• Margaret Kavanagh Nutrition

9 Ways To Crush Your Sugar Cravings

Craving sugar? You’re certainly not alone. Sugar can feel like it has SO much power over us on a daily basis. “How do I deal with sugar cravings?” is one of the things I get asked about most frequently so I wanted to share my top tips for dealing with your cravings!

1. Breakfast

We’ve all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and for good reason. Blood sugar imbalances are one of the primary causes of food cravings, so ensuring you’re fueling your body properly from the get-go will give you the best chance.

When we eat fast-release carbs – think white bread and toast, cereal and pastries – this creates fluctuations in our blood sugar levels. These carbs break down quickly into simple sugars, causing a spike in blood sugar which is followed by a sharp drop. It’s when this drop occurs that we experience cravings for sweet or starchy foods. If you’re guilty of eating a less-than-perfect breakfast (or skip it entirely), I recommend basing your breakfast around protein, healthy fats and fiber-rich vegetables. Any form of eggs, or a smoothie with protein powder, are great options.

2. Lunch Matters

What you eat for lunch will set you up for the rest of the afternoon, both in terms of brain power and energy levels. Load up on fiber and protein and add a slice or two of avocado to keep you fuller for longer, as fats slow digestion. A meal that lacks protein and fiber (think a green juice and a vegetable sushi roll with white rice) digests quickly, leaving your body looking for an afternoon pick-me-up. The best way to avoid a 4pm craving is to ensure you eat a substantial lunch based around a source of protein (think eggs, fish, organic meat, tofu or tempeh), a moderate serving of healthy fats (olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, nuts or seeds) and fibre-rich foods (pulses like beans, lentils, chickpeas and vegetables are good sources).

3. Use Spices

If you’re prone to sweet cravings, it’s worth stocking up on cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, which will naturally sweeten food and reduce cravings without adding actual sugar. Cinnamon appears to help the body control the amount of sugar in our blood, evening out the highs and lows that can induce cravings. One study found participants who used a small teaspoon of cinnamon per day maintained lower blood sugar levels after a glucose tolerance test than those who weren’t taking cinnamon. Sprinkling Cinnamon on your porridge, or having it in tea is a great way to quash a sweet craving.

4. Get Your Sleep

When we’re tired, our bodies tend to use sugar for energy to counteract the exhaustion, meaning you’ll crave it more after a bad night’s sleep. Don’t underestimate the role sleep plays when it comes to cravings and hunger levels. A lack of sleep affects the hormones that regulate appetite and satiety, making us feel hungrier and less satisfied from the food we do eat. It’s a significant driver of food cravings.

5. Stay Hydrated

Cravings for salty food such as crisps or popcorn could be a sign of dehydration. When you’re dehydrated, you lose sodium (i.e. salt) which is a key electrolyte. However, drinking too much fluid can also lower your sodium levels, so it’s important to try to get the balance right. Sometimes, craving salt may just be because you like the taste of it and want a salty snack. Government advice is to consume no more than 6g salt per day, but if you are looking for a healthier salted snack, consider olives in brine, a small portion of salted nuts or a portion of roasted chickpeas.

6. Plan Ahead

If you’re craving a treat, give yourself a healthy option. There are snacks out there that taste indulgent without being loaded with sugar and less-than-wholesome ingredients. Aim to combine fiber, protein and healthy fats – a couple of Nairn’s Oat Cakes & Meridian Almond Butter is a quick and satisfying snack option.

7. Take A Supplement

While by no means a miracle solution, a supporting supplement could give you a helping hand when getting on top of cravings. I’m a big fan of adaptogenic herbs like rhodiola and ashwagandha, which can help reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol (which could be linked to your cravings), especially when coupled with other stress reduction techniques like meditation and deep breathing.

8. Understand The Craving

It’s important to understand where your cravings are coming from in the first place. More often than not, they’re the result of psychological drivers, such as certain emotions or particular situations that act as a trigger. If you experience regular cravings and want to get to the bottom of them, you need to get in tune with your emotional triggers. Start a food diary, noting down what you eat and how you feel at the time. By doing this, you can start to connect certain feelings with your desire for particular foods. For example, you might notice you’re more likely to raid the biscuit tin when experiencing high stress, highlighting the need to implement some stress reduction techniques.

9. Honour Your Hunger Signals

Cravings can sometimes be a sign you’re not eating enough. For example, if you’ve recently started exercising more and find you’re hungrier than usual, particularly for carb-rich foods like bread, pasta and potatoes, this could be a sign you’re under-fuelling. It’s essentially your body’s way of telling you to replenish your energy stores. While it isn’t always easy to tell the difference between physical hunger and hunger triggered by your emotions, understanding the source craving, can help us respond – or not – to the craving.

Want to know more?

Then please join my free 'Crush Your Cravings' Masterclass on Thursday June 9th at 5pm GMT. To register click HERE to secure your spot.

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