3/31/11

Help! I'm Addicted to Sugar

Having a sweet tooth can be difficult to overcome, but with a few creative tools, you can reduce your sugar intake and make improvements in your health. Here is my Top 10 Ways to Reduce Your Sugar Cravings.

1. Stay balanced. Make sure that you are eating well balanced meals and snacks at appropriate times of the day. If we get too hungry or skip meals, your body begins to send signals that we need quick sugars to restore blood sugar levels. If we habitually reach for something sweet, we've conditioned ourselves that being hungry means grabbing something quick and sweet. Break this habit by aiming to eat smaller meals every 3-4 hours.

2. Avoid eating sugary foods before lunch. While there isn't a lot of science to support this theory, I find personally that if I start of my day with something a little too sweet, it's feels like I turned on the sugar switch and crave sweets more often. There is also the mentality that "oh well, I already ate sweets today, I should just eat more sweets and start over tomorrow." Break this habit by starting the day with eggs, cottage cheese, peanut butter toast, etc. Save the sweet cereal, pastries or syrupy coffees for special occasions.

3. Make sure you are including appropriate amounts of protein and fiber. Protein and fiber will keep you full longer. Many breakfasts are cereal and milk (mostly carbohydrates) and lunches are just salads with no meat (mostly carbohydrates and fat). These good intentions can backfire because you'll continue to be hungry an hour later. Break this habit by including small amounts of lean protein in your meals (Greek yogurt for breakfast, beans on your salad, etc.).

4. Stay well hydrated. Many times, people will mistake thirst for hunger. Drink water regularly so that you don't consume extra calories. Break this habit by keeping a large cup of water on your desk at work or in the car. Make a commitment to drink 2 cups of water before you decide to reach for the sweet.

5. Replace sweet foods with fruits. Gradually, begin to replace afternoon candy bars or evening ice cream with fruit. I know you are probably thinking "yeah right, I don't want fruit over ____". But I promise if you can begin to gradually eat fruit when the cravings strike, you will begin to help reset your palate to enjoy natural sweetness instead of overly processed sugary foods. Break this habit by putting a bowl of fruit on your counter, an apple and banana on your desk or keep frozen berries in your freezer.

6. Be conscious of artificial sweeteners. Too many artificial sweeteners can confuse your palate. Most sweeteners are more than 100 times sweeter than sugar. If we consume too many artificial sweeteners, our body can become used to super-sweet tastes. When we eat something with real sugar or even fruit, it just doesn't taste as sweet and sometimes we think we need more to satisfy that super sweet taste we are used to. Break this habit by drinking water or unsweet tea over diet sodas or artificially sweetened fruit drinks.

7. Find your "satisfier". Only recently did I realize that I am satisfied when I have something sweet and crunchy. I make it a point to include a little sweet and a little crunchy in each of my meals. I find that if I don't have those elements, I am still "searching" after a meal. I may be full but I didn't get that crunch or sweet satisfier, so I forage and usually end up overeating. Break the habit by finding what satisfies you. If you like chewy-and-sweet or salty-and-smooth, find a way to include small amounts of that in your meal.

8. Avoid "bored" eating. Many people will eat when they are bored. Some have such a hard time watching TV without snacking on something sweet. Mid-afternoon is another danger time. One client told me she picked up knitting. Each night she would just knit so that she couldn't use her hands to eat snacks. Break this habit by finding a way to keep your hands busy or find a "go-to" solution when you are bored.

9. Keep a food diary. Try keeping a food diary for a few days to see when your sugary cravings strike. If it's every day at 5 pm, then you can make a plan to have fruit available at that time. There are many online tools that can track your food and you can tally how much sugar you are eating. Use it as a map to begin to make gradual changes.

10. Avoid "all or nothing." If possible, avoid saying "I'm going to avoid sugar all week." This absolute statement can set you up for failure. It can also cause sugar to become the "forbidden fruit" and you may think about it even more. Also, when most people break their resolve, they will overcompensate and eat more sugar, vowing that they'll start over again tomorrow. Break this habit by simply making your mantra, "Today, I will eat more fruit" or "I will eat less sugar today than I did yesterday."

Resource: How much is too much sugar?
What are some of the creative ways you've cut back on sugar?

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