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We all know sugar isn't the best for you, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to quit it. It’s just so darn delicious, not to mention, hidden in everything! I used to think that craving sugar meant I had less willpower than someone who didn’t crave it, but I now know that’s not the case. Your diet, sleep and stress levels all influence how much sugar you consume and crave.
I find the best way to eat less sugar is to address the root cause of sugar cravings and understand why our brains are craving it in the first place. If you don’t crave sugar, you spend way less time thinking about it and eating a low sugar diet comes much easier. These 11 tips I’m sharing today are what I regularly use myself and with my clients to help curb sugar cravings, and in turn, manage how much sugar we are consuming.
11 Ways To Eat Less Sugar
1. Start The Day With Protein
It’s easy to get lost in the cereal aisle since it dominates most grocery stores! While it’s quick and easy for breakfast, the amount of refined sugar found in them can send your blood sugar on a roller coaster, which ultimately leads to sugar cravings later in the day. Try switching to a high protein smoothie or two eggs with half an avocado for breakfast. Frittatas also make a great blood sugar-balancing breakfast!
For those of you who are already making a smoothie in the morning for breakfast but are still experiencing sugar cravings throughout the day, I recommend adding in protein (at least 20g) in the form of a plant-based protein powder or hemp seeds, and that you don’t have too much fruit (1/2-1 cup max) in there as the natural sugars may still be too much if you are sensitive to sugar.
I feel best from a cravings perspective when I have more of a savoury breakfast or just 1/2 cup of berries as the fruit in my smoothie.
2. Use Nature’s Blood Sugar Balancers
Certain foods have the ability to increase your cells’ sensitivity to insulin (which is a good thing). The simplest and most common one is cinnamon! In one study on diabetics, consuming 3g of cinnamon daily significantly reduced fasting plasma glucose concentrations in patients. Try adding 1/2-1 tsp of cinnamon into your daily smoothie or oatmeal, or sprinkle cinnamon into your salad dressing or on roasted sweet potatos or beets.
3. Include Healthy Fats
Similar to protein, healthy fats will help keep your blood sugar levels more balanced, leading to less blood sugar crashes and ultimately, less cravings. My favourite healthy fats include avocado, chia seeds (excellent for digestion too), hemp seeds (full of Omega 3s) and coconut oil.
4. Make Your Own Sauces & Dressings
If you tend to buy your marinades, sauces and salad dressings pre-made, there could be a ton of sugar lurking in there and it may not be labeled as sugar either. It could be corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrates, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, invert sugar, lactose, maltose, malt syrup, raw sugar, sucrose, sugar syrup, cane crystals, cane sugar, crystalline fructose, evaporated cane juice, corn syrup solids or malt syrup. Woah!
The easiest way to avoid these ingredients is just to make your own, like these ones!
5. Have An Afternoon Snack Ready
I always make sure to have a snack with me, or at least have a plan of what my snack will be, for the afternoon, because if I don’t have anything with me, that’s when I’ll opt for something sweet. I’ve put together some of my favourite sugar-free snacks over here.
6. Go Cold Turkey
While I preach everything in moderation, if sugar cravings are getting the best of you on the regular, I recommend you go cold turkey 100% sugar free for a short period of time by partaking in a detox. I know it sounds extreme, but with the clients I've worked with, people always comment that it completely resets their cravings in just five days! Once you have taken the break from sugar entirely, you can introduce natural sugars like honey and maple syrup in moderation, instead of feeling out of control with your cravings.
7. Use Monkfruit
Have you heard of monkfruit? Like stevia, it’s a natural sweetener that isn’t thought to have many of the negative side effects of artificial sweeteners. I don’t love the taste of stevia, but find monk fruit to have a much nicer, smoother sweetness that tastes more like real sugar. It doesn’t spike your blood sugar at all and comes in two forms: liquid or granular (much like regular sugar).
8. Use More Savoury Flavours
While natural sweeteners like monkfruit and stevia will help kick your sugar habit and help you eat less sugar, I tend to gravitate towards savoury flavouring like in this s avoury trail mix recipe. Many trail mixes contain added sugar, but this trail mix uses garlic powder, onion powder and tamari for flavouring!
9. Prioritize Sleep
Did you know that even just one night of poor sleep can increase a hunger hormone called ghrelin? That means that even with a good diet, if you’re not sleeping well, you may experience frequent sugar cravings. Use these tips to prioritize your sleep.
10. Check In With Your Emotions
Have you ever found yourself halfway through a tub of ice cream before actually even thinking much about it? Stress is a huge trigger for sugar cravings as the stress hormone, cortisol, can actually alter blood sugar levels. Use this article to help deal with emotional eating, and when you feel the stress coming on, use my next tip below!
11. Drink Herbal Teas
Last, but certainly not least, if you find yourself craving sugar, steep an herbal tea! My favourite is ginger or peppermint, or one of these teas that you can find in the Joyous Shop. It will give you something to enjoy without reaching for sugar.
What do you find triggers your sugar cravings the most?
I find that I am struggling with the whole sugar thing at this time because I've just had baby number 2 and I'm breastfeeding and HUNGRY all the time. Getting enough sleep isn't really an option and I have a busy toddler so time for prepping has really gone out the window. And I've just run out of the foods I made before I gave birth so now it's all about convenience and I'm on the sugar roller coaster again. Personally, I'm just trying to find a way to take back control and fuel my body better again. I find eating sugar really zaps my energy and makes my head foggy. And I really need all the energy I can get at the moment!Reply
Hey Rebecca! Congrats on baby #2! Perhaps a quick smoothie each day would be a fast way to get some protein and fill you up? :)
Rebecca! Reading this was like I wrote it. I know my lack of sleep and post partum emotions are taking their toll. Before number two I never craved sugar but now I'm some kind of monster - particularly after breastfeeding!!! I love to have healthy snacks and meals on hand for me and my little 3 yr old, but really struggle to find the time. Feeling ya sister.
I think it's great to honour your hunger Grace! Recognize that breastfeeding puts huge nutritional demands on your body which might mean you are craving more food and energy than you're used to. Listen to your hunger signals and fuel yourself :) I think having snacks to enjoy on-the-go would be helpful for sure! Rachel - Joyous Health Team
Hi Grace, My oldest is also 3 so believe me when I say I OVERstand you! Three year olds are BUSY! All the best to you, Mama!
This is timely —I just cut out sugar on April 1. The beginning of the week was really tough, and I also had a hard time navigating the grocery store, but it’s already easier. My baby isn’t sleeping well so I’m not either, and the amount of sugar I’ve been reaching for has been ridiculous. Snacks have been challenging for me —thanks for linking to suggestions!Reply
Hey Heather! It's quite common to have sugar cravings when you're not sleeping because you automatically crave a quick source of energy. Have you checked out my Mama Ebook? I've got tons of snacking tips in there, plus a 7-day meal plan for new mamas. Check it out: https://www.joyoushealth.com/joyuonline.php?programid=26 Hope that helps!
I love how attainable this list is! Thank you so much. -NicoleReply
Isn't it?! Little changes can make all the difference :) Rachel - Joyous Health Team
I love Monk Fruit as a sweetener. What brands do you recommend? Also re: Cinnamon what are your thoughts on the importance of it being Ceylon and not the other kind. Thanks!Reply
Monk fruit is a great choice. I don't use it in baking myself for no other reason than I just love the taste of maple syrup for baking but it's in different health packaged products I buy. I buy Ceylon cinnamon but for many years I used whatever I had on hand as long as it was certified organic. There are many health benefits to the various types of cinnamon -- you can read more here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4466762/ but I'm sure what your getting at is the liver toxicity claims of non-ceylon cinnamon from coumarin? Apparently it is only a concern with "sensitive" individuals, however, I have no idea what "sensitive" means. I don't think it's cause for worry, just choose ceylon and if you have the other I wouldn't worry about it as the amount you'd be ingesting is probably very little.
Thanks for your reply. I love Maple Syrup too but working on gut rebuilding/Candida/SIBO so its out for now. Thanks for the input on the Cinnamon too. I've heard other practitioners say only Ceylon and don't touch the other stuff (cassia) but its good to hear other perspectives and then I can make up my own mind. Thanks again!Reply
These are some great tips. It can be easy to cut out sugar by making small changes (well relatively easy anyway!)Reply
Hey Emily, Awesome! I'm happy to hear you found them to be helpful :) Rachel - Joyous Health Team
Ordered my Joyous Cookbook last night! So excited can’t wait to get it!! Love every thing you offer us. You and your team are amazing!!!! 2020 is going to my year to get healthy and thanks to you!Reply
That's awesome Angela!! Hope you enjoy my new cookbook!!