If you’re anything like me, you really, REALLY like sugar. Honestly though, who doesn’t? (If that’s you, you’re in the minority and I don’t trust you). Jokes aside, sugar IS a prominent ingredient in the American food industry, making it harder and harder to avoid the temptation to indulge in it every day. Oftentimes, we don’t even realize we’re consuming it! So how do we reduce these temptations and halt the hankering for cookies in its tracks? Try out these different options to get you back in control.
Snack on fermented foods
Excess consumption of sugar can adversely affect the microflora in your gut. This imbalance of good to bad bacteria caused by refined sugar and carbohydrates act as part of the reason for why you crave MORE sugar. Fermented foods and drinks contain a range of probiotics (or good bacteria) that can help to restore this microflora and bring balance to your gut. Think raw sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, kombucha, kefir, and quality cultured yogurts. Try snacking on these when you feel a sugar craving coming on, or even when you don’t!
2. Substitute with naturally sweet options
There are tons of delicious, naturally sweetened foods out there we can snack on without having to resort to processed or packaged desserts. Try out a few of these snack ideas to help satisfy your sweet tooth!
2 medjool dates stuffed with almond butter
Frozen banana slices + almond or peanut butter with cinnamon stirred in
Blend 1 frozen banana, ½ cup frozen mixed berries, 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder, and ¼ - ½ cup almond milk for a frozen and creamy ice cream substitute
3. Try organic, cacao rich dark chocolate
I am all about the chocolate – but I try and choose quality options over say, a Hershey’s bar. When looking for dark chocolate at the store, aim for organic brands that contain 70% cacao or above. The higher the cacao content, the more antioxidant and mineral content (such as zinc, iron, and magnesium). Even better, dark chocolate has probiotic properties, meaning that friendly gut bacteria break down and ferment the compounds in dark chocolate. Just another way to support a healthy gut microbiome! The heart healthy fat content in cacao will also help to satisfy you, unlike other processed candy options.
4. Switch up your routine
Does your hankering for sweets happen around about 8 pm after dinnertime? Or when you’re sitting in front of the tv drinking of glass of wine, and then you suddenly remember that you have leftover Easter candy in the back of your pantry? Do you anxiously await your 3 o’clock soda to help give you a boost of “energy” (aka a sugar rush straight to your veins)? How might your everyday habits be impacting your sugar cravings? Dig a little deeper as to when and why those cravings might be creeping in. Don’t let it just become a part of your routine without any thought or reason as to why. And if there IS a why, ask yourself how you might be able to swap the habit for a healthier one.
5. Opt for less salt at your meals
Say you’re eating something salty such as pizza, stir fry, or chili. Do you notice how your taste buds crave a balance by pushing you to eat something sweet after? While there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself to a little dessert, it’s important to keep in mind the quality AND quantity of what you choose. Again, think about what might be triggering your craving, as it could be related to your salt intake!
6. Drink a glass of water
To put it simply, dehydration can lead to misconstrued hunger levels and ultimately, cravings for foods we wouldn’t typically want or choose. Dehydration can occur well before symptoms of “thirst” even appear, so be proactive with this and chug that water! With that and a little patience, I bet you’ll notice many of your cravings begin to subside.
7. Maintain your blood sugar levels
Spikes and dips in our blood sugar levels can lead to cravings for things such as sugar and refined carbs because our body is in search of instant energy. As your blood sugar begins to dip mid-morning or mid-afternoon, what type of snacks or meals do you typically reach for? Do you notice your body beginning to crave some not so healthy options (such as donuts or candy in your office kitchen)? Plan ahead and stock up on satisfying snacks with healthy fats or protein to help keep you full and sustained. Cottage cheese, nut butters, raw mixed nuts, grass-fed beef jerky, and flax seed crackers with hummus are all great options. Healthy fats and protein will help to balance your blood sugar and keep the hanger at bay.
For more information on handling sugar cravings register for Austen’s Online Summer Sugar Blues Workshop on June 12th!