Smart Nutrition Practices to Help Manage Sugar Cravings - dummies

Smart Nutrition Practices to Help Manage Sugar Cravings

By Dan DeFigio

To keep your blood sugar levels stable and ward off emergency cravings for energy, it’s important to eat often. A good rule of thumb is to eat a combination of protein and carbohydrates every three to four hours. If you go longer than that without eating, your body goes into “starvation emergency” mode and starts holding on to its fat stores and cranking up the appetite center.

By eating small amounts of quality food every few hours, your blood sugar levels stay nice and even all day, and your body happily uses fat as its preferred energy source for your activities. In addition to timing your meals to avoid hunger, you can use the following nutrition practices to help ward off cravings.

  • Drink enough water. Often, people who are chronically dehydrated lose their sensation of thirst. The thirst center in the brain then melds with the hunger center, so many folks who are unknowingly dehydrated get a food craving when what they really need is water. Dehydration also increases fatigue and decreases mental alertness.

  • Avoid artificial sweeteners. Aspartame (NutraSweet) is a chemical that’s harmful to your brain, and some studies show that it increases appetite. Regularly over-stimulating the taste centers of the brain with artificial sweeteners increases the desire for that extra-sweet taste. If you absolutely must flavor your beverages, use stevia root powder instead of sugar or chemicals.

  • Eat enough during the day. Big drops in your blood sugar level lead to big cravings for sugar and carbs to bring it back up. Sometimes, the late-night cravings are a signal that you haven’t eaten enough earlier in the day, and your body is looking to make up those extra calories.

  • Eat lots of vegetables. Here are three main reasons that snacking on vegetables can help stave off sugar cravings:

    • Vegetables are high in nutrients and low in calories. Remember that a deficiency in certain nutrients can turn on the craving center.

    • The crunch factor that many vegetables possess gives you a satisfying chewing experience and pleasurable mouth feel. Many sugar addicts (and smoking addicts, too) have reported that the mouth feel is one of the main reasons they seek out snacking or smoking, so crunchy vegetables can serve as a much healthier option to fill that desire.

    • The fiber in vegetables helps you feel full. Research shows that your stomach gets accustomed to a particular volume of food, so you often won’t feel satisfied until you’ve ingested a particular amount of food, regardless of its calorie content. Eating lots of high-volume, low-calorie vegetables helps you feel full without going overboard on the calories.

  • Plan ahead. Remember that most of the convenience food that’s available quickly isn’t very healthy. Before you leave the house (or even the night before), be sure to plan your eating for the day. Either bring your low-sugar options with you or have a plan in place for what and where you’ll eat throughout the day.