Finally: Learn How to Prevent Sugar Cravings

Q: I know how to satisfy a tingling sweet tooth without a cupcake binge, but is it possible to prevent sugar cravings before they happen?

A: Look, you’re never going to get to a place where you’ll be able to prevent sugar cravings all day every day. (I mean, what are you going to do, delete Instagram to avoid all mentions of Black Tap milkshakes?)

But there are plenty of simple ways to curb cravings so that they happen less often and aren’t nearly as overwhelming.

RELATED: What do your food cravings really mean?

Ready to battle your brownie urges? Try these tactics.

4 Ways to Prevent Sugar Cravings

  1. Eat more. Yes, that’s what I said. If you’re dieting and feel deprived, sugar cravings may creep in. Calories are the only path to real energy, so eat them consistently, in the form of nutritious, whole foods.
  2. Cut salt. I know, we’re talking sweet, not salty, but the two are even more linked than you thought. Super salty foods like restaurant meals and processed, packaged foods make you crave cheesecake and creme brulee. Tame the salt intake; tame the sugar craving.
  3. Focus on protein. When your meals are all carbs (pasta party?), your body sucks up the starch and then wants sugar for fast energy. Protein (with a little bit of healthy fat and some fiber) will make you feel full, instead. And a satisfied eater doesn’t want for an eclair.
  4. Check your magnesium. A deficiency of this important mineral has been linked to sugar cravings. Eat a diet filled with magnesium-rich food like spinach, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. If that’s not enough, you may need to supplement.

Just think: if you can curb the cravings, you’ll be able to enjoy sugary treats as conscious indulgences when it’s worth it—rather than constantly fighting the urge.

 

7 Healthy Coffee Boosters to Use Instead of Sugar

If you’re cutting back on sugar and aren’t crazy about the alternatives, these healthy coffee boosters can help.

Instead of sweetness, each option adds flavor and health benefits to your morning brew in a unique way. Maybe you crave creaminess and healthy fats in the AM? Or would prefer your java come with a little kick?

RELATED: Which is the Healthiest Sugar Substitute?

Try one of these creative coffee add-ins next time you make a fresh pot for yet another way to energize your mornings (or get you through the afternoon slump).

7 Healthy Coffee Boosters

1. Grass-fed butter and coconut oil

By now, you must have heard of Bulletproof Coffee. You can get the official recipe, here, but essentially it involves blending grass-fed butter and coconut (or MCT) oil into your cup of joe. The result is a frothy, latte-like beverage that keeps you full for hours and slows down the release of caffeine for a steadier energy boost. The key: This one is a MEAL. It’s calorie-rich so is meant as a breakfast replacement, not to sip alongside a croissant.

RELATED: 3 Incredible Benefits of Coconut Oil

2. Cinnamon

This warming spice comes with tons of research-tested health benefits thanks to antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, and more. And it tastes delicious sprinkled on a latte or cappuccino.

3. Collagen powder

Collagen peptide powders are becoming a popular protein source thanks to their potential beauty and gut health benefits. Unlike most protein powders, you’ll barely taste collagen in coffee, so it’s a great quick protein fix if you don’t have time to make a smoothie.

4. Cocoa powder

Stir a spoon of high-quality cocoa powder in if you’re a chocoholic—for antioxidants and heart health, and yumminess.

RELATED: 5 Healthy Reasons to Eat Chocolate

6. Cayenne pepper

Warning: Be careful with this one! You don’t want to burn your mouth with coffee that’s too hot in more ways than one. Still, cayenne can add a nice kick and is linked to health benefits as impressive as…living longer. Pro tip: Try a cocoa-cayenne combo.

7. Smoothie ingredients

Okay, this one isn’t really an add-in (but it’s a great idea!). Instead of adding something to your coffee, add your coffee to something else: a smoothie. Just let it cool (or use the already cold old stuff from earlier) and stick it in the blender with chocolate protein powder, frozen bananas, and other coffee-friendly healthy flavors for an instant pick-me-up blend.

8. Baking soda

Coffee is acidic, which can be tough on those with sensitive stomachs. If you buy high-quality coffee this will likely be unnecessary, but some people swear by cutting the acidity by adding a small amount of baking soda (which is alkaline) to the grounds before brewing.

 

Which Is the Healthiest Sugar Substitute?

Q: I’m trying to cut sugar out of my diet. When I really need some sweetness, which is the healthiest sugar substitute?

Thanks to more awareness of how much sugar is hiding in packaged foods and new research on how harmful to our health the sweet stuff really is, many people are trying to eat less sugar. (As an RD, that fact makes me do a little dance of joy!)

But sweeteners offered as a replacement are often just as bad for your health. Ones to definitely avoid? Artificial sweeteners like Splenda, Sweet ‘N Low, and Equal, and sugar alcohols like xylitol and erythritol, which can wreak havoc on your digestion.

The best plan, of course, is to break up with sugar altogether, and I created a practical 12-Step Guide to help you do just that.

But for moments when you really, really just need a little sweetness, there are better options out there. Keep reading for the basic facts on sugar substitutes from natural sources.

The Healthiest Sugar Substitute?

agave-free

AGAVE

What it is: A syrup that comes from the same spiky plant Tequila is made from.
Pros: Agave has a pretty neutral flavor and is touted for its low glycemic index (meaning it may not spike blood sugar as much as other sweeteners). It’s also 1.5 times sweeter than sugar, so you could theoretically use less.
Cons: It’s higher in calories than table sugar. Most importantly, it’s higher in fructose (the form of sugar linked to diabetes, heart disease, and more) than any other sweetener (even high-fructose corn syrup).
Use it or lose it: Better to avoid the fructose. Lose it!


chicory-root-fiber

CHICORY

What it is: Chicory is derived from the root of a perennial plant.
Pros: Like agave, it has a very low glycemic index. It also contains important B vitamins, soluble fiber, and many essential minerals like manganese, phosphorous, potassium, iron, magnesium, and calcium. Studies show that it may prevent constipation and help maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in the colon.
Cons: It’s often combined with other ingredients when sold as a sweetener, which can be confusing. It’s not calorie-free like stevia or monk fruit, but calories vary depending on what it’s mixed with.
Use it or lose it: Use it in moderation, but check the label to see whether the sweetener contains just chicory or other added sugars and sugar alcohols.


coconut_sugar

COCONUT SUGAR

What it is: It’s made from sap from the cut flower buds of the coconut palm tree.
Pros: Coconut sugar is low on the glycemic index, and unlike agave, it’s also low in fructose. It also has a neutral flavor that’s closer to cane sugar and works really well for baking, where other sugar substitutes (like liquid ones) do not.
Cons: It has about the same number of calories as table sugar, and it can be super expensive.
Use it or lose it: If you love to bake, use it to make slightly healthier cookies and cakes.


honey-free

HONEY

What it is: Sugary nectar made by bees.
Pros: Raw honey is super natural (i.e. totally unprocessed) and contains lots of beneficial nutrients like B vitamins and iron. It can also act as an immune-system booster thanks to antibacterial compounds that help fight infection in the body.
Cons: It’s higher in calories than most of the other alternatives (60 per tablespoon) and higher on the glycemic index than some.
Use it or lose it: Use it in very small amounts, especially drizzled in tea during cold and flu season.


maple syrup

MAPLE SYRUP

What it is: The sap from maple trees, boiled down into sticky syrup.
Pros: Pure maple syrup is as natural and unprocessed as it gets, and it comes with benefits like lots of manganese, which is essential for energy production and antioxidant defenses, and zinc, which promotes immune health. Plus, it’s delicious (tastes like you’re wearing cozy socks in Vermont!).
Cons: It’s high in calories, at about 51 per tablespoon. The flavor is so strong it only works to sweeten certain things.
Use it or lose it: Use it in moderation, in things the flavor works for, like oatmeal and baking.


monk_fruit_2

MONK FRUIT

What it is: A type of small melon found in the tropical and subtropical regions of South East Asia.
Pros: Like Stevia, monk fruit is an all-natural, calorie-free sweetener with a zero on the glycemic index. It’s 150 to 200 times sweeter than sugar to taste, so you can use a lot less. It also contains antioxidants and is said to support the immune system, digestive tract, glands, and respiratory system.
Cons: Like chicory, it’s often sold as a blend, paired with corn sugar or sugar alcohols.
Use it or lose it: Use it when needed, but try to find pure sources without other things added.


stevia

STEVIA

What it is: Stevia is a powder that comes from the ground-up leaf of a plant native to South America.
Pros: It’s virtually calorie free and is 100 to 300 times sweeter than sugar, so you can use much less. It doesn’t impact blood sugar like table sugar, and one study showed it may even help lower blood pressure. After initial concerns surfaced on its health effects in the 90s, many studies have shown it to be safe.
Cons: Some experts say more research should be done on its health effects over the long-term, since its use is becoming more widespread. It’s also often mixed with sugar alcohols like erythritol, so read the ingredient list.
Use it or lose it: Use it, in moderation.

The Bottom Line

Now you’ve got some better options for tea, baking, and everything in between, but at the end of the day, my advice still comes back to this: All of these are sweeteners, and ideally, you’d use none at all. When you sweeten food, even with some of these more natural options, your body will continue to crave sweets and you may eat more later in the day.

You can cut back on all kinds of sugar by choosing low-sugar indulgences like really good dark chocolate. And try tapping other flavor enhancers so you don’t need the sugar—like cinnamon in coffee, garlic to make pasta sauce, or vinegar to make salad dressing.

I get it, though. When you do need a little sweetness, consult this list, choose the healthiest sugar substitute, and use the least amount possible.

Why You Should Stop Counting Calories

Q: If I eat 100 calories of jelly beans, isn’t that the same as eating 100 calories of another snack like turkey and avocado?

 

A: There’s a reason why people say “a calorie is a calorie”. In all fairness, a calorie is a calorie in its most simple form.

 

And for years, it was drilled into our heads that counting calories was the only way to lose weight.

 

Calories are a measure of the energy generated from food once inside the body, and they abide by a simple law of physics: energy in minus energy out equals weight loss or gain.  

 

This is true both in a test-tube and in tightly controlled weight loss experiments, where people are basically locked-up and fed exactly the same number of calories from different types of diets.

 

Time and again, subjects will lose roughly the same amount of weight, regardless of whether the calories come from low-fat, low-carbs or diets somewhere in between.

 

However, this is far from the complete story.

 

The human body is quite complex and there are many factors at play at all times.

 

Hormones, emotions, cravings and even our social schedule influence the amount of calories we consume and how our body processes them.

So, I’m going to explain why 100 calories of jelly beans is not the same as 100 calories of fresh turkey and a slice of avocado. Stay with me.

 

Why You Should Stop Counting Calories

 

If all calories were created equal, many of us would choose to live in a land of gummy bears and swedish fish. But food isn’t made up of calories alone.

 

Let’s go back to those jelly beans.

 

The only nutrient jelly beans provide is sugar. Sugar does nothing good for our bodies and actually does whole lot of harm!

 

During digestion, sugary treats stimulate the hormone insulin to be released. Insulin is good in the way that it helps cells uptake nutrients we eat, but it also inhibits the breakdown of fat and encourages the creation of it when we take in those excess calories.

 

Translation: if we don’t need those jelly bean calories they’ll be turned to fat- fast!

 

This spike in insulin and blood sugar also causes us to feel hungrier sooner, which likely means our hand goes right back into the candy bag and pops another 100 calories in our mouth before we’ve had time to even think about it.

 

And the last nail in the coffin (pun intended) for living on calories from sugar alone, is that we will actually die from it. Seriously… sugar alone would eventually kill us. We need nutrients, vitamins, and phytonutrients that real whole foods provide to fuel all bodily processes.

 

Now, a portion of turkey and avocado can also provide the body with 100 calories. But, these calories are loaded with protein, fiber, healthy fats, iron, zinc, B vitamins, and many other vitamins and minerals our bodies needs to perform at an optimum level of health.

 

These nutrients help with body processes from building muscle to improving energy to boosting the immune system to helping prevent cancer, heart disease and a whole host of other benefits.

 

Guess what else these calories do for us? They help to keep you satisfied and full – so we aren’t as likely to go back for seconds – and they keep fat storage hormones in check.

 

By helping to control blood sugar, our insulin release is more stable and we release less fat storage hormones.

 

So the important takeaway is to watch your total calorie intake, but most important is to eat whole, real unprocessed foods. And, don’t forget to read the ingredient list of any packaged foods you do eat to get the full nutritional picture.

 

Jelly beans can never replace the nutritional benefits provided by consuming whole, real foods – even if you eat the same amount of calories.

Alas, a calorie is not a calorie!

 

4 Reasons Why You Have Sugar Cravings

Sugar cravings are the worst. It’s like a little army of meanies grab hold of you and torture you until you feed them jellybeans, right?

In this video, my good friend Natalie Jill and I are talking sugar cravings, especially the kind that seem to attack as soon as you’ve finished eating a meal. Clients ask us both about this all the time, so we thought we’d explain why sugar cravings happen and what you can do to fight those meanies!


Like this Post? Sign up for our newsletter now to start living your most Nutritious Life!

4 Reasons Why You Have Sugar Cravings

1. You didn’t eat enough, or you ate the wrong things.

When you don’t eat enough calories, your body starts looking for fuel fast as a way to catch up. So what do you do? Crave sugar! As you know, sugar gives you quick energy, even though it’s not necessarily good energy.

So one way to get around this little conundrum is to just choose something sweet with artificial sweetener in it, right? WRONG! So, so wrong. Artificial sweeteners might momentarily satisfy that sweet craving, but they trick your body into thinking it’s getting fuel when it’s not. Your body soon goes looking for more calories in the form of, you guessed it, sugar, and BOOM! You’re right back where you started.

Calories are the only thing that really provide real energy so eat them consistently, in the form of whole foods, and break the sugar cravings cycle once and for all.

2. You’ve picked up a bad habit.

Some people smack their gum without even realizing it. Some people have picked their fingernails their entire lives. And, sigh, some people eat a chocolate bar everyday at 3pm because well, they eat a chocolate bar everyday at 3pm. Yep, all bad habits.

When something becomes habit, especially when it comes to food, you have to ask yourself Are you even aware you’re doing it? Do you really want to be doing it? Are you truly craving what you are eating? When you’re really hungry and you haven’t eaten enough throughout the day, breaking a 3pm vending machine run is gonna be tough.  But if you start to eat more consistently throughout the day and get in enough and the right types of calories, then your defenses are up and it’s easier to change the habit.

One thing I always suggest that people do to change the habit is to go for a sweet herbal tea when they have a sweet craving. This works particularly well for my afternoon chocoholics. I don’t mean sweet like adding sugar, but rather a naturally sweet tea such as apple spice or vanilla almond tea that has no calories and nothing artificial in it. I’m telling you… this WORKS!

Banish all Bad Habits: Sign up for our newsletter now to start living your most Nutritious Life!

3. You ate too much starch and not enough fat and/or protein.

When you eat a heavy, starchy meal, like a giant bowl of grandma’s spaghetti, you’re pretty much setting yourself up for a guaranteed gelato craving. All that pasta with no fiber or protein (and depending upon the sauce perhaps not enough fat either) is like a big bowl of sugar. Those calories are absorbed fast and they do not keep you feeling full or satisfied. In other words, that big bowl of sugar doesn’t provide satiety like protein or fat does.

What’s a pasta lover to do? First, practice proper portion control. And, add a portion of lean protein. You need a little protein to help you feel satisfied, and/or a little olive oil for some healthy fat. I also suggest a big bowl of veggies, with lean protein topped off with a little past versus the other way around. Another trick is to make friends with spaghetti squash in place of spaghetti. Grandma will still love you. Satiety is the name of the game here, people.

4. You chowed down on salty foods.

When you dine out or eat packaged, processed foods, your food has more sodium in it than you probably even realize. This usually remains true even when you’re eating something clean like grilled salmon and sautéed or steamed spinach from your fave “healthy” restaurant. Here’s the kicker: the saltier your food, the bigger your sweet craving.

The first step here is to be aware that this may happen to you. Then, more you skip the chips or fries the less you’ll want the donuts or cookies. When you eat more naturally salty foods like cheese, or olives your sweet cravings will lessen, and you’ll tend to go for naturally sweet snacks like herbal tea or fruit when that craving comes on. See? Choosing clean foods leads to choosing more clean foods, no matter what the craving.

So there you have it. Sugar cravings affect everyone – myself and Natalie Jill included! The key to dealing with them is knowing why you’re getting them in the first place and making necessary changes to lessen them in the future, and then having a healthy plan in place to deal with them in a conscious manner when they pay you a visit.

Is The Sugar in Fruit Wrecking Your Diet?

Q: Is there too much sugar in fruit, and should I stop eating it altogether?

I know people want a simple, yes or no answer, but this question is one that requires a little more detail.

My bottom line is that there is indeed sugar in fruit (there is going to be a but so keep reading) and I generally recommend one or two servings of fruit per day, depending on the person, their lifestyle, their goals and the long list of other factors I consider when I am customizing a meal plan.

I get a little sad when I hear that people don’t eat fruit at all because it’s “too high in carbs” or “too full of sugar.”

I promise you, we are not dealing with an obesity epidemic because of fruit (I have clients who chow down on M&M’s but won’t touch a banana!), but I do think it can be overeaten.

Eating apples all day will add up, unlike the cucumbers you are snacking on as a “freebie,” which is why I do often limit people to one to two servings of fruit per day.

Even though fruit does contain approximately 15 grams of sugar per serving (small apple, cup of berries), it also has a lot of great “stuff” in it, like phytonutrients, fiber, vitamins, minerals and water, to name a few.

This “stuff” adds to your health by helping prevent disease, improving your skin and immune system and aiding in weight loss by helping you to stay satisfied and full.

The body really does know how to use every part of the peach, melon, berries and banana.

Also, the sugar in fruit is natural. It’s not the same as a spoonful of refined sugar, such as table sugar, which only provides calories in the form of sugar and nada else.  This sugar causes inflammation and will turn to fat fast if it is not needed for energy.

When people ask me what fruit I recommend, I usually say that they should choose the fruits that they enjoy the most.

A caveat to this: if you’re watching your weight, I’ll suggest one to two servings of the lower sugar fruits – berries over bananas, for example.  Again, with that said, we are not an obese nation because we are eating too many bananas.

Lower sugar fruits include:

Higher sugar fruits (which on occasion I do have clients limit), include:

If you still need a fruit “prescription”, go for one to two servings a day of an organic, in season, ripe piece of goodness that you are craving.

And, enjoy each and every bite.

 

Stevia in Your Diet: Yay or Nay?

Do the green leaf and the word “natural” on the box of Stevia at the supermarket make you wonder if Stevia should be on your shelf?

Is it any better than aspartame or sucralose?

Are you picking up a pack of gum, a bottle of tea or a container of soy sauce and wondering what’s the deal with finding stevia in the ingredient list?

You’re not alone. Stevia is deemed GRAS (generally regarded as safe). It is in the company of things like annatto, carrageenan and chlorine in our food supply, so that GRAS doesn’t necessarily mean much. Uber-reputable sources are giving it the nod. But, as someone skeptical of any kind of “sweet”  I look at it very closely.

Let’s break this down a bit.

Stevia is 200 – 300 times sweeter than sugar. It has zero calories and zero glycemic index. It also comes from a plant. I know what you are thinking, “Yippee! sweet deliciousness with no calories!” I hear you. We do know however, that your taste buds taste the sweetness and when no calories are linked to the bite in your mouth, hormones may still be stimulated.

Your mouth tastes sweet and assume calories are supposed to follow. You’re supposed to get those calories in your belly and digestive hormones are supposed to kick into place. When no calories come, your body sends signals to your brain, saying “What’s the deal?!”

It makes sense to me that there would be some confusion with what your brain thinks is going on, and what actually happens in your stomach.

This is where my relationship with stevia used to end. Keep reading.

If there is one publication I encourage my clients and colleagues to subscribe to, it is the Nutrition Action Healthletter, put out by CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest). They take the most important nutrition issues of the day and attack it from scientific, political and environmental angles to give a succinct bottom line of good info.

They reviewed artificial sweeteners and reminded me that in the 90’s the FDA rejected stevia because of the “potential impact on blood sugar, sperm count, kidney function and cardiovascular system.” But they did give it a safe rating.  Why?

Even though a couple studies (using extremely high doses) have linked stevia to changes in DNA, studies didn’t show an increased risk of cancer, fertility problems or offspring with disabilities.

On the flip side, studies have shown that stevia, one of the sweet compounds in stevia, may lower blood pressure in people with elevated blood pressure. Note: large doses were used during these studies. Other studies have linked stevia to a reduction in blood sugar and potential glycemic control in people with diabetes. Other studies have shown stevia’s possible anti-inflammatory benefits.

There are worse things in our pantry boxes than stevia, and we could go through the hundreds of them one by one, but this one deserves extra attention because it is so forefront these days and people think it is both healthy and natural.

My bottom line is that refined sugar has absolutely no nutritional value and may cause inflammation, cancer, diabetes and obesity. Yet, it is not realistic for most people to take “sweets” completely out of their diet, right? If you can control the very small amount of refined sugar in your diet you may be fine with keeping it in. For others, stevia is an alternative. Not to be added in because, “oh hey its healthy”, rather because it may be (for your lifestyle) a better alternative due to it being zero calories, having zero glycemic index and being a better option to synthetic artificial sweeteners. In either case, you don’t want to be pouring packets into your mouth.

Of course, the best way to consume stevia is by growing and eating from your garden (yeah, people are doing this!). And, you other peops out there who are jealous of these gardens (I am!), you can order the leaves online.