5 ways to stop sugar cravings before they start, dietitian says: Eat this, not that

No, there is no magic pill to stop sugar cravings. However, sugar cravings are easier to manage when you know what’s causing them in the first place, according to Lisa Moskovitz, RD, Executive Director and author of The Core 3 Healthy Eating Plan and a member of our board of medical experts.

“While sometimes a sugar craving is a signal that your body needs more energy and carbohydrates, it can also be triggered by stress and strong emotions,” says Moskovitz. “That said, the first step to curbing sugar cravings is learning more about the why behind them.”

Here are the methods Moskovitz recommends to eliminate a sugar craving before it takes over. Then for more healthy tips, check out our list of 9 Healthy Eating Habits to Live Over a Century.

Woman writing in a food diary with egg toast carrots coffee on the table

“Writing in a journal can be an effective modality to explore why you’re choosing certain foods and whether you’re missing something in your diet that might trigger strong cravings,” says Moskovitz. “If you can identify the cause, or even if you can’t, it can still be difficult to turn it off.”

Once you’re aware of certain triggers (like not getting enough satiating macronutrients like protein and healthy fats), then it may be easier to make some changes to your meals to help with long-term sugar cravings.

“For that reason, finding alternatives to satisfy your sweet tooth can help prevent overconsumption of added sugar,” says Moskovitz. “Examples include fresh or dried fruit, salted nuts, light ice cream, low-sugar chocolate, chocolate-covered fruit or nuts, and high-fiber cereals or chips.”

sporty man drinking water outdoors on sunny summer day

If you’ve seen any health guru tell you to drink water to suppress your food cravings… well, they’re not entirely wrong. A study published in Physiology and Behavior found that hydration status alters the desire to eat. While the study participants ate similar amounts of food, their food cravings changed when they were adequately hydrated. The researchers also found that water can help with feelings of fullness, which helps curb sugar cravings in the long run.

eat healthy liver

Yes, your blood sugar level and your food cravings are certainly related. Data published in nutrients in 2020 found that those who followed a low-carb diet (which won’t cause massive spikes and dips in blood sugar) had a greater reduction in sugar cravings. A healthier diet rich in protein, fiber, and healthy fats will help control blood sugar spikes, which in turn helps with sugar cravings during blood sugar crashes.

eating dessert

It may seem counterintuitive, but if you’re really looking to stop a craving, many dietitians would say that simply eating a portion the size of the meal you’re craving will help you feel full, rather than trying to satisfy the craving with a healthier alternative.

“Some people may go down the path of avoiding sugar altogether. While this may work for some, it can backfire on others,” says Moskovitz. “In that case, going for the real deal might be the only way to indulge your craving so you can move on. As long as your sweet treat doesn’t replace other nutritious foods in your diet, it’s perfectly healthy to incorporate desserts or anything sugary-flavored into your diet.” Having that dessert after dinner can often be a helpful habit to regularly consume a more balanced and nutritious diet.”

RELATED: The #1 Best Berry for High Blood Sugar

grilled dessert

Another clever trick to curb your sugar craving is to combine that sweet treat with something nutritious and filling.

If you notice that allowing any type of added sugar tends to lead to more sugar cravings, pair what you’re craving with foods that are nutritious and satisfying.Moskovitz says. “For example, instead of just eating chocolate or just eating an apple, combine the two. Instead of opting for just ice cream or nuts, top your ice cream with fiber- and protein-rich almonds or walnuts.”

kiersten hickman

Kiersten Hickman is a freelance health and nutrition journalist. read more

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