Tips to reduce and respond to sugar cravings.
As you seek healthy ways to satisfy a sweet tooth, it must first be said that sugar cravings are a very common human experience. In fact, some research shows that as many as 97% of women and 68% of men experience some type of food cravings, with chocolate ranking at the top of the list.
Even though they’re a perfectly normal experience, sugar cravings can be challenging. Because they often feel intense or uncontrollable, sugar cravings have the potential to hijack your focus, interfere with your goals for healthy living, and increase your risk for cavities. Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take to help reduce and respond to sugar cravings—without depriving yourself of sweet tastes. Here are 8 simple, healthy ways to help you satisfy a sweet tooth and support your overall wellbeing, starting today.
1. Know your sweet alternatives.
When it comes to managing sugar cravings, start by cutting back on treats and beverages with added sugars in favor of foods that are naturally sweet, like pears, apples, dates, bananas, carrots, sweet potatoes, berries, and dried fruit without added sugar. As well as offering a dose of sweetness, eating fruits and vegetables gives your body essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.
If chocolate is typically your go-to treat, consider switching to dark chocolate instead, which tends to have less added sugar. Though dark chocolate may be higher in calories (thanks to its healthy fat content), a little bit can go a long way in satiating your craving while also providing fiber, copper, magnesium, and manganese.
For a sweet drink that isn’t loaded with added sugars (like energy drinks and sodas), you can try coconut water, sparkling water, fruit-flavored hot tea, or cinnamon-flavored coffee. Cinnamon has been shown to reduce cravings by managing insulin sensitivity, and can be added to many sweet and savory meals, drinks, and treats.
2. And keep a stash where you need it.
You can set yourself up for sugar craving success by ensuring you have easy access to healthier alternatives where and when you need it. Start by identifying when you tend to get sugar cravings, like after your lunch break at work or when you get home in the evening, and ensure you always have some sweet alternatives (see #1) at the ready. For example, if you tend to crave something sweet and creamy while working, you can keep plain yogurt in the office fridge and dried fruit at your desk. Mix them together, and voilà—you’ve got a creamy treat that’s sweet, filling, and healthy.
3. Prioritize good hydration.
Your entire body depends on good hydration to feel its best every day. When adequate hydration is lacking, you may experience symptoms that are similar to those when you’re hungry, such as food cravings, headaches, fatigue, lack of focus, and irritability.
While having a meal routine can help prevent blood sugar crashes and cravings, having a glass of water upon waking and sipping water throughout the day can assist your brain and body in getting the water they need. You can even try drinking a glass of water when experiencing a sugar craving. Even if drinking a glass of water doesn’t always make your cravings subside, you will still have provided your body with an essential nutrient it needs to function optimally.
4. And high quality sleep.
Did you know that a poor night’s sleep can signal your brain to crave sweets, activating your sweet tooth? This is also associated with weight gain. While a good night’s sleep replenishes your body’s energy, inadequate sleep can leave you feeling sluggish throughout the day. In order to keep you awake and moving, your brain may trigger you to seek out energy from starchy or sugary treats.
You can help ensure a good night’s rest by getting the treatment you (or your partner) needs for snoring and sleep apnea, following a relaxing bedtime routine, and creating a sleeping environment that is cool, dark, quiet, and calming.
5. Keep stress in check.
Ongoing stress challenges your health in so many ways, including your blood sugar and appetite. Stress triggers the release of the hormone cortisol, which raises your blood sugar by releasing glucose from your liver. These swings in blood sugar levels can trigger cravings, especially when compounded with other areas of self-care that tend to slip when we’re stressed, such as good hydration and sleep (see #3 and #4).
Though all of life’s demands can’t be eliminated, regularly practicing self-care can help you get a handle on cravings and enjoy improved physical and mental wellbeing. Many forms of self-care, like visiting Dr. Sexton for your oral health needs, have the added benefits of preventing oral health issues before they become a source of stress or pain. Visits to a preventative and family dentist for regular cleanings can help you prevent and treat cavities, TMJ issues, and gum disease. A restorative and cosmetic dentist can help you correct damage, decay, or cosmetic imperfections, so you can smile, speak, and chew with confidence and ease.
6. Eat a high-protein breakfast.
Have you ever wondered if breakfast really is the most important meal of the day? If you’re working to curb cravings, the age-old adage to prioritize your first meal may carry a kernel of truth. Recent research shows that eating a healthy high-protein breakfast can help you feel full and satisfied, reducing hunger and cravings throughout the day. Instead of just reaching for toast or cereal, you can look for ways to include foods like eggs, turkey bacon, quinoa, Greek yogurt, and chia seeds into your breakfast routine.
7. Take a walk.
Alongside boosting your immune system, reducing stress, and promoting a healthy weight, taking a walk can help you keep food and sugar cravings at bay. The next time you’re stressed or feel a craving coming on, try changing the scenery by going for a brisk 15-minute walk outside.
8. Above all, be kind to yourself.
Dealing with sugar cravings or your sweet tooth can be stressful. Instead of giving yourself a hard time for experiencing or giving into a craving, you may find a greater benefit from treating yourself with a sense of loving kindness. Practicing self-compassion can help you feel relaxed and safe, which can soothe stress and help you move forward with your health goals, one step at a time.
On your journey toward maintaining and achieving your highest potential for wellbeing, Dr. Sexton and his entire team are devoted to providing you and the entire Wayland, MI, community with comprehensive and compassionate preventative, restorative, and cosmetic dentistry in an environment that’s relaxing and welcoming. To enjoy a nourishing dose of practical self-care, schedule your next dentistry appointment today.