Monday, April 18, 2011

5 Tips to Help You Overcome Sugar Cravings

"Sweet is the first taste humans prefer from birth," says Christine Gerbstadt, a dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. While it seems that our craving for sweet foods may be hardwired into our DNA, it is possible to keep these cravings in check.

Picture of sugar
Sugar

Here are five simple strategies you can use to help overcome your sugar cravings:

  • Eat regularly: Sugar is the brain's only source of energy, so when we become overly hungry or skip meals, our sugar craving is the brain’s way of letting us know it needs energy. Try planning ahead to incorporate healthy snacks into your daily eating plan so that you — and your brain — don't feel energy deprived.
  • Choose foods high in fiber such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables: Foods high in fiber digest slower, so you feel fuller for longer. Refined carbohydrates such as candy, baked goods and sodas may give you a short-term energy boost, but you'll quickly feel sluggish and end up craving more sugar.
  • Balance your meals and snacks with good sources of protein or healthy fats: Just like fiber, protein and fats are digested more slowly and will keep you satisfied throughout the day. Nuts and nut butters, avocados, beans, eggs and lean meats are all excellent sources of proteins or fats that you could incorporate into your meals and snacks.
  • Cut back on caffeine: Cutting out caffeine completely may be unrealistic, so just try reducing your intake to one cup in the morning. Caffeine can suppress your appetite initially, but once the effects wear off, your blood sugar may have already dropped too low. The result? Overeating or binging on sugar.
  • Slow down and manage your stress: Eating carbohydrates releases endorphins and can impact the production of serotonin, the feel-good brain chemical that can calm and relax us. During times of high anxiety or stress, our sugar cravings may be triggered by our emotional needs. Rather than using food as your source of comfort when you’re upset, try using other methods to cope. If you're lonely, call a friend. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, go on a walk or meditate.

— McKenzie Hall, dietetic intern, and Debra A. Boutin, MS, RD, chair and dietetic internship director, Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University.

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