When you’re aiming to give up added sugars, cravings can be strong. Sweet foods are tempting us at every turn, and for many of us, consuming those foods is a longtime habit that we associate with comfort or celebration. And it’s not always helping our energy, health and lifespan.
In my new book, Sugar Free 3, I worked with top experts to create a simple 3-week program and a companion series of videos I did on the Openfit app to explain what’s going on and help you eliminate added sugars, refined carbs and artificial sweeteners—and deal with sugar cravings. (And I mean simple; we created three ways to do the program, depending on whether you like to cook, are willing to cook, or don’t cook at all.) One of the biggest takeaways I got during my three weeks: Just because you’re having a “craving” or “want” something sweet doesn’t mean you have to eat sugar—or even pop a sugar replacement, such as a piece of fruit—on impulse.
How to resist sugar cravings
You can fortify your resistance to sugar cravings by understanding what’s really going on. Sometimes the source of cravings can be uncovered if you take a closer look at what you’re eating and when. Factors to address include:
1) Have a snack strategy
If you’re having afternoon sugar cravings, work an afternoon snack into your routine. Try guacamole with cucumber “chips,” whipped ricotta with roasted cherries, or even hard-boiled eggs with Everything but the Bagel seasoning.
2) Pace your meals properly
This may require some work, but it’s important to plan your eating cadence ahead of time. This can help prevent you from getting too hungry during the day, which leads to voracious munching and overeating.
3) Adjust your mealtimes
I personally eat breakfast in the morning, lunch at lunchtime, etc. If you feel tired or cravings are hitting, identify times of the day. For example, after a few days of observation, you might conclude that around 3 PM every day, your energy is depleted, you crave sugar, and you feel extremely hungry. This might be a signal to add a protein-filled snack at this time of day to power through—maybe a shake, or two hard-boiled eggs, or a handful of nuts, or have some apple slices with peanut butter. Not only will this make you feel better instantly, it also sets you ups for a better evening, and fewer cravings around bedtime.
4) Spice things up
It’s possible to get stuck in an eating rut, eating the same simple meals every day because you know they’re “safe.” But as they say, variety is the spice of life—and spice is a savior when you’re swapping out sugar. Some of the best unique flavors are derived from easily accessible spices that don’t contain any added sugar.
5) Identify your favorites
If you’re eating a salad with grilled chicken and it’s totally unsatisfying, you’re going to crave a sweet more in the afternoon as opposed to if you enjoyed a healthy taco salad that might be really satisfying. Work harder to figure out what you love so you’re satisfied in general—so you don’t feel deprived. I try to keep it simple and pick two go-to breakfasts, two go-to lunches, and two go-to dinners each week so I can stay consistent.
6) Get curious
Explore new recipes, try some new fruits and vegetables you’ve never even heard of, or combine different ingredients to create new dishes. By switching up what you’re eating from day to day, you. might find a new delicious dish that gets you excited about Tuesday night’s dinner.
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