Melbourne naturopath Roberta Nelson gives her insights on how to get on top of sugar cravings and stopping ourselves from slipping into sugary seduction when our energy levels drop off.
Sugar cravings can get the better of us and every day we can see ourselves slipping into sugary seduction when energy levels drop off. A craving is a sign that your body is in need of something but more often than not when we think we are craving sugar it’s something else our body needs.
Whilst sugar might be the quick fix, the more you satisfy the craving the more your body grows to ask for it. The better thing to do is solve the root of the problem, whether it is not eating enough protein, not hydrating properly or making poor snack choices that destabilise your energy. Here are five easy tips to getting back in control of your sugar cravings.
1. Eat enough protein
Starting the day the right way has a lot to do with how you will feel later and what you will be craving. A 3pm slump is almost guaranteed if you grabbed the almond croissant from the coffee shop on your way to work and whilst that’s manageable once in a blue moon, it shouldn’t be happening every day. Protein helps stabilise your blood sugar and keeps your cravings at bay so it’s important you get enough in first thing so the cravings don’t stand a chance. Try adding nuts and seeds to your muesli, using a protein powder if you’re making yourself a smoothie or switching your breakfast to eggs on seeded bread instead.
2. Put liquorice in your tea*
And not the candy liquorice! I’m talking about the herb, Glycyrrhizza glabra that the liquorice candy is made from. Liquorice is a naturally sweet herb which when drunk in tea form, can quickly satisfy a sweet tooth and stop you from reaching for the lolly jar. I suggest brewing yourself a pot of tea with two or so teaspoons of loose-leaf liquorice tea whenever the cravings calls. It goes well with peppermint tea and cinnamon tea, both of which aid in digestion and maintain your blood sugar.
*Liquorice tea should not be consumed by pregnant women or people with hypertension or other heart problems.
3. Stay hydrated
Drink before you eat because more times than not, you’re likely to be dehydrated. Many of us mistake thirst for hunger and cravings so it’s important to make sure you are well hydrated before you decide to get something to eat. As a general rule, you should be drinking about eight cups of water a day or around two litres. This varies depending on body size and activity levels but aim for this and you should notice your need for a sugary snack drop away. If your body is calling out for something and you know you haven’t had a cup of water in the last hour, prioritise the water and follow with a snack if your cravings linger.
4. Choose smart snacks
You can make a big difference to your body by ensuring that if you do snack, you do it well. Cravings for sugar come from blood sugar dysregulation – when the sugar in your blood, your energy source, is all over the place and inconsistent. It’s a rollercoaster ride for your body and your mood. Blood sugar dysregulation can be caused by poor snack choices that provide fast, short-lived energy leading to a ‘crash’. This can happen from eating processed, sugary snacks or even healthy, sweet foods that aren’t nutritionally balanced. What I suggest is you avoid sugar-based snacks all together. Some examples include eating carrot and hummus, oat cakes with avocado, a tin of tuna, a couple of boiled eggs, roasted vegetables or even Greek yoghurt sprinkled in nuts and seeds.
If you do have something sweet, make sure they are natural sweets such as fruit and always pair the fruit with a fat or protein. This slows down the break down process in the body and gives your system a steady, stable flow of sugar as opposed to a peak and trough. Coat your apple in almond butter, have a handful of nuts with your orange, eat your banana with cottage cheese and honey or make your own sweet snacks which are loaded with protein and fat.
5. Ditch the packaged sweets and make your own
If you’re a true sweet-tooth and no day is done without something then it’s time to start making your own sweet snacks. By ditching processed treats, you are stopping the cravings from coming back and by making your own you can monitor how much of the sweet stuff goes in and how much other nutrition you can pile in. The aim of the game is to ensure every ingredient is from a wholefood source, that the snack contains a good amount of fat or protein and it’s naturally sweet rather than sweetened with sweeteners or sugar. Bliss balls get a big tick! A clinic favourite is my lemon bliss ball recipe that is low on sugar, rich in healthy fats and will cut any craving out. You can also add cacao to your bliss balls to get a hit of magnesium – the nutrient that helps regulate your blood sugar and lower insulin.
So, plump up your breakfast with some protein, arm your desk drawer with liquorice tea, buy yourself that drink bottle, switch the 3pm sweetie to a tub of yoghurt and seeds and keep a batch of bliss balls in the fridge for when you deserve the treat and a touch of sweet. With these five simple tips, you can get back in control of your sugar cravings for good.
Roberta Nelson is a naturopath making her mark on the health industry as an accomplished practitioner, writer and recipe creator for leading Australian wellness brands. She has a Masters in Public Health under her belt and plans to cement her place as a reproductive and mental health specialist.
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