The proverbial “sugar rush” is hard to resist, providing an immediate fix as it stimulates the flow of endorphins, uplifts our mood, and keeps us coming back for more. Throughout our lives, this universally pleasing taste is highly appealing; even at birth, given the choice, babies opt for the sweet one. But after the sugar high is over, along comes the crash, which can wreak havoc on our mood and energy levels. The major problem around sugar arises not when we cater to our sweet tooth once in a while but when we take in too much. Overconsumption of refined sugars can lead to weight gain, hypoglycemia, diabetes, an increased risk for heart disease and more. And given that sugar or sugar substitutes, such as aspartame or corn syrup, which often have more harmful chemicals than sugar, are added to most processed and packaged foods, it takes effort to cut down on the sweet stuff, but it also makes sense to do so in order to protect our health now and down the road. Here are some tips to help you cope with those cravings.
- Start Your Day with a Filling Breakfast: Eating a balanced meal first thing helps prevent sugar cravings later in the day. The traditional Costa Rican breakfast is the way to go. Gallo pinto with an egg, plantains and avocado give you plenty of protein, carbs and fiber for long-lasting energy without the sugar rush. Or if you’re in a hurry, try a smoothie with fruit, ground flax for the omega 3’s and something high in protein such as nut butter or yogurt.
- Slow Down and Process Your Emotions: Many times sugar cravings signify an unmet emotional need. It’s easier to reach for sweets rather than to stop and sit with uncomfortable feelings. Engaging in self care such as talking to a trusted friend or loved one and reaching out for the support we need may be the answer to re-direct us rather than turning to food for love.
- Eat Regularly and Don’t Skip Meals: Eating at regular intervals throughout the day helps keep blood sugars level. When we’re hungry, the temptation to grab something quick and sweet is more likely. Sugary processed carbs such as baked goods or snack bars are often the easiest foods to grab in a pinch. Instead, be prepared with healthy snacks on hand such as dried fruit and nuts, which provide a balance of protein and healthy fat.
- Don’t Deprive: If you base your meals on whole unprocessed foods, it’s ok to finish with something sweet. Satisfy your sweet tooth in creative ways with either a small dessert, a homemade creation with a natural sweetener such as honey or a piece of chocolate and some fruit. Add some cinnamon on top of your dessert as it has been shown to help metabolize sugar by decreasing insulin resistance.
- Watch Out for Nutrient Deficiencies: Cravings often strike when our bodies are out of balance. A good quality multivitamin recommended by your health practitioner can help you get the vitamins you might be missing. The vitamins and minerals most often related to blood sugar control are chromium, vitamin B3 and magnesium.
6. Get Enough Sleep, Exercise and Pleasure in Your Life: All of these factors combined will help tame the cravings.