Sugar consumption has never been higher, but we know that too much of a sweet thing can be a bad thing. So what's the best way to curb sugar cravings when they strike? This article dives into all the alternatives to raiding your cookie jar when you have to eat something sweet. 

By Matthew A. Moore
October 21, 2019

Sugar is life in America. It's everywhere, and the marketing apparatus intent upon upping consumer sugar intake has been incredibly effective. How effective? The USDA has reported that per-capita soft drink consumption has increased by almost 500% in the past 50 years. And that's just soft drinks. We're basically living inside a Willy Wonka fever dream, folks.

Getty: Jose A. Bernat Bacete

And unless you subsist exclusively on found forest flora, you've had a sugar craving at some point. We know that sugar isn't great for us to consume in huge quantities, though. You wouldn't necessarily want to dump sugar onto a plate and eat it with a spoon. But you are going to want products lousy with sugar at some point in your day/week/month. How then do you limit your sugar intake? Well, the key is to try and curb sugar cravings when they hit. We've got some great advice on how do to exactly that, but let's first dive into what we know about sugar consumption. 

Sugar Might Not Be That Bad

A 2018 study found that there's a connection between the gene that causes sugar cravings and low body fat. There are lots of caveats attached to that, but it's incredibly interesting to know that our bodies have a gene that makes us desire sugar. What's more, it's the same gene responsible for low body fat. How neat is that! So the first step when a sugar craving hits is to acknowledge that it's natural. (If you're dumping sugar onto a plate to eat it with a spoon, though, you're going to want to see a specialist about that.)

OR Is It?

We also know that there are behavioral and neurochemical effects caused by excessive sugar ingestion. In layman's terms, sugar can hook you like crack. And that addiction can lead to bingeing, withdrawals, obesity, and enough cavities to put all four of your dentist's kids through Yale. It's like that old adage says, "Too much of a good thing is a bad thing." Too much sugar can definitely be a bad thing.

Photo: Kelsey Hansen

So how do you stymie that urge to keep shoveling sweets into your mouth? What's the best way to curb sugar cravings? 

What Dietetic Experts Say

Firstly, try consulting with a dietitian. Or since you're here, listen to what our dietitian said about limiting sugar intake. Utilize these three steps: 

  1. Study ingredients. Know what you're putting into your body to avoid sneaky sources of added sugars.
  2. Limit your caffeine intake. Disregard this if you're reading on a Monday morning, but otherwise try to avoid caffeine. It can trick you into thinking things aren't as sweet as they actually are. When that happens, you're more likely to consume larger amounts of sugar.
  3. Stress less. Easier said than done, but we tend to succumb to sweets more often when we feel stressed. 

You can also learn more about what nutritionists do to curb their sugar cravings here.

How Our At-Home Experts Curb Sugar Cravings

Secondly, talk to some nonprofessionals about how they deal with their sugar cravings. It's easy to be cynical about what a dietitian might tell you (as it's their job to want you to eat healthier), but less so when it's someone just like you: a regular person resisting the urge to see how many jelly beans can fit into their mouth. To that end, we asked members following the Cooking Light Diet how they curb sugar cravings. Since theirs is a community centered around weight loss and mindful eating, these folks have tried it all, and they know what works best for them and what doesn't. Here's how they resist the powerful pull of sugar.

  • Reach for healthier sweets.
    Just because you're craving sugar doesn't mean you need to funnel brown sugar into your gullet. Member Kelly Becker reaches for 100-calorie chocolate peanut butter cups because she knows they'll hit the spot and calorically won't stack guilt on top of her craving. Andrea Haight keeps hard candy handy to suck on until her craving subsides. 
  • Go with gum. 
    Instead of a candy bar, Julia Helmer keeps fruit-flavored gum around. She says chewing on a stick of that for about 15 minutes is a cheap solution to curb sugar cravings.
  • Utilize Greek yogurt.
    You don't need to shovel down a pint of Ben & Jerry's to satisfy your sweet tooth. Elizabeth La Buckley keeps her fridge stocked with Dannon Light and Fit Greek Yogurt cups. So instead of reaching for the worse-for-her alternatives, she can still enjoy apple pie, strawberry cheesecake, and Key lime in yogurt form. Meanwhile, Mary Gresham Dee spreads a container of coffee-flavored Greek yogurt on a parchment paper-covered cookie sheet and tops it with finely chopped chocolate morsels. Then she freezes it for a couple hours and has a healthier alternative to coffee and chocolate-flavored candy bars.
  • Keep temptation away from your doorstep.
    Taci Etherington keeps a bag of Lindt truffles in the fridge at work and has one daily. She says storing them at work dissuades her from taking the whole bag down in one go. This is something we can all relate to.
  • Put someone else in charge of curbing your craving.
     In order to save her from herself, Sue Given keeps her bag of Dove Dark Chocolate Promises in her husband's nightstand so he can dole out one or two a night. This helps her stay on track during the day because she knows that treat is waiting come bedtime. (WARNING: As Sue has divulged, this method could backfire if your significant other succumbs to their own cravings.)
  • Try taking a walk.
    Anne Smart Pagano says the best approach for her is to avoid sugar at all costs. And she does this via a multi-pronged approach when the urge to binge strikes. She'll go on a walk, eat an apple, brush her teeth, or swig some black coffee.
  • Reach for natural sugars.
    Why reach for a candy bar when you can get your sugar from a tree? Dena Overaa keeps a lot of fresh fruit prepped and ready to go in the fridge. She's wary of sneaky sugars in supposedly sugar free products, so instead chooses to freeze grapes for a "perfect little sweet snack."
  • Give your craving a healthier outlet.
    Instead of diving headfirst into a vat of Blue Bell ice cream, Lisa Sgobba recommends keeping Enlightened Ice Cream Bars in the freezer. Knowing an ice cream bar is only 90 calories and contains some protein makes her feel good about indulging a little when she has a sugar yearning.
  • Go cold turkey. 
    For anyone who loves sweets, this is easier said than done, but Linda Andreas Passmore suggests cutting all sugars out of your diet. Her self-awareness of her own sugar addiction led her to cut basically all sugars from her diet five months ago, and that's effectively curbed her sugar cravings for good. It's a lot easier to abstain from sugar if you're not actively desiring it all the time. 

In summation, there are plenty of alternatives to caving when your brain says, "Hey, let's eat all the Snickers bars we can find. All. Of. Them." Just remember the next time your sugar craving hits that you are not alone, and you can still enjoy sweet treats in moderation. 

For more tips and advice, be sure to join the Cooking Light Diet Facebook Community today. And if you'd like to start receiving customizable meal plans that have built-in sugar moderation, subscribe to the Cooking Light Diet today. 

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