Feeding your sugar addiction may be delicious, but that’s its only benefit. A high intake of sugar means you’re more likely to suffer from diabetes, cardiovascular disease, acne, a wide range of cancers, and it may even increase your risk of depression and make anxiety symptoms worse.
If you’ve decided to kick the habit and embrace better health, we’re with you. Here are our 7 top tips to conquer your sugar addiction for good:
7 Ways to Conquer Your Sugar Addiction
1. Start The Day Right
Whether you eat as soon as you wake up or don’t eat until brunch or even lunchtime, make sure that first meal sets the tone for the rest of the day. That first meal should be full of protein and/or fiber, and you should avoid all those sugary cereals you’ll find on grocery store shelves.
When you eat sugar for breakfast, you spike your sugar levels, cortisol, and then your insulin. The spike in insulin will then plummet your sugar levels, and you’ll experience fluctuating levels of all three throughout the rest of the day which will set off your cravings.
If you’re a fan of cereal for breakfast, make sure you do your research. Even cereals marketed as being healthy for you often contain 10-20g of added sugar, which certainly won’t help you kick the habit! Keto-friendly cereals are low in sugar so are a much better option, and of course, you can always choose oats for long-lasting energy.
If you can let cereal go, start your day with scrambled eggs, an omelet with vegetables, or a healthy egg and vegetable muffin you can eat on the go, which are easy to prepare at home on a Sunday for the week ahead. If you’re “skipping” breakfast (i.e., waiting until a little later in the day), eat a well-balanced meal for brunch or lunch instead.
Need a quick breakfast that you can take to go? Try my Protein Bites recipe!
This quick breakfast looks like a cookie and tastes like a treat, but functions as protein-fueled nourishment. Keep in the refrigerator and enjoy 1-2 as a healthy snack, or pre-workout fuel.
2. Take a Multivitamin
Vitamin B deficiencies often lead to an increase in appetite, so it’s important to ensure your body is getting all the vitamins and minerals it needs to stay balanced. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, it’s particularly important to make sure you’re getting B12, as it is only found in animal products. Find my favorite multivitamin here!
3. Get Plenty of Sleep
Do you eat more on days when you feel like you need a boost to make it through the day? You’re not alone if your go-to on days when you’re feeling lackluster is to eat sugar or drink coffee or energy drinks. A lack of sleep increases our cravings and appetite, so make sure you get to bed on time and avoid sugar, coffee, and anything else that makes it difficult for you to relax and rest in the evenings.
4. Choose Healthy Alternatives
You may have forgotten that sugar occurs naturally in our world, thanks to all that chocolate and processed food, but you can eat as much fruit as you like if it’s going to help you kick that sugar habit. It may not taste that sweet to you at first, but after just a few days without refined sugars, you’ll taste their natural sweetness.
In those early days of kicking your addiction, don’t worry about which fruits you’re eating, just eat them instead of sugar. However, after a week or two, try to choose low-sugar fruits and avoid eating too many dried fruits. This doesn’t mean you’re stuck eating sour apples, either, raspberries, strawberries, and kiwis are all low-sugar but taste super sweet!
5. Improve Your Gut Health
When we think about sugar, we’re usually thinking about how it tastes and the weight it causes us to put on – we don’t think about what it’s doing to the microbiome of bacteria that lives in our gut. When we eat unhealthy food, the balance of good and bad bacteria is altered, and you’ll have more destructive “bad” bacteria than good.
This can increase your risk of stomach issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome, as well as diabetes and even cancer in the long term. You can improve your gut health by eating healthy foods – primarily vegetables and legumes, which will help curb some of your cravings.
6. Drink Water Before You Eat
You may have heard of this weight loss trick, but there’s a lot of science behind the method. When you drink a glass of water when you first get hungry, you’ll often satisfy a thirst craving that you’re interpreting wrongly. Then, if you’re still hungry 5-10 minutes later, you can go ahead and eat your meal, and you’ll be much less likely to overeat.
This also works to curb sugar cravings, as you may be able to squash the craving by drinking water, and if it doesn’t work, eat a piece of whole fruit with plenty of fiber to satisfy your appetite and your sweet tooth.
7. Be Aware of Your Emotional State
Most people have some emotional connection to food and will reach for something sweet and satisfying when they aren’t feeling themselves. You may find your healthy eating takes a dip around your time of the month, but eating sugar is also often linked to feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and depression.
If you eat for emotional reasons, any attempt you make to kick your sugar addiction may only be temporary, so it’s important to be conscious of why you’re eating. If you find yourself reaching for sugar after a stressful work meeting, seeing family you have a difficult relationship with, or any other time, make sure you have the right snacks handy so you don’t turn back to sugar.
Breaking sugar addiction isn’t easy, but it is possible. If you slip up, don’t give up or punish yourself, just move on and continue eating a healthy, balanced diet. The more healthy habits you can create for yourself, the less likely you are to fall back into sugar addiction.
Dr. Nancy Rahnama, MD, ABOM, ABIM, is a medical doctor board certified by both the American Board of Obesity Medicine and the American Board of Internal Medicine. Her specialty is Clinical Nutrition, that is, the use of nutrition by a medical doctor to diagnose and treat disease. Dr. Rahnama has helped thousands of people achieve their goals of weight loss, gut health, improved mood and sleep, and managing chronic disease.