Sugar Cravings: 4 Reasons They Happen and How to Stop Them

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Sugar cravings affect everyone—myself and Natalie Jill included. Clients ask us both about this all the time, so we thought we’d explain why they happen and what you can do to fight them. The key to dealing with them is to start with understanding why you’re getting them in the first place.

Then, once you’re armed with that knowledge, you can make necessary changes to lessen them in the future while also having a healthy plan in place to deal with them in a conscious manner when they pay you a visit.

For more on why you’re craving sugar, scroll down to read up on the four most common causes and what to do when that sweet tooth strikes.

4 Reasons You Have Sugar Cravings

1. Sugar Craving Cause: You didn’t eat enough, or you ate the wrong things

When you don’t eat enough calories, your body starts looking for fuel fast as a way to catch up. So what do you do? Crave sugar! As you know, sugar gives you quick energy, even though it’s not necessarily good energy.


How to Stop the Craving

So one way to get around this little conundrum is to just choose something sweet with artificial sweetener in it, right? Wrong! So, so wrong. Artificial sweeteners might momentarily satisfy that sweet craving, but they trick your body into thinking it’s getting fuel when it’s not. Your body soon goes looking for more calories in the form of, you guessed it, sugar, and you’re right back where you started.

Calories are the only thing that provides real energy, so eat them consistently, in the form of whole foods, and break the sugar cravings cycle once and for all.


2. Sugar Craving Cause: You picked up a bad habit

Some people smack their gum without even realizing it. Some people have picked their fingernails their entire lives. And, sigh, some people eat a chocolate bar every day at 3:00 p.m., because, well, they eat a chocolate bar every day at 3:00 p.m. Yep, bad habits.

When something becomes habit, especially when it comes to food, you have to ask yourself: Are you even aware you’re doing it? Do you really want to be doing it? Are you truly craving what you are eating? When you’re really hungry and you haven’t eaten enough throughout the day, breaking a 3:00 p.m. vending machine run is going to be tough. But if you start to eat more consistently throughout the day and get in enough and the right types of calories, then your defenses are up and it’s easier to change the habit.


How to Stop the Craving

One thing I always suggest that people do to change the habit is to go for a sweet herbal tea when they have a craving. This works particularly well for my afternoon chocoholics. I don’t mean sweet like adding sugar, but rather a naturally sweet tea such as apple spice or vanilla almond that has no calories and nothing artificial in it. I’m telling you, this works.

3. Sugar Craving Cause: You ate too much starch and not enough fat and/or protein

When you eat a heavy, starchy meal, like a giant bowl of grandma’s spaghetti, you’re pretty much setting yourself up for a guaranteed gelato craving. All that pasta with no fiber or protein (and depending upon the sauce, perhaps not enough fat, either) is like a big bowl of sugar. Those calories are absorbed fast and they do not keep you feeling full or satisfied. In other words, that big bowl of sugar doesn’t provide satiety like protein or fat does.


How to Stop the Craving

What’s a pasta lover to do? First, practice proper portion control. And, add a portion of lean protein. You need a little protein to help you feel satisfied, and/or a little olive oil for some healthy fat. I also suggest a big bowl of veggies with lean protein, topped off with a little pasta—versus the other way around. Another trick is to make friends with spaghetti squash in place of spaghetti. Grandma will still love you. Satiety is the name of the game here, people.


4. Sugar Craving Cause: You chowed down on salty foods

When you dine out or eat packaged, processed foods, your food has more sodium in it than you probably even realize. This usually remains true even when you’re eating something clean like grilled salmon and sautéed or steamed spinach from your fave “healthy” restaurant. Here’s the kicker: the saltier your food, the bigger your sweet craving.


How to Stop the Craving

The first step here is to be aware that this may happen to you. Then, the more you skip the chips or fries, the less you’ll want the donuts or cookies. When you eat more naturally salty foods like cheese or olives, your sweet cravings will lessen, and you’ll tend to go for naturally sweet snacks like herbal tea or fruit when that craving comes on. See? Choosing clean foods leads to choosing more clean foods, no matter what the craving.

Source: by By Keri Glassman, MS, RD