20 Hacks to Crack Your Sugar Addiction
Sugar tastes good and is the first taste humans prefer. We associate happy occasions with sweets. Indulging in a sweet treat occasionally is harmless, but when we over consume sugary foods, it leads to health hazards. The American Heart Association recommends only 6 teaspoons per day for women and 9 for men, inclusive of all forms of sugar that come from natural foods like fruits and vegetables, processed foods, breads, juices, sauces, yogurt etc.
Sugar is a carbohydrate and stimulates the release of serotonin, the feel-good brain chemical. Sugar also releases endorphins that calm and relax us and gives us a natural ‘high’.
However, we eat sugar all the time, without even realizing it. Sugar is added to foods that don’t taste sweet such as breads, sauces, crackers and even salad dressings that add up to our sweet allotment. But for a heart-healthy lifestyle, it is important to keep tabs on how much sugar you consume. Empty calories from sugary foods will not only add up to your weight but will also result in spikes in blood glucose levels.
Here’s how to stop those sugar cravings:
- When you crave, indulge a little. Try to stop within a 150-calorie limit.
- Combine a sweet with a healthful food. If you love chocolate, dip a fruit like a strawberry or banana in chocolate sauce or mix chocolates with nuts to fill yourself up.
- For some, going cold turkey works best. After the initial 48 to 72 hours, which may seem difficult, over time our taste buds can be trained to be sated with less sugar. For some, cutting back slowly works. Reduce added sugar in your beverages, cereals, yogurt etc, starting with half and cutting down further over time.
- Chewing gum reduces sweet cravings but you must weed out the gum habit over time!
- Ideally satiate your sugar craving with a fruit that will give you fiber and nutrients.
- Add fresh fruits like bananas or dried fruits like raisins and apricots to cereal or oatmeal instead of sugar or honey.
- Track your sugar intake for a week. Knowing that you are allowed 24 grams or 6 teaspoons of sugar a day will give help you restrict your sugar to the day’s allotment.
- Identify and keep trigger foods away from your kitchen or work table.
- Hydrating gives you energy but your drinks should not be loaded with sugar or chemicals. Eliminate soft drinks and non-diet beverages. Water quells appetite and improves metabolism.
- Eating small meals at regular intervals helps. If you starve for long hours, the tendency is to eat without control because your body is afraid to go into starvation mode again!
- Replace sweet treats with power-drinks like smoothies made of fruits, veggies, yogurt or non-dairy milk. Choose healthier dark chocolate instead of sugary milk chocolate.
- Fresh or canned fruit drained to remove excess syrup can substitute for sweet treats effectively.
- Develop the habit of reading food labels and go for those with low or nil amount of added sugars. Also, check out for sugar aliases where sugar hides under names like fructose, corn syrup, maple syrup, dried cane syrup, molasses and sucrose.
- Cut the sugar while baking to one-third or one-half in the recipes for cookies, cakes or brownies. It will not make much difference.
- Extracts like almond, vanilla, lemon zests can be added instead of sugar in recipes.
- Spices enhance food taste. Use ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg etc instead of sugar. Cinnamon is known to naturally regulate blood sugar and control appetite.
- Replace sugar with proteins and fat such as adding almonds to your cereals or having an egg with your breakfast instead of added sugar.
- Healthy fats like avocados, nuts, seeds and heart-healthy oils like olive oil, coconut oil, etc, keep your stomach fuller for longer periods and help cut down on sugar cravings.
- Avoid artificial sugars in foods like diet drinks.
- Set rules for occasional indulgence when you want to enjoy a dessert such as after dinner or only during weekends or at a restaurant or during special occasions.
Once you cut down on sugar, your taste buds will adjust. Soon super-sweet treats will taste too sweet. You can appreciate the natural sweetness in fruits and vegetables better and fewer bites of a dessert would replace your craving to consume a whole dessert.