7 Simple Tips to Help Stop Sugar Cravings
If you're craving sugar but don't want to indulge, these tips can help you overcome the urge to eat a sugary sweet.
We all find ourselves eyeing a cookie or a piece of chocolate every now and then, and there’s definitely nothing wrong with indulging a craving once in a while. Still, if you want to cut back on sugar or limit how often you give in to your cravings, it can be helpful to have a few tricks at the ready to stop them in their tracks. Try one (or more) of these seven tips to help overcome your cravings for a sugar-filled dessert when the feeling strikes. And to help you cut down on how often you’re having sugar cravings, we also included a few long-term changes that will help decrease the frequency of your cravings.
1. Avoid Sugar Substitutes
It might sound like a good idea to indulge with a low- or no-calorie sweetener like Splenda or Equal, but really, you’re setting yourself up for more intense cravings later on. “It’s also important to avoid any sugar substitutes as these are so intensely sweet that they just heighten our cravings later in the day and also desensitize us to natural sweetness,” says Marissa Meshulam, a registered dietitian nutritionist. Instead, try to satisfy your cravings with desserts with natural sweeteners, like honey or agave, or by snacking on foods that are naturally sweet, like a piece of fruit.
2. Keep Healthy Snacks on Hand
When a sugar craving strikes, it can help to have healthier snacks immediately available to you. Sometimes, you’ll crave sugar because your body needs more energy and nourishment, and sugar is the quickest way to give your body an energy boost. But if you can keep a couple of high-protein snacks nearby to grab instead, like almonds or hummus, you’ll end up with more long-lasting energy and you’ll feel full longer.
3. Cut Out Sweetened Drinks
Diet soda drinks might seem healthier, but they’ll probably make you crave sugar later. Sweet drinks like sugary coffees, energy drinks, and sweet tea will only increase your sugar cravings because they’re helping to build a habit of relying on sugar. “Try adding sliced citrus fruit to your water bottle for a natural hint of flavor to replace sweetened juice drinks, or drinking sparkling water instead of soda,” says Jillian Kubala, a registered dietitian and nutritional counseling business owner.
4. Try Chewing Gum
If you’re truly hungry, chewing a piece of sugar-free gum shouldn’t replace a healthy snack—that will probably just lead to overindulging later. But if you’re not actually hungry and just craving something sugary, the flavor of your favorite gum might help take your mind off the craving and satisfy your desire for a treat.
5. Take a Walk
If you’re craving sugar because you’re bored, a change of scenery and some light exercise might help. Not only is going for a quick walk good for your health, but it might also help to take your mind off your craving. Sometimes we want to snack when we’re bored, so giving yourself something to do could help kick that craving.
6. Slowly Reduce the Amount of Sugar You're Eating
This tip probably won’t help much at the moment a craving hits, but if you can stick to it, it’ll help reduce your sugar cravings long-term. “Sugar activates pleasure and reward centers in the brain, which drives cravings for sweet tasting foods,” Kubala says. The more you reward your sugar cravings, the more often you could end up having them, so if you can gradually reduce the amount of sugar you’re eating, you’ll end up craving it less often.
7. Go Ahead and Indulge!
While you may not want to indulge your sugar cravings all the time, there’s nothing wrong with having something sweet every now and then, especially healthier desserts or fruit desserts. “The avoidance mentality just increases your cravings and will probably lead to a binge down the line,” Meshulam says. “Instead, honor your cravings and move on with your day. The less restrictive you are with food, the less likely you will be to crave it all the time.” So if you can satisfy your cravings now by eating just one cookie instead of five later in the day, go ahead and treat yourself.
With the help of these tips, you'll be able to overcome some of your sugar cravings the next time they strike. If you work on cutting down the amount of sugar you eat, you can also reduce how frequently they occur over time. Just remember—there's no harm in indulging every once in a while, especially if you can beat your sweet cravings with fruit, one cookie, or a single piece of candy.