Manage your sugar cravings in 3 steps
Some days it feels like sugary temptations are everywhere — a co-worker brings donuts into the office, you’re offered a slice of birthday cake, or your lunch comes with a free soda. But too much sugar can take a toll on your body. It can increase your risk of weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.1
Managing those sugar cravings is an important part of staying healthy. Try this 3-step process to help satisfy your sweet tooth while also providing your body with the nutrients it needs to thrive.
Step 1: Prevention
The best way to beat a sugar craving is to avoid it. But that’s easier said than done, right?
The good news is you’ll be less likely to develop an unhealthy craving — whether it’s for a piece of pie or a fast-food burger — if you keep your body satiated with healthy foods and nutrients throughout the day. This means making sure each meal contains a healthy balance of lean protein, whole grains, and vegetables. When it comes to snacking between meals, opt for nutritious treats like celery and peanut butter, roasted chickpeas, seaweed chips, or rainbow carrots and pumpkin hummus.
You’ll also want to stay hydrated. Our brains will often mistake thirst for hunger. So before reaching for a snack, try to drink a glass of water and then see how you feel.
Step 2: Substitutions
Not all sweet treats are created equal. In general, it’s best to avoid refined sugar and processed foods — like candy bars, sodas, and baked goods — but that doesn’t mean you can’t have anything sugary. So, before reaching for a cookie, try one of these substitutes:
There’s evidence to suggest that eating blueberries may improve blood sugar and insulin levels.2 But berries — like strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries — are naturally sweet and contain low amounts of sugar. Go ahead and reach for a handful of berries when the next craving strikes.
Ah, chocolate — that ever-tempting treat. If you crave chocolate, skip the milk-chocolate candy bar and grab a piece of rich dark cocoa instead. Look for options that contain more than 70% cocoa to get a boost of fiber, antioxidants, and magnesium. But keep in mind that dark chocolate also contains refined sugar and fat, so try to stick to 1 or 2 squares.
Plain, unsweetened yogurt is a great base for a healthy dessert. It provides probiotics, healthy fats, and protein, and you can control the amount of sweetness you add to it. For a treat that feels like a splurge, mix 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder into 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt. You can then add fruit, seeds (chia seeds make a great choice), or nuts. If you want to sweeten it up more, add a dollop of honey or maple syrup.
Naturally sweet and packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals, sweet potatoes can help you satisfy a sugar craving. For a treat that’s as easy as pie to make (and tastes like it too), bake a sweet potato and then top it with a dash of sunflower seed oil, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
Step 3: Moderation
Sometimes it’s OK to indulge — just make sure you’re doing everything in moderation. Here are a few tips to help make sure you’re not going overboard:
- Grab a smaller serving
Think fun-size over king-size. Split a restaurant dessert with your friend. Try just a bite. The smaller you go, the less sugar you’ll consume.
- Don’t keep it in the house
Convenience can lead to bingeing. Avoid stocking up on treats at home. You’ll be less likely to eat several servings of cookies if you need to go out to get them.
- Space it out
Eating a treat every night? Try switching to every other night, then every 2 nights, then once a week. Keep slowly spacing it out until you get used to having less.
Need extra help with managing cravings?
Work with one of our personal wellness coaches for advice and guidance tailored to you and your needs.
1Vasanti S. Malik et al., ”Sugar Sweetened Beverages, Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease risk,” Circulation, March 23, 2010.
2April J. Stull, “Blueberries’ Impact on Insulin Resistance and Glucose Intolerance,” Antioxidants, November 29, 2016.