Reducing Sugar Cravings

It’s no mystery that we are all consuming more sugar than ever before. Between the high fructose corn syrup in processed foods to soda and energy drink consumption to the endless choices in the candy aisle it’s no wonder more and more people are experiencing weight gain.

According to the American Heart Association, the maximum amount of added sugars you should eat in a day are:

Men: 150 calories per day (37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons).
Women: 100 calories per day (25 grams or 6 teaspoons).

If you’re one who is drawn to sweets the battle with sugar is especially difficult. I see this with my husband. He has a sweet tooth and self-regulation set aside, he would choose a box of candy over a piece of fruit any day to satisfy his sugar cravings.

I’d like to offer some tips on how you can diminish your sugar cravings.

Drink More Water

Oftentimes, our cravings, whether it be for sugar or salt, stem from needing hydration. Now believe me, I get it. Water is no substitute for a candy bar or a bag of chips, however, they make awesome water bottles now that allow you to infuse your water with fruit. This allows you to have natural sweetness added to your water and minimizes your sugar intake while increasing your hydration levels. I know there are many products on the market in little squeeze bottles that allow you to add as much or as little flavor to your water, however, this is a manufactured, processed product. Stick with what nature gives you and you will be much more satisfied.

Eliminate Artificial Sugars

So in an attempt to help people lose weight, many manufacturers came out with sugar free products. There are a few problems with these products 1) Because they are sugar free, people tend to consume more thinking they’re not that bad – you still have to consider the calories! 2) Our bodies don’t know how to process artificial sugars so metabolizing these foods and drinks totally messes with our systems. 3) Because our bodies don’t know how to properly process artificial sweeteners, our cravings are never truly met and we are left wanting more!

I love to use Diet Coke as an example. This is my achilles heel. Give me one and I want another and before I know it I’ve drank enough Diet Coke for a family of 4. The artificial flavoring gives me a taste for something sweet, creating a larger craving than where I started. In an effort to quench that craving, I drink another, and still want another.

If you must substitute sugar look for options like xylitol, honey, maple syrup, natural fruit juice, agave nectar, or stevia.

Eat Something Sweet

What? Reduce my cravings by eating something sweet? YES, but choose something natural. Grab a some berries, eat a citrus fruit or some melon. Now you do need to be aware that some fruits contain more natural sugars than others. The Healthy Eating Guide offers a great chart that you can refer to in finding fruits with lower amounts of natural sugars. Keep in mind your servings sizes and always go raw if you can, stay away from anything in a can or box as much as possible. The rule of thumb is a serving of raw fruit should be medium sized or about the size of a baseball and a canned fruit serving is 1/2 cup or the bulb part of a light bulb. Caution: dried fruits can be very high in sugar! Yes, they’re fruit, however, when water is removed from the fruit it sometimes causes a very bitter taste requiring sugar or fruit juices to be added to balance the flavor.

Do a Cleanse

Now I know that cleanses can get a really bad rap. However, in doing one, even for just a few days, you are able to cleanse your palette which, in turn, helps you to take control of your cravings. There are a number of cleanses available. Be cautious and do your research. Would I recommend the cayenne pepper and maple syrup cleanse, absolutely not! Would I recommend a cleanse done through a nutritionist absolutely. I recently completed the BeachBody 3-Day Refresh Cleanse and achieved great results with it. Did I experience weight loss? Yes, but that wasn’t my primary reason. The reason I chose to do it was to jump start myself out of summer binge mode into a more balanced diet. I felt great throughout the 3 days and was able to also eat fruits and vegetables. I highly recommend this cleanse if you are looking for a jumpstart in healthy eating and taking control of your cravings.

Get Moving

Simple enough. Change your activity, change your focus and you might forget all about wanting that hot fudge sundae!

In general, don’t rely on willpower, that is going to ultimately fail you every time. These are just a few of my top ideas for diminishing your sugar cravings. Try them all, switch it up, and try your own – ultimately find what works for you. It IS possible to get control of the cravings.

Reading the Labels

So how many of you actually read the food labels on boxed and canned items? If you’re not taking the time to read what you are putting in your body, chances are very likely you are making some pretty unhealthy choices with food.

Let’s work from top to bottom on a food label and discuss the major areas you should focus on when deciding on a food.

First check the serving size and number of servings in the container. There are a number of products that you may consume every day that have more than one serving in their packaging: Vitamin Water, soda, canned soups, chips, etc. Knowing the serving size is important because it’s possible to consume double or maybe even triple the amount of calories without knowing.

You should also pay attention to the portion of calories that are “from fat.” You certainly want to make sure that the majority of calories are not attributed as fat calories.

It goes without saying that it’s important to keep both saturated and trans fats to a minimum. Both types can clog your arteries and lead to a number of health problems including obesity and heart disease.  I caution you about “fat free.” Just because it is “fat-free” doesn’t mean you can eat as much as you want!

You will also notice that the “% Daily Values” column. The numbers in this column are calculated based on a 2,000 calorie per day diet. These values are just an estimate but provide you with a good guideline to know how much of the daily allowances you are consuming with a portion of that food.

Another dangerous ingredient often found in pre-packed foods is sodium. Healthy adults should not exceed 2,300 mg of sodium per day and anyone with high blood pressure, kidney disease or diabetes should try and keep their consumption to around 1,500 mg per day. Take a good look at the listing of sodium on some of your favorite packaged products and I think you might re-think that purchase.

When it comes to sugar a good rule of thumb is the more sugar the more calories. Keep your sugar consumption to a minimum. Many fruits and even vegetables contain natural healthy sugars. What you want to avoid is the white granular sugars and thick syrups that are added to food to preserve the product and enhance taste.

Dietary fiber found mainly in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes has a variety of positive health benefits including normalizing bowel movements, lowering blood cholesterol levels and controlling blood sugar levels. Depending on age and gender you should consume 21 – 38 grams of fiber per day.

When it comes to protein many Americans far exceed the recommended daily amount. Depending on your sex, age and gender you need between 40 and 70 grams of protein per day.

Don’t get me wrong, I know there are some foods that you can’t avoid buying pre-packaged so tomorrow I’ll give you some advice on the types of ingredients to look for and those to avoid when it comes to purchasing manufactured foods.