Have you ever felt that pang for something sweet? Everybody has felt it! Sugar cravings come and go over the course of the day, and can vary due to how thirsty you are, feeling tired, increasing your activity, anything! There are so many factors that play a role. Even walking past the confectionary aisle might trigger those cravings. The trick is, how do we manage the sugar cravings when they hit?
Sugar is a small type of carbohydrate, and when in the body, is converted into energy. Reducing the amounts of larger carbohydrates in our diet can increase the body’s signals to increase your sugar intake. If you have been restricting carbohydrates in your diet, you may find sugar cravings increase. Having small serves of carbohydrates throughout the day is important to regulate your blood sugar levels. For example, a serving of oats for breakfast (with cinnamon, a great alternative to sugar) contains carbohydrates that can help regulate blood sugar in the morning, and for even longer over the course of the day. Vegetables contain a good amount of carbohydrate, with micronutrients too! Substituting sugar by using a sweetener in your coffee or tea can help, but be aware that these sweeteners can, in the long term, increase your sugar cravings overall, so it is best to limit these when possible.
The most important part of managing sugar cravings, or any cravings, is to think about why you might be craving them. Instead of reaching for a packet of lollies or a snack, stop, take three breaths and think: am I really hungry? Sugar cravings can come when you are bored, haven’t eaten proper meals throughout the day, or if you didn’t get a good night’s sleep the night before. This may be why your body is signalling for more energy in the form of sugar. If you really are hungry, a high-protein substitute can help to reduce your hunger and might be a more nutritious choice. Think about a nutritious, low-sugar snack such as low-fat Greek yoghurt or opt for a fruit-based mineral water that tastes sweet, but has lower sugar than a soft drink or juice.
Sugar cravings can hit and be very overwhelming, especially if you’re sitting at your desk or on the couch. Staying distracted by going for a walk, filling out a to-do list or calling a family member or friend can help when those cravings hit, and help them pass.
Sugar cravings are a chemical signal in the body, and will go up and down throughout the day. Being aware of your body’s signals can help to avoid overeating or snacking on high-sugar products that can be detrimental to health or weight loss goals. Knowing your body and looking after it daily by eating regular, nutritious meals, drinking enough water and getting enough sleep are important factors to keep your sugar cravings at bay. If you think you’re doing all of the right things and are still finding your cravings overwhelming, seeing a dietitian is a great way to get some extra support, resources and specific ideas tailored to your own lifestyle.