If you get sugar cravings, we've got some good news – that’s totally normal. Sugar is delicious and a quick fuel for our body. Although simple sugars can give you a rapid burst of energy, they also make your blood sugar drop back down just as quickly.
If you can develop eating habits focused on complex carbs and other macronutrients, you’re more likely to find sustainable energy that can help limit those sugar cravings. This article breaks down fifteen ways to reduce that sweet-tooth.
Why do we get sugar cravings?
Our body is actually wired to crave sugar – eating carbohydrates leads to release of serotonin, the feel-good hormone. Because sugar is a simple carbohydrate (that digests easily), it leads to the release of serotonin, making high sugar foods “comforting”.1 As well as triggering the feel-good hormone, eating sugar also releases dopamine, telling your brain that you’re happy.
This positive feedback cycle makes you crave sugar, and overtime with high sugar consumption can require even more sugar to get the same “good” feelings.2
Although sugar makes us feel good, too much sugar in our diets can lead to obesity, and different heart health related problems. If you are concerned about your sugar intake, reducing your cravings can be a beneficial step to preventing the overconsumption of calories from sugar.
How to stop sugar cravings
If you learn some ways to stop sugar cravings you can likely be successful with reducing your overall sugar intake. Try the following tips to prevent and stop sugar cravings:
1. Eat satisfying foods
Your body craves sugar when you need energy. Even when you’re trying to lose weight and limit calories, make sure you’re fuelling your body properly to prevent those major crashes that lead to sugar cravings.
2. Plan your meals
This includes snacks. If you have the time and you know your target calories or macros (you can calculate them here), having a plan is the best way to avoid sugar cravings. Whether you make your meal plan for the week or just the day ahead, it's easier to stay on track when you have a plan to follow.
3. Hit your protein goals
Protein is not only great for building muscle; it also helps us feel satisfied. Protein takes time to digest, preventing the feeling of hunger and limiting sugar cravings.
Our protein powders can help you meet your daily goals, and give you that sweet kick – try some of our shake recipes here...
4. Fill up with fibre
In combination with protein, make sure you’re getting some fibre with each meal – whether low sugar fruits, vegetables, or whole grains, these complex carbs provide sustained energy that will keep you satisfied.
Tip: Flax seeds are full of fibre and are an easy addition to your morning porridge!
5. Don’t avoid fats
Fats are high in calories but provide necessary nutrients and also slow down digestion (like protein) to keep you feeling full and avoiding sugar cravings. Think avocado toast in the morning or natural peanut butter with apple slices as a snack.
6. Identify your triggers
Are you actually craving sugar, or is just part of your habits? If you always have a sweet treat after your lunch or after your dinner, re-work your schedule to find something else to do after a meal. Whether it’s taking a walk or cleaning up or calling a friend, find another activity to help you prevent sugar cravings and create a new routine.
7. Use fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth
We know that fruit is a natural source of sugar, but it also contains fibre and water that make the sugar digest more slowly and not cause the dramatic ups and downs like refined sugars.
Having fruit planned into your meals (see #2) and easily available (like sitting out on the counter or on your desk) makes it an easy choice instead of digging through the cabinets for any biscuits that might be lying around.
8. Limit artificial sweeteners
While artificial sweeteners don’t contain sugar, they can still be habit forming. If you only enjoy super-sweet foods, it can be difficult to also limit the real sources of sugar in your diet. So, focus on natural sugars like fruits.
9. Delay your cravings
If you really want a sweet treat, tell yourself you’ll think about it again in 5 minutes and get busy doing something else. By the time 5 minutes is over, you’ll likely have moved on with your day and forget you even had a sugar craving.
10. Drink a calorie free beverage
Oftentimes we choose to snack because we are bored or feeling happy or sad. Find a calorie free beverage that you enjoy instead. Whether it’s ice-cold water with lemon or a plain cup of tea, have these choices easily accessible to help you stay hydrated and avoid sugar.
Black coffee or tea can also give you that energy boost from caffeine if you’re really dragging.
11. Make a list of alternative activities
Are there simple tasks you’ve been avoiding or need to accomplish? If you need to call to make an appointment or clean out a messy drawer, have a hard copy list of these tasks that you can do to keep yourself busy and avoid the sugar craving.
This will also help you accomplish more of these annoying little tasks that we so often put off!
12. Have portion controlled options available
Some sources of sugar can provide other benefits – like the antioxidants in dark chocolate. Have a bar of 70% cocoa or higher dark chocolate available and allow yourself one small portion daily to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Check out our low sugar snacks for other ideas.
13. Take care of your body
Are you recovering adequately with rest days and getting enough sleep? If you’re constantly exhausted and low on energy it can be much more difficult to avoid sugar cravings. Make sure you’re resting enough after the gym, getting quality sleep, and feeding your body with the nutrients it needs.
14. Make sure you’re eating enough
Calorie deficits are necessary for weight loss but cutting calories too low can lead you feeling tired and lethargic – often making you crave sugar even more. Beat sugar cravings by making sure you’re getting plenty of calories from healthy carbs, protein, and fats.
15. Allow yourself an occasional treat
If you do a great job avoiding sugar cravings most days, enjoying a slice of cake here and there and having your grandmas famous trifle isn’t the end of the world. Notice how much more you really enjoy the occasional sugar indulgence rather than having sugar daily.
You can treat yourself and still get your protein up too...try our High-Protein Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies:
Take Home Message
While we know that sugar is not good for our bodies, it is also totally normal to have sugar cravings. To really beat sugar cravings, make sure you are giving your body all of the best energy sources from protein, healthy carbs and healthy fats, and take care over your body so that it is well rested and less likely to drive you to choose sugar for a quick fix of energy.
Taking a walk, drinking plain tea, or changing up your routine can be just as effective at giving you the boost of energy you need – while benefiting your health.
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Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you're concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.
- Koopman, K. E., Booij, J., Fliers, E., Serlie, M. J., & La Fleur, S. E. (2013). Diet-induced changes in the lean brain: hypercaloric high-fat-high-sugar snacking decreases serotonin transporters in the human hypothalamic region. Molecular metabolism, 2(4), 417-422.
- Avena, N. M., Rada, P., & Hoebel, B. G. (2008). Evidence for sugar addiction: behavioral and neurochemical effects of intermittent, excessive sugar intake. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 32(1), 20-39.
Claire is a Registered Dietitian through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a board-certified Health and Wellness Coach through the International Consortium for Health and Wellness Coaching. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master’s degree in Clinical Dietetics and Nutrition from the University of Pittsburgh.
Talking and writing about food and fitness is at the heart of Claire’s ethos as she loves to use her experience to help others meet their health and wellness goals.
Claire is also a certified indoor cycling instructor and loves the mental and physical boost she gets from regular runs and yoga classes. When she’s not keeping fit herself, she’s cheering on her hometown’s sports teams in Pittsburgh, or cooking for her family in the kitchen.
Find out more about Claire’s experience here.