It’s winter, we’re tired, we’re stressed, we’re hungry, you’re just ending the more-indulgent holiday season…our body wants sugar! This is actually a very normal response to how we were created – our bodies want to stay warm and cozy during this season and, with the shortened daylight and lack of vitamin D from our sweet, sweet friend Mr. Sunshine, we’re looking for the carb fix to elevate our mood. It’s not our fault! However, the problem comes not when we indulge in a sweet treat now and then, but when we over-consume, something that’s easy to do when sugar is added to many processed foods, including breads, yogurt, juices, and sauces. And Americans do over-consume, averaging about 22 teaspoons (88 grams) of added sugars per day, according to the American Heart Association, which recommends limiting added sugars to about 6 teaspoons (24 grams) per day for women and 9 (36 grams) for men. WHOA!
How can you transition yourself away from these cravings and have a healthier relationship with your sweet tooth?
1. First, understand WHY you might be having the craving. Here are some common culprits:
- Constant snacking vs. having a solid, well-balanced meal. When we go through the day snacking and munching, we’re continually keeping our body barely satisfied and wreaking havoc on our hormone responses and other control centers. Plus, eating lots of simple carbohydrates (aka most snacks) — without the backup of proteins or fats — can quickly satisfy hunger and give your body a short-term energy boost, but they almost as quickly leave you famished again and craving more. Sometimes, the best way to feel calm and not constantly looking for the next goodie-to-grab is to eat a MEAL. Fill your belly with a lean protein, a small amount of healthy fat (nuts, seeds, avocados, coconut oil, etc), a handful of veggies and a small cupful of whole grains. Don’t eat to overstuffed, but definitely eat to satisfied (we talk about this a lot in our Valeo / Nutrition program). So, if you find snacking is your primary method of eating every day, consider the value that eliminating (or at least reducing) your grazing habits and instead eating a hearty meal can have for both your physique and your mental health.
- Eating processed foods vs whole foods. Foods that come in a package (even if you may think they are ‘healthy’) have usually been stripped of nutrients during the process of making them into the “foods” we recognize. Moreover, they’re often pumped with added sugar to keep us coming back for more ($ darn food industry, I tell you! $). So, sticking to as much food in its natural form (things like fruits, vegetables, lean meats) will do your body good. In fact, did you know that in-season winter veggies are stock full of delicious natural sugars that give your brain a sense of relaxation and curb your cravings for processed treats? Try our recipe, below, for Roasted Root Veggies. Make a big batch and save them in the fridge to dump on everything…salads, sides, sandwiches, straight-up. These guys will stabilize your blood sugar and help turn off the ‘just grab a treat!’ mental chatter, we promise.
- Being sedentary vs moving and grooving a bit. Adding movement into your day – whether it’s just getting up from your desk and walking around, or more intense exercise like crushing some deadlifts in the gym, will help your insulin receptors do their job, in turn stabilizing blood sugar and helping it be used for something good (energy production! life!). Sluggishness breeds more sluggishness (I think we all can testify to this), while movement is actually energizing…so get the heart pumping and blood moving a bit to get yourself out of a funk and less likely to want to reach for sugar for your quick fix.
Tips to Try:
- Have whole foods readily available to grab and go. Fruit is an easy choice since it contains natural sugars…eat with a thumbsize amount of nuts/seeds/nutbutter to add even more nutrition and satisfaction. Stock up on some single-serving nutbutter pouches like these. Another idea is a little mix of grapes + an organic cheese stick + almonds as a filling treat when you do choose to snack.
- Remember, you crave what you constantly give your cells. Flood your body with 30 raw fruits and veggies everyday – you can read my personal story below of how doing this on daily basis through Juice Plus+has significantly altered my cravings for more produce and less sweets.
- Swap a breakfast of 2 pieces of toast with jelly to 2 pieces of toast with 1/2 an avocado smashed and spread on + salt and pepper to taste.
- Swap your sugary yogurt and granola lunch with a pile of made-ahead salsa shredded chicken, with a little cheese or avocado and a handful of greens.
- Chew on some gum, as this has been shown to lower food cravings. Sometimes we just want to ‘taste’ something sweet – gum helps satisfy that urge.
- Brush your teeth when you feel the need to munch. A clean, fresh mouth makes it much more difficult to want to reach for sugary foods!
- Challenge yourself to a “No Sweets Week” – push through the initial 3 days of pretty intense cravings and come out the other side more balanced and not so dependent on sugar highs and lows.
- For maintenance, keep one sweet treat option in your house (not 3 or 4 or 10)…and make it high-quality and small amounts. A little sprinkle of chocolate chips or a dark chocolate bite could be all you need to get the endorphin rush without the major sugar overload.
- Make a smoothie loaded with protein and plants. Check out one of our favorites using the Juice Plus+ Complete whole food plant protein mix. This is a great option for a balanced meal-on-the-go in your Valeo shaker bottle or as an afternoon pick-me-up.
- If you love sweetner in your cup of joe, make the switch to an unsweetened (but still creamy and delicious!) plant-based creamer like Nutpods. The Vanilla and Hazelnut flavors are our favorite and you still get a sweet, nutty flavor from the almond and coconut cream.
- Get support and accountability. Joining a group of like-minded people and having someone to coach you through your cravings can do wonders to alleviate the overwhelm and provide you with encouragement and more tips. We’ve got an online program that does just that and we’d love to have you on board. You can read more about it by clicking ==> Nutrition Program.