Practical (and a few unusual) tips to cut sugar cravings and intake.
On average, adults are taking in about 17 teaspoons of added sugar each day. But the recommendation for good health is only 6 teaspoons. This added sugar is contributing to health problems such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and inflammation that contributes to other chronic diseases.
Here are 10 things that you can do to reduce your sugar intake each day and reduce cravings. Plus I have a few unusual things that I do that I’ll talk about at the end.
1) Check your intake.
Find out how much you’re actually taking in on an average day. If you’re already tracking everything you eat and drink, look at your online tracker. It probably tabulates the added sugar in grams for you.
2) Read labels.
Sugar is on the nutrient label, but you also want to look at the ingredients. Look for things like syrup or sucrose. Ingredients are listed from most to least. So if sugar is one of the first ingredients listed, there is a lot of sugar in that product.
3) Check beverages.
A lot of people forget about what they drink. It’s not about just soda. You can also have added sugar in things like coffee, creamer, ice tea, energy drinks, and juices.
Those first 3 tips will help you figure out how much you’re taking in and then where it is.
The next few are about how to reduce cravings…
4) Eat protein at each meal.
Protein digests slower so it can curb hunger and make it easier for you to control your appetite. The building blocks of protein are called amino acids and one of those, tyrosine, can naturally boost dopamine levels in the brain like sugar does. Getting it from food is the best way and you’re going to find it in meats, fish, soybeans and lentils.
5) Get enough sleep.
This one might be a little easier said than done. If you’re sleep deprived, it throws off your hunger hormones and we you’ll crave sugar if energy is low.
6) Eat breakfast.
Get that first protein serving in right away. That will cut down on hunger throughout the day.
7) Use natural sweeteners like stevia or honey.
But keep in mind that natural sweeteners are to help you break an addiction to sugar. Gradually decrease the amount of sweetner you add to your food, even if it is not sugar.
8) Include healthy fats in your meals.
Healthy fats will also help curb your hunger and help you feel full. That will help curb cravings later on in the afternoon and foods like cheese and nuts have tyrosine, which will give you a natural dopamine boost that isn’t from sugar.
9) Use fruits.
Natural sugars and whole foods don’t negatively impact the body like added sugar. Plus you get all that healthy fiber and micronutrients.
Daily exercise will trigger dopamine as well, but it also reduces stress and that’s going to help decrease your cravings.
Here are a few unusual things that I do that might be helpful for you.
First, I freeze treats. I started doing this years ago during the holidays. After making holiday meals, there is pie and candy around. I’ll freeze one portion of a treat. It’s there and I can grab it when I want, so I don’t feel deprived. But it is out of sight and I don’t act on impulse. So if I want a piece of pie, I need to thaw it.
Second, I started making my own hot chocolate mix. My weakness is chocolate. I figured out that if I had a cup of hot chocolate, I could curb that a little bit. I make my own hot chocolate to control the ingredients. I mix baking cocoa with non fat dry milk and stevia to cut the bitterness of the cocoa.
Third, I lift weights. This is a way to handle your sugar cravings because it increases your body’s efficiency to use sugar. Muscle uses glycogen from carbs for energy. Over time, body composition will improve as you build muscle. More muscle means means more sugar used muscles, less in the bloodstream. Better blood chemistry. So a treat will be used better once in your system.
Lastly, think about balance. You need to be flexible with yourself and you need to be forgiving with yourself. But you also need to be realistic. You can’t just completely cut something out of your diet that you enjoy. You’ll end up feeling deprived and that’s going to backfire.
It’s one of the reasons why I have some chocolate in the freezer.
It doesn’t mean I’m going to eat all of it. It just means I’m going to have just enough so that I don’t feel deprived.
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Hi! I'm Tammy! I was a busy, stressed, and unhealthy teacher until I decided to take control of my health. I did not become an athlete until I was in my 50's!
I earned personal training and fitness nutrition certifications, then retired from teaching to dedicate my work life to fitness education for other busy women over 40.
My results are obviously not typical because most people don't train to compete as a bodybuilder.
But I believe everyone can make positive changes with healthy habits! Each of us has a unique combination of strengths and challenges that need to be considered to customize a program that will work for us. Science-based principles, flexibility, and consistency make all the difference.