With more education circulating and more people prioritizing their health, we are all realizing just how addicting and detrimental refined sugar can be. It’s sneaky, and many food companies add it into everything. And I mean everything!
Some of the dangers of too much added sugar include: poor general health, weakened immune system, weight gain, diabetes, insulin resistance, heart disease, decreased energy, poor sleep, increased cancer risk, premature aging, wrinkles and more. Check this article out that shares 144 reasons sugar ruins your health.
I want to first make a clear distinction of what type of sugar I’m talking about. There is natural sugar which is found in whole, nourishing foods, and then there is refined sugar that has been processed and added into foods. They have drastically different effects on our bodies because of the company they keep. Natural sugars found, for example, in an apple, are in the company of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, thus enhancing our health. Whereas sugar found in a soda can be very harmful to our health.
You might just think added sugars are found in those obvious choices, like cakes, cookies, ice cream, and donuts, but you can also find them in everyday foods like ketchup, canned vegetables, breads, sauces, and just about any processed and packaged foods.
So, you definitely want to begin reading labels whenever you can. Read the nutrition facts label to see the amount added and also make sure to read the ingredients list to see what type of sugar has been added. According to the American Heart Association, women should consume no more than 25 grams or 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day, and men should consume no more than 36 grams or 9 teaspoons per day. Obviously, even less would be best, but this is a great guideline to really keep your sugar consumption in check.
If you’re like many of the clients I work with, you may experience sugar cravings. You may experience them often or occasionally, so either way, I wanted to give you 8 helpful and simple tips to happily kick that sugar craving to the curb!
1. Drink fruit and herb infused water: Sometimes when we are dehydrated, we will have a craving for something sweet. So, once you notice you’re having a craving, drink a glass of water and wait a bit to see if the craving subsides. Adding in some fruit and herbs, such as strawberries and mint, can add great flavor without any sugar and can be super satisfying. If you still find you’re craving sugar, then move to these other suggestions listed below.
2. Consume plenty of protein and fiber: You want to make sure you are getting enough high-quality protein and fiber into your daily diet. These are not only great for your overall health and keeping your blood sugar stable, but will also keep you full longer and decrease your desire to reach for that piece of chocolate, cookie or candy during that mid-afternoon slump.
3. Enjoy sweet veggies and fruit: I know that in the moment this might be difficult. But, I promise, if you make the decision to reach for a bowl of cherries or strawberries, apple with almond butter, or baked sweet potato fries first, the chances of your craving still being around is very slim. It’s just about the mindset and making the decision.
4. When you start decreasing your sugar intake, your cravings will lessen: Your body will begin adjusting to this decrease in sugar almost immediately and will no longer need it in larger amounts. Also, your taste buds will begin to change, and sweet foods and drinks will begin to taste too sweet. You will start to become more sensitive to refined sugar.
5. Get physically active: This is a great and fun way to decrease cravings. Always pick exercises you love to do! Walking, yoga, cycling, barre classes, dance classes; these are all great in helping you balance blood sugar levels, boost energy, and reduce stress which will eliminate the need to self-soothe with sugar.
6. Always have healthy snacks on hand: Make it a priority to bring healthy snacks to work or pack snacks in your bag. This will avoid those low blood sugar moments when you just can’t say no to that office cookie or candy bar. When we are hungry and don’t have any good options in front of us, we tend to choose the less than ideal choice.
7. Create a sweet lifestyle: Finding sweetness in your life can lead to decreased cravings that stem from emotional eating. Sugar cravings can often have a psychological or emotional component. By looking at your different lifestyle areas, such as your career and relationships, notice if they cause significant stress and lead to emotional or mindless eating. Instead of trying to fill that void or comfort ourselves with sweet treats, let’s try and directly work through that issue to discover how we can improve our relationship or take steps to decrease a stressful work environment. In addition to really looking at these large areas of your life, try to also incorporate daily things that will comfort you like a hug, time with friends, prayer, time spent outside, a workout class, a massage or a good book.
8. Embrace a healthy balance that works for you: I am a believer in balance. It’s so important to choose healthy foods and drinks, but we never want to become obsessive. We never want to feel guilty or like we don’t have freedom to eat what we want. Often when people are told they can’t have something, that’s all they think about or they find they are miserable. That’s not the kind of happy, healthy, well-balanced life we want. Of course we want to choose whole, nourishing foods as often as we can, but if you want to treat yourself every once in a while, enjoy it, do not feel guilty and then get right back to your healthy eating.
Kara Stout is the founder of Nutrition By Kara, a wellness brand dedicated to empowering and supporting women to eat healthy, simply and beautifully with a focus on balance and intentional living. She blends her Masters in Counseling with her expertise as a Certified Holistic Nutritionist to help brides, wives and girl bosses reach their personal health goals of sustainable weight loss, increased energy, decreased stress, pretty skin, improved digestion and living a clean, healthy lifestyle. Kara is also a Food Photographer for lifestyle bloggers, coffee shops and health-focused restaurants. Additionally, she is the co-founder of Tee Chic, an apparel company that designs graphic tees for the fashionable fit and casually chic. Follow her on Instagram: @NutritionbyKara