Eliminating sugar from your life completely may not be realistic, but it’s absolutely possible to learn how to cut back the amount of sugar you consume daily. Here are 5 proven tactics to help break sugar addiction and curb your cravings for good.
#1. Identify Cravings vs. Hunger.
The words ‘craving’ and ‘hunger’ are thought to be interchangeable, but they are different in a very important way. When reaching for that chocolate chip cookie, ask yourself if the only thing you had left to eat was an apple, would you eat it? If your answer is ‘no’, you’re probably having a craving and aren’t actually hungry. When you’re hungry, you’re willing to be flexible with what you’re eating. But when it’s a craving, you’re not. So the next time you answer ‘no’ to that question, give yourself 20 minutes to see whether your craving goes away.
You can also try replacing your craving with a healthier alternative. If you find yourself reaching for a Reese’s peanut butter cup, opt for apple slices with chocolate peanut butter nut butter. You can even get chocolate protein peanut butter! You’ll get all the chocolate peanut-buttery flavor you’re craving without all the unnecessary added sugar. (Check out these healthy food swaps for ideas!)
Make sure to keep plenty of easy-to-grab healthy snacks readily available in your house or in your purse. You’re far more likely to reach for something healthy if it’s easily accessible and doesn’t require any cooking or preparation.
#2. Add Protein.
Instead of thinking so much about eliminating sugar, focus on adding more of the good stuff to your diet. Aim to fill your plate with lots of protein and healthy fats. This will keep you feeling full and prevent your body from craving quick-acting carbs like sugar.
It’s important to start your day off with a protein-packed breakfast. This will reduce activity in the regions of the brain responsible for cravings and allow you to cut down on sugar throughout the day.
Also, a good rule of thumb for any meal is to eat your protein first and save the sugary sweets for the end. You may end up feeling full by the time you’ve reached dessert. At the very least you’ll feel satiated enough to not overindulge.
#3. Portion Control.
You may be able to eliminate sugar from your diet for about a day or so, but unfortunately, this type of “all or nothing” strategy usually doesn’t end well. You’re more likely to binge way more sweets than you normally would have consumed.
If you’re someone who has a difficult time restraining yourself in front of sweet treats, try purchasing single-serving sizes to help with portion control. If you don’t have more than two cookies in the package, you can’t eat more than two cookies. The same rule applies to things like cartons of ice cream. It’s easy to spoon out 3 giant scoops without realizing you’ve actually eaten 2.5 serving sizes. Instead, try opting for the mini single-serve cup.
#4. Reduce Sugar Intake.
Before you start rolling your eyes at this overly obvious statement, hear us out. You might not be able to give up your favorite sweet treat, like chocolate, nor should you.
As previously mentioned, it’s all about keeping things in moderation. So, instead of attempting to cut chocolate out of your life, try eliminating sugar that is commonly found in other food groups, such as condiments. Many people don’t realize the amount of salt that is found in marinaras, salsas, ketchup, and other sauces.
An even bigger culprit is packaged foods. Although the package may say “made with real fruit and whole grains” products such as cereal bars often contain 20+ grams of added sugar. Checking nutrition labels will help keep track of the amount of sugar you are ingesting. (Click here to learn about reading nutrition labels).
One of the easiest and most effective ways to manage sugar cravings is to drink water. Thirst is often confused with hunger, so regularly reaching for a tall glass of water can keep you full and help curb your sweet tooth at the same time.
Not only will water help fill you up, but it can also be a replacement for other sugary drinks. In fact, the number one source of added sugar in the average American’s diet is from sweetened drinks like lemonade and pop. Start by drinking one glass of water for every sweetened beverage, or by only consuming pop every other day instead of daily. As your body becomes more accustomed, continue reducing the number of sweetened beverages you drink each week.
Breaking the cycle of sugar addiction may be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Give these tips a try and take control of your sugar cravings once and for all.