We’ve all been there. The sugar cravings kick in and you give in to temptation; your serotonin levels rise as a result, providing a happy high; then, soon after, you’re primed for a crash.
While ignoring these urges can be easier said than done, there are some easy tricks you can use to effectively outsmart your sweet tooth. Here, nutritionist Liam Mahoney shares his top tips with Bazaar.
1. Eat a healthy breakfast
“A healthy breakfast can set the tone for nutritious choices all day long. Sugary breakfasts, like cereals, are high in carbohydrates and sugar, and low in fibre, so will cause your blood sugar to spike, then quickly drop—which can lead to mid-morning cravings and snack attacks. You should aim to eat a breakfast that combines good carbs and fibre with some protein, such as poached eggs on wholegrain toast, with a side of avocado.”
2. Sprinkle sweet spices
“Certain spices can satisfy your sweet tooth and trick your brain into thinking you’re eating sugar. Research has shown that cinnamon can help to reduce sugar cravings by controlling blood glucose levels, and this helps to minimise insulin spikes that result after an unbalanced meal, which typically lead to increased hunger and sugar consumption. Cinnamon is great in porridge, and sprinkled on sliced apple and roasted vegetables. Cloves, ginseng and fenugreek are also sweet spices that can be used to control blood sugar and sweet cravings effectively.”
3. Eat your veggies
“Most people wouldn’t think about using vegetables to combat sugar cravings, however, the rich source of vitamins they provide will help you to feel fuller for longer and keep your sweet tooth in check. Vegetables contain healthy sources of carbohydrates which will keep you satisfied, and the plant fibre also works as a natural way to level out blood sugar levels. Try to incorporate a small portion of leafy greens, such as kale or spinach, into every meal. You could also use sweeter vegetables such as sliced red pepper or carrots as snacks in between meals.”
4. Distract yourself
“A lot of the time, cravings can be caused by boredom, anxiety, or other emotions. When you feel a craving for something sweet, find an activity that will distract you and take your mind off of food. Sometimes it can be as easy as going for a brisk walk or taking a shower to make you forget completely about the ice-cream hidden at the back of the freezer. Or simply try brushing your teeth – you won’t want to snack afterwards since the toothpaste will change the taste.”
5. Satisfy your sweet tooth safely
“For times when you just feel you need something sweet, look to options that also have some health benefits, or at least aren’t especially bad for you. Fresh fruit is a great nutritious substitution when a craving for something sweet hits, as is Stevia, the all-natural sweetener which has zero calories and is 300 times sweeter than sugar (so you need much less). For a snack that is going to slow down the release of sugar and keep you fuller for longer, you should opt for a something that combines protein and carbohydrates. I recommend oat cakes topped with a protein-packed spread, such as Jaffa Quake from Greande (£6.99). This chocolate orange flavoured spread contains 20% protein and has 87% less sugar than other brands, and will help you to satisfy your sweet tooth whilst keeping your healthy eating regime on track. “
6. Break bad habits
“Many people don't feel satisfied unless they finish their meal and have a dessert, even if they don't feel hungry. In order to prevent sweet cravings in the first place – or to successfully manage them – it's important to understand what's causing your craving, and whether your craving is actually habitual. For example, your dinner might be high in salt, which could make you feel like you ‘have to have’ something sweet to create balance. If it’s likely to be a habit rather than a craving, come up with a solution to try and break it; it’s a process of training your mind and learning to navigate the challenges with new choices. For example, if you don’t feel at peace without having something sweet after dinner, then you could try brushing your teeth.”
7. Get more sleep
“Getting adequate amounts of sleep optimises energy levels, reduces appetite and slashes sugar cravings. When you are tired, ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates appetite (often referred to as the ‘hunger hormone’) increases, and leptin, the hormone that suppresses the appetite decreases, which can lead to you feeling the need for something sugary to give you a quick energy fix. Ensure that you are getting around the recommended eight hours of sleep a night and that the quality of your sleep is good too.”