I used to get extreme sugar cravings. Mostly when I was a sugar addict. I never admitted to myself that I was but if I look back, yup, I had a problem. I had to have something sweet after dinner or a chocolate at lunch. When I hit a slump at 3 pm at my desk then I would need something sweet to 'pick me up'. Sugar in my tea and syrup with my peanut butter toast. All loaded with refined sugar and SO not good for me.
I learnt that in life balance is possible and it has since become my mantra. It has taken time, practise and patience with myself. It's a journey and one that I am still working on. I want freedom with food and to have a healthy relationship with food. This blog post is not here to promote extremes but by all means, if it works for your body to completely cut out sugar then listen to that. The reality is that sugar is an inflammatory food and it isn't good for you in a refined form and studies have shown that it is responsible for diseases such as diabetes, chronic migraines, obesity and cystic acne. The scary thing is how many products have hidden sugar in them or label the sugar as something else. Make sure you read the ingredients on labels, not how many calories you are consuming because not all calories are created equal. Sugar is highly addictive and sends more serotonin to the brain than cocaine. Here is a list of few names to look out for and avoid:
- Corn syrup or high-fructose corn syrup
- Dextrose or crystal dextrose
- Evaporated cane juice or fruit juice
- Carob syrup
- Brown sugar
- Raw sugar
- Dextrin and maltodextrin
- Rice syrup
- Evaporated corn sweetener
- Confectioner’s powdered sugar
- Agave nectar (really spikes blood sugar even though it’s natural)
- Other fruit nectars (for example, pear nectar) - be careful of this as most orange juices will claim 100% fruit juice but if you read the ingredients you will soon realise this is not the case.
I personally do not have a problem with fruit. I don't eat too much and when I do; I feel like I am indulging. Fruit can be packed with vitamins and fibre and can help bust a sugar craving. I try to have my fruit with a handful of nuts such as almonds since the combination of fibre and fat keeps my blood sugar stable and satiates me.
When you first undertake to quit sugar it is going to be hard. You might even experience physical reactions such as headaches and nausea. The detox is real and I suggest that you commit to breaking through this barrier. I upped my water intake during the first week (a good habit to adopt in general) and I focused on taking in high protein foods with high fibre dark leafy greens and veg. Having meals that are nourishing helped me be 'full' and happy. I also learnt that allowing myself to get hungry was not a good idea. Catch yourself before you are hungry and invariably end up in a space where you'll make bad decisions. Focus on what your triggers are and what makes you feel weak at the moment, then focus on avoiding it. Set yourself up to succeed.
Here are a few things I do that help me when I am craving sugar:
1 - I enjoy a big cup of herbal tea without sugar or milk. I find that peppermint helps me bust a craving or chai tea. The spices let the brain think you are having something sweet.
2 - I indulge in a piece of good quality dark chocolate. Paired with a cup of peppermint tea - its a match made in heaven.
3 - I keep fresh majool dates in the fridge. I don't overindulge in them as they are still sugar but they are a natural sugar and when they are cold, they go like fudge. Give them a try! One is usually enough.
4 - I up my dark leafy greens when I am craving chocolate. Especially around my period. I find that it not only helps with cravings but it also helps with bloat.
5 - Have a big glass of water and if you can add a teaspoon or two of apple cider vinegar. Make sure it is unfiltered with the mother. More often than not when I am craving food - its actually thirst. Did you know that one of the first symptoms of dehydration is hunger? Before I would just go for the fridge and binge on everything in front of me. Now I am more connected to my body and I have a glass of water when I feel like snacking on sugar, give it twenty minutes then see how I feel.
6 - Eat a high protein snack instead of the sugar. Try having some carrot sticks and hummus or a boiled egg. This helps me and often fills me up until my next meal.
7 - If I feel for a treat, I have some sliced apple drizzled with almond butter. I try to have this mid-morning not later in the afternoon. Focus on high protein food in the afternoon rather than sugar. This also helps me with over eating at dinner.
When I find myself craving something super decadent and indulging, I make myself this smoothie. It's better than any milkshake out there and filled with natural goodness that won't leave you feeling awful about it afterwards.
- 1/2 cup frozen or fresh blueberries
- 1/2 frozen banana
- 1 tablespoon almond butter
- 1 tablespoon pea protein powder
- 1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds
- 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
- 1 teaspoon chia seeds
- 1 cup almond milk, unsweetened
- 2 blocks of ice
Add all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. If it is too thick then add a little almond milk to thin it out. I personally like it thick. Serve cold topped with a drizzle of almond butter and berries.