Got a sweet tooth that’s impossible to control? Like many of us, you may find that the sneaky sugary treat you told yourself would be “just one” ends up turning into 2 cupcakes, 3 donuts and a block of chocolate…
It’s not uncommon for the cravings to continue after you’ve had your first sugary snack. Sugar cravings are usually a result of low blood sugar levels or conditioned behaviour that has developed over time. The good news is though, there are a bunch of solutions to help overcome your sugar addiction!
Not only will this improve your dental health by reducing cavities and tooth decay, but will also benefit your overall health dramatically.
What causes sugar cravings?
Although everyone is different, sugar cravings can normally be attributed to:
- Low blood sugar levels: Low blood sugar can occur when we haven’t eaten for a long period of time, or haven’t eaten enough carbohydrates. This can cause us to crave sugar as the brain relies on glucose (a type of sugar) for energy to function, so when we don’t get enough, it sends signals to cause the cravings to fulfil that need.
- Conditioning: Consuming foods high in sugar causes a response in the brain’s reward system where cortisol levels are reduced, resulting in relaxation and happiness. As a response, this positive feeling trains us to seek out these foods when we’re stressed or unhappy to improve our mood.
- Reminders: When we see, smell or think about the sugar-filled foods that we enjoy, we again crave them.
12 Ways to Overcome Sugar Cravings
- Start the day healthy
- Combine foods
- Replace treats with better alternatives
- Drink more water
- More sleep, less stress
- Chew gum
- Get active
- Eat regularly and plan ahead
- Avoid triggers
- Skip artificial sweeteners
- Reward yourself
- Attempt moderation
1. Start the day healthy
Beginning the day with a healthy breakfast will set the foundation of a day full of good nutritional choices. Eating sweet breakfast foods like sugary cereal which are often low in fibre will make your blood sugar rise then fall quickly, causing you to feel the need to snack again soon after. Instead, opt for a breakfast high in complex carbohydrates, fibre and protein, like poached eggs and avocado on toast, which will make you feel satisfied for much longer.
2. Combine foods
If you find it difficult to stop at just one treat, you may benefit from eating a small treat with nutritious food in order to feel more satisfied without completely blowing your healthy diet. For example, mixing in some dark chocolate chips with some nuts can curb your need for sugar whilst still providing some nutritional benefit and feeling fuller.
3. Replace treats with better alternatives
Replacing sugary snacks with healthier alternatives can help to curb your cravings.
When you’re feeling the desire for sugar, eat a piece of fruit instead, such as a banana, apple or orange to satisfy the sweet tooth but also provide soluble fibre and nutrients.
Soluble fibre is also found in grains such as oats and legumes, and vegetables. They make you feel fuller by absorbing water in your stomach, as well as maintaining your blood sugar levels.
Eating foods high in protein can also make you feel fuller and may help with the cravings. Add some protein into every meal, and include snacks such as plain greek yoghurt or nuts as an easy option.
4. Drink more water
Being dehydrated can sometimes make you feel like you need sugar, when in fact if you drink a big glass of water when you feel the cravings kick in, you may find the desire will pass once you rehydrate. Water is a much better choice for your health and your teeth, especially in comparison to sports and energy drinks.
5. More sleep, less stress
Studies have shown that getting enough quality sleep is not only essential for general health, but also for preventing cravings. When you haven’t had enough sleep, the hormone that increases appetite (ghrelin) is stimulated, while the hormone that reduces appetite (leptin) is suppressed. This can cause you to desire something sweet to get a hit of energy. Try to give yourself 8 hours of quality sleep to prevent this.
Stress can also have a similar effect on appetite and cravings. When you’re feeling stressed, take care of yourself and do something you know will help you relax, and if possible try to remove yourself from the stressful environment.
6. Chew gum
Chewing gum is a great way to get a small taste of sweetness, while keeping your mouth occupied if you tend to snack when you’re bored. Chewing sugar-free gum after eating also helps stimulate your saliva production, which neutralises the acids in your mouth and protects your enamel. This is one of the best ways to keep your teeth healthy!
7. Get active
Not only is doing some exercise an effective distraction and puts some distance between yourself and the fridge when the sugar cravings hit, but it also causes your body to produce endorphins and increases your serotonin levels. This results in a better mood and a reduction in cravings.
8. Eat regularly and plan ahead
Skipping meals or not eating frequently enough prevents your blood sugar levels from remaining stable, and can cause you to make poor food choices when you become too hungry and want to satisfy this quickly with whatever you can find. Instead, eat every few hours, and include low GI foods such as oats, which cause a gradual rise in blood sugar levels instead of a quick spike.
In order to stay more accountable to eat nutritious foods, consider meal prepping at the beginning of the week so you always have healthy choices on hand rather than falling for the emergency stash of sugary snacks!
9. Avoid triggers
If you know certain smells or places trigger your sugar cravings, such as walking past your local ice cream shop or fast-food restaurants, avoid them! Prevent being triggered at home by not keeping high-sugar snacks in the kitchen.
10. Skip artificial sweeteners
If you’re really struggling to completely kick the sugar and need something to hit the sweet spot, you might be tempted to replace sugar with artificial sweeteners instead. Unfortunately, just because they don’t contain sugar doesn’t mean that they won’t continue to trigger the cravings
11. Reward yourself
If you’re sticking to your guns and successfully knocking out your sugar addiction, make sure you reward yourself! Whether it’s a massage, a new pair of shoes you’ve had your eye on or something else that makes you feel good, acknowledge your hard work!
12. Attempt moderation
For some people, going cold turkey may just not work. If none of the previous tips are proving completely effective, you can potentially eat a tiny serve of what you’re craving if you know it won’t send you into a binge eating frenzy. This can overcome the negative feeling of being denied.
If possible, opt for a couple of squares of quality dark chocolate if you need something sweet. This can be one of the best foods for keeping your teeth healthy, due to the antioxidants and ingredients in the cacao bean which reduce bacteria levels as well as strengthen tooth enamel in between your 6-monthly check up and cleans with your dentist.
Although it’s not easy, overcoming your need for sugar will greatly improve your overall health and wellbeing, as well as the quality of your teeth. After all, you only get one set!
As well as reducing your sugar intake, maintaining some solid dental hygiene practices and having a regular check-up and clean twice a year with your dentist will ensure your teeth are in their best shape and help catch any issues early, preventing further dental treatment and costs down the track.
- Broadbeach Dental Practice: 07 5526 8722
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