You may not believe it, but the amount of sugar in the average American diet is a whopping 150 pounds per year!
It is crazy to think that people are knowingly consuming that much sugar, but the reality is quite a bit different.
Less than 20 percent of sugar that is consumed is table sugar. While we know that candy isn’t much more than sugar in colorful wrappings, hidden sugars in regular foods are the real evil. Ketchup, bread, yogurt, and peanut butter all contain added sugars. So the next time you think of sugar remember that it is not always so obvious. Make sure what you are eating is actually good for you.
The most obvious way to make a healthy choice in regards to sugar is to limit the amount of it you intake. As we said above, sugar is in so many of our foods that we are getting it even when we think we’re not. In addition, sugar is so omnipresent that it has a way of affecting your mind and body when you try to remove it from your diet.
Image Credit: Lauren Lionheart
To help kick those intense sugar cravings, here are six tips to ensure that you are on your way to a better you:
Tip #1: Reduce Your Stress
It is not possible to rid all the stress from a person’s life, but you should work to reduce your stress levels.
Stress is a trigger that causes cravings for sugary foods. There are a few ways to reduce stress and in turn, reduce sugar cravings: Exercise, especially intense exercise, and regularly get a full nights rest. Anxiety and stress will make you want to turn to sugar for a quick fix. When you eat carbs it releases serotonin in your brain that helps ease stress by way of a “feel good” neurotransmitter.
Tip #2: Go “Cold Turkey”
To quit anything “cold turkey” is not easy, but in the long run it will pay off.
Going “cold turkey” means removing all sources of sugar, includes fruit, juices, and packaged foods. While this may seem like overkill, rest assured that this is what it takes to rid your mind and body of sugar cravings. Typically, a week is recommended, but it could take longer to really kick the sugar habit.
Be aware that there are some side effects to completely removing sugar from your diet. You may have headaches, body aches, and feeling slow or sluggish. To reduce the length of headaches, make sure to drink enough water. On average these side effects are gone within three days..
Once you have completed your fast and slowly begin introducing healthy amounts of real sugar (i.e., from fruit and vegetables) into your diet, it may surprise you how sweet typical foods are. Be aware that you can easily reverse all your hard work by reverting back to your old ways of eating large amounts sugar-laden foods.
Tip #3: No Artificial Sweeteners
While these types of sweeteners are zero calories and are sugar free, your body does not view it as such.
Studies have shown that sucralose, better known as Splenda, can cause an insulin spike and show a blood glucose response. This is not good for those who are trying to control sugar intake or dieting in general. Sugar cravings will increase if artificial sweeteners are being consumed on a regular basis because this type of fake sugar will cause you to crave more, real sugar.
Diet soda is an example of a product that contains artificial sweeteners. If you struggle with giving up diet sodas or flavored drinks, try club soda or seltzer water with a squeeze of lemon or lime for extra flavor.
Tip #4: Eat A High-Protein Breakfast
It is basic knowledge that starting your day off with a good breakfast will ensure your best performance throughout the day, but what does that look like?
Far too often our breakfasts are sugar based. By eating pancakes, juice, and cereal you are loading up on carbs and sugary foods that will create sugar cravings throughout the day. A healthy, protein based breakfast, such as eggs and bacon, along with some green vegetables, will keep you feel full and satisfied for a longer period of time than your traditional carb heavy breakfast.
Tip #5: Eat Healthy Fats
By eating a small amount of healthy saturated fats, such as coconut oil, many people have found they can better control their sugar cravings.
I know of someone who takes up to a tablespoon of coconut oil accompanied by a drink of water first thing in the morning. This dose of healthy fat is enough to keep his hunger at bay, and is key in making sure he avoids extra sugars. Be careful about how much you consume though, if you are not used to this type of oil. It can cause stomach discomfort at first, and should be taken a teaspoon at a time until you work up to a tablespoon. Extra virgin coconut oils tend to taste better, with a pleasant slight coconut flavor.
You don’t have to eat oil though, you can opt to eat half an avocado with your meals for another good hit of healthy fats. By eating more healthy fats you provide your body with quick energy, and you’ll keep blood sugar levels low.
Tip #6: Exercise
Sugar cravings can hit you at any point of the day. Make sure you have a good distraction to get through those difficult times. Walking and jogging are great examples of moving that will keep you away from the cookie jar. Drop and pump out a set of pushups or situps, or do jumping jacks. These are all quick and easy movements that you can train yourself to do in place of a sugar “fix.”
Kicking those sugar cravings is no simple task, but the reward – better health, more weight loss – will be worth it in the end.
Don’t beat yourself up if it isn’t fixed all at once. Even if you become overwhelmed and eat something sugary in the moment, just get back on the right path. Expect that difficulties will crop up when you are trying to change your diet, but in the long run you WILL feel better!
Elyssa Blissenbach, M.D., is a Board Certified Internist who has practiced medicine for more than 15 years. She is the founder of Blissful Wellness, a medically supervised weight loss clinic within her practice to help patients safely lose weight. She also offers low-carbohydrate food products online at LowCarbCabana.com, where readers can enjoy 10% off their purchase of $100 or more with coupon code LCC10100 (one-time use/one coupon per customer).