as eating sweets. So get up and out of the house – walk around the block or run a couple flights of stairs.
5) Drink Water
Of course, water isn’t sweet. However, staying hydrated can help you feel full and satisfied – which will help deter hunger and sweet cravings. Shoot for eight, 8-ounce glasses of water each day. In order to punch up your plain water, try adding sugar-free flavor additives.
6) Chew Gum
Gum can be a great way to sate your sweet tooth. Just be careful – some varieties are loaded with sugar. Instead, look for low-calorie, low-sugar varieties. Then whenever you get a sugar craving, simply pop in a piece of sweet gum.
7) Substitute Sweet Proteins
Your body needs protein to stimulate muscle grown and repair – but most people don’t get enough. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that adult men and women need at least .37 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day.
But it can be difficult to meet daily protein requirements in meals alone. Fortunately, most protein supplements are sweet in taste and low in sugar. Add a protein bar or protein shake into your daily diet as a meal replacement or a snack.
Protein powders usually come in decadent flavors like vanilla ice cream, milk chocolate and strawberry. You can actually make a protein shake taste just like a milkshake by blending a scoop with 8-ounces of water with ice in a blender. This will make it creamy, frothy and a dream to drink!
8) Don’t Get Hungry
The best way to avoid overeating or going on a sugar binge is to stay feeling satisfied throughout the day. Don’t go too long between meals. The key is to keep your blood sugar stable by eating every three to five hours.
These don’t always have to be full meals – keep healthy snacks with you wherever you go. Granola bars, apples, grapes and protein supplements are all nutritious alternatives to keep you full in between meals.
9) Give in Every Once in a While
If you deprive yourself too much, you risk going on a sugar binge. Instead of harsh deprivation, listen to your body and its needs. It’s better to allow yourself to have one cookie every once in a while than binge eating an entire bag of Oreos.
10) Keep a Food Diary
Hold yourself accountable and track your progress by logging everything you eat in a food journal. You can do this the traditional way with a pen and paper – or download a free fitness app ‘Lose It!’ and ‘My Fitness Pal’ are free calorie tracker apps that make keeping a food diary fast and easy.
You can even keep tabs on your daily sugar intake by creating an individual nutrient goal for how many grams you’re allowed each day.
How to Stop Craving Sugary Foods
Most people consume well over the recommended amount of sugar. And too much sugar can lead to serious health problems, including diabetes, obesity and heart disease. However, quitting sugar isn’t that easy – sugar consumption releases serotonin and endorphin in the brain which leads to a natural “high,” meaning it can be a very real addiction.
Remember, it is possible to curb sugar cravings: you just have to be committed and make smart choices. Stay hydrated, stay full and reach for healthy alternatives like fruit and protein supplements whenever possible.
If an intense sugar craving hits, try going for a brisk walk or popping in a piece of sugar-free gum. Keep a food diary to hold yourself accountable and don’t get discouraged if you slip up. Remember: it’s better to let yourself have the occasional sweet treat than risk serious sugar binge-eating down the road!