Resisting the urge to reach for a sweet treat can be tough, even if you've got the strongest willpower. We've all been there; the cravings kick in, more often than not you give in to temptation, your serotonin levels rise as a result, making you feel calmer and happier, then soon after you're primed for a crash.
Whilst ignoring these cravings is easier said than done, there are some easy, Nutritionist approved tricks you can use to effectively outsmart your sweet tooth. To lend a helping hand, Top Nutritionist, Liam Mahoney from leading Active Nutrition and protein brand Grenade (www.grenade.com), shares his top 7 tips:
1. Eat a Healthy Breakfast
A healthy breakfast can set the tone for nutritious choices all day long. Sugary breakfasts, like cereals, are high in carbohydrates and sugar, and low in fibre, so will cause your blood sugar to spike, then quickly drop—which can lead to mid-morning cravings and snack attacks. You should aim to eat a breakfast that combines good carbs and fibre with some protein, such as poached eggs on wholegrain toast, with a side of avocado.
2. Add Sweet Spices
Sweet spices can cure your sweet tooth and trick your body into thinking you're eating sugar. Research has shown that cinnamon can help to reduce sugar cravings by controlling blood glucose levels, and this helps to minimise insulin spikes that result after an unbalanced meal, which typically lead to increased hunger and sugar consumption. Cinnamon is great in porridge, and sprinkled on sliced apple and roasted vegetables. Cloves, ginseng and fenugreek are also sweet spices that can be used to control blood sugar and sugar cravings effectively.
3. Eat Your Veggies
Most people wouldn't think about using vegetables to combat sugar cravings, however, the rich source of vitamins they provide will help you to feel fuller for longer and keep your sweet tooth in check. Vegetables contain healthy sources of carbohydrates which will keep you satisfied, and the plant fibre also works as a natural way to level out blood sugar levels. Try to incorporate a small portion of leafy greens into every meal such as kale or spinach. You could also use sweeter vegetables such as sliced red pepper or carrots as snacks in between meals.
4. Distract Yourself
A lot of the time, cravings can be caused by boredom, anxiety, or other emotions. When you feel a craving for something sweet, find an activity that will distract you and take your mind off of food. Sometimes it can be as easy as going for a brisk walk or taking a shower to make you forget completely about the ice-cream hidden at the back of the freezer.
5. Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth Safely
Sometimes, no matter how hard we try to fight it, we just need something to satisfy our sweet tooth. The best way to defeat the craving without adding inches to your waist line, is to find an option that limits the damage and is less calorific. Fresh fruit is a great healthy substitution when a craving for something sweet hits, as is Stevia, the all-natural sweetener which has has zero calories and is 300 times sweeter than sugar. For a snack that is going to slow down the release of sugar and keep you fuller for longer, you should opt for a something that combines protein and carbohydrates. I recommend oat cakes topped with a protein packed spread, such as Jaffa Quake from Grenade (£6.99 from www.greande.com). This delicious chocolate orange flavoured spread contains 20% protein and 87% less sugar than other brands, and will help you to satisfy your sweet tooth whilst keeping your healthy eating regime on track.
6. Break Habits
Many people don't feel satisfied unless they finish their meal and have a dessert, even if they don't feel hungry. In order to prevent sweet cravings in the first place – or to successfully manage them – it's important to understand what's causing your craving, and whether your craving is actually a habit. For example, your dinner might be high in salt, which could make you feel like you “have to have” something sweet to create balance. If it's likely to be a habit rather than a craving, come up with a solution to try and break it; it's a process of training your mind and learning to navigate the challenges with new choices. For example, if you don't feel at peace without having something sweet after dinner, then you could try brushing your teeth.
7. Sleep More
Getting adequate amounts of sleep optimises energy levels, reduces appetite and slashes sugar cravings. When you are tired, Gherlin, the hormone that stimulates appetite, often referred to as the 'hunger hormone' increases, and leptin, the hormone that suppresses the appetite decreases, which can lead to you feeling the need for something sugary to give you a quick energy fix. Ensure that you are getting the recommended 8 hours of sleep a night and that the quality of your sleep is good too.
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