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No matter why you’re trying to cut back on the amount of sugar you eat, your good intentions can be totally derailed when sugar cravings kick in.
Temptations are all around you, and your willpower vanishes in a puff of white dust.
So what can you do when the sugar monster rears its ugly head?
Here’s 50 simple tips you can try in the heat of the moment, to diffuse that nasty urge for the sweet stuff.
Use them to overcome those cravings, and keep your healthy eating goals on track.
Find something to eat that isn’t packed with sugar, and you might just be able to stave off your sugar cravings.
Sugar cravings on their own are hard enough to resist, but if you’re also hungry, it can make it downright impossible.
If you realise that you’re craving sugar AND you’re hungry, immediately prepare and eat a healthy meal packed with real foods.
Even if you don’t really feel like it, do it anyway. Your body will thank you.
Have healthy snacks on hand, like nuts and seeds, ready for when cravings hit.
Choose your favourites and stash them in your desk drawers, have a steady supply in your kitchen and carry them with you wherever you go.
I love cashews, macadamias and sunflower seeds, but you can also choose from almonds, walnuts, pecans, brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds and pistachios.
Eat them raw and unsalted if you can.
I haven’t tried this one myself, but Christina Carlyle swears by it – eating green beans can make your sugar cravings disappear.
As soon as your cravings hit, help yourself to a stack of green beans, either fresh or canned.
You can also have them in the freezer, ready to thaw and cook, but you might not be able to resist your cravings while you wait.
Chewing gum gives your mouth something to do and may also serve as a distraction from your cravings.
Research has found that people who chew gum regularly had a reduced desire for sweet snacks.
However, gum usually contains sugar or artificial sweeteners, and it can upset your digestion and your teeth, so use this one in moderation.
Grab yourself a drink, and watch your sugar cravings disappear.
Drinking lots of water is one of the best things you can do for your body in general, and it can also help to curb sugar cravings when they arise.
Sometimes, when you crave sugar, you’re actually dehydrated, so drinking a glass of water might be exactly what you need.
It also helps to keep your stomach feeling full, and the extra water helps your body flush out toxins and keeps your body working at its best.
Drink your water at room temperature, and with practice, you’ll be able to polish off an entire glass in one go.
Add variety to your water intake by drinking it in the form of herbal teas.
Choose from your favourite sweet-tasting herbals teas, like peppermint, chamomile or rooibos, or lavender.
Spicy teas like cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and anise can also have a distinctly sweet taste.
And as an added benefit, many of these teas help improve your general health and well-being.
Put something in your mouth that tricks your brain and your taste buds into thinking that you’ve eaten something sweet.
Cook yourself some sweet potato or white potato, or have it already cooked and ready to eat.
Or have some carrot sticks, sliced red capsicum or sugar-snap peas on hand for when those cravings strike.
These vegetables taste sweet naturally, and can convince your taste buds and your body that you’ve satisfied your cravings.
When you eat something starchy, the digestive enzymes in your mouth start to break down the starch into simple sugars.
The more you chew your food, the more these enzymes can get to work, and you’ll start to notice the natural sweetness of your food.
All fruits, vegetables and grains contain starches, and can taste sweet if chewed well enough.
So find something starchy to chew on, and chew like crazy!
Not only does vanilla taste fantastic, but it can curb your cravings for sugar.
The scent of vanilla has been shown to reduce appetite and specifically reduces your craving for chocolate and other sweets.
It also makes dishes taste sweeter without needing to add sugar, so it’s a valuable addition to your toolkit.
So find yourself some vanilla to sniff, or add a dash of it to your food and watch those cravings vanish.
Cinnamon is great for long-term well-being and reduction in sugar cravings, but it can also help to manage sugar cravings in the moment.
Good quality cinnamon is naturally sweet, and, like vanilla, helps dishes taste sweeter without the addition of sugar.
It can also work nicely in herbal tea blends, or you can sprinkle some on your cereal, yoghurt or soup.
Brushing your teeth when cravings strike can be an effective way to overcome your taste for sugar.
The minty aftertaste can dampen your enthusiasm for additional food, making even chocolate taste funky.
You may also be less keen to spoil that “freshly brushed” sensation, and there’s some suggestion that the taste – and smell – of peppermint can suppress sugar cravings as well.
Eat something sweet that’s not packed with refined sugar, to satisfy that sweet tooth of yours while giving your body the nutrients it needs.
Keep fresh fruit handy for when sugar cravings hit, and eat as much of it as you like.
And with most fruits containing at least 80% water, plus fibre and micronutrients, fresh fruit is the perfect way to satisfy your need for something sweet, while nourishing your body.
Ripe bananas are incredibly sweet, and contain a number of nutrients, including high levels of antioxidants, that may decrease your risk of a number of health issues.
Fruit really is nature’s dessert, so eat your fill and watch those cravings melt away.
Made with just fruit and greens, a simple green smoothie can satisfy your need for something sweet, while simultaneously feeding your body with the nutrients it craves.
My favourite recipes are super simple, with just mango, kale and banana or bananas, apples and pears and your favourite greens, and taste fantastic.
They’re also filling, and can be a great way to postpone your need for something sweet.
Stevia is a natural sweetener made from the leaves of the Stevia plant, and has been used as a sweetener for hundreds of years in South America.
It has zero calories, has no effect on blood sugar levels, and is 300 times sweeter than sugar, so it’s a perfectly safe way to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Add stevia to your dishes and drinks to make them sweeter, but remember that a little goes a long way.
Try adding it to a cup of green tea, as a pleasant after-dinner treat, or make your own lemonade, with fresh lemon juice, sparkling water and a hint of stevia.
Just a single piece of this dark, decadent dessert can be enough to ward of sugar cravings.
Make sure you choose a high quality, organic chocolate with at least 70% cocoa (or cacao) solids.
The cocoa elevates your “feel-good” chemicals, serotonin and dopamine, which helps to reduce cravings for all kinds of things.
Give it a try, a enjoy every morsel!
Another way to get a dose of the goodness of chocolate, is to melt a block of it and mix it into a jar of nut butter – peanut and almond work especially well.
Put the mixture in the fridge to cool down, and eat a spoonful anytime your cravings strike.
Not only are you getting a dose of “happiness boosting” dark chocolate, but you’re also getting a dose of healthy fats from the nut butter, which help you to feel satisfied.
Find combinations of foods that taste like you’re eating your favourite treat, and keep them on hand for when cravings hit.
For example, I love fruit and nut chocolate, and I’ve found that eating a mix of cashew pieces and sultanas, makes me think I’m indulging, but without the chocolate (and the sugar).
Or try a teaspoon of almond butter in the middle of a pitted medjool date. You’d swear you were eating chocolate, but you’re also getting a dose of healthy fats and fibre.
Find healthier versions of your favourite treats, and stock up on them.
Just be aware that although you’re giving your body the nutrition it craves, some healthy treats can still be quite high in natural sugars.
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This design is part of my new vegan-themed collection of merchandise.
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Give yourself a little bit of what you’re craving, and see if that does the trick to curb your desire for the sweet stuff.
Eat a small portion of the sweet food you’re craving, and see if that does the trick.
For example, you might eat 5 candies, instead of the whole packet, or one bite of a chocolate bar, instead of the whole thing.
But if you know you can’t stop at just one mouthful, then you’d better skip this one.
If you’re going to have a can of soda or a glass of fruit juice, dilute it half-half with water.
Not only will this instantaneously cut your sugar intake in half, it also reduces the intensity of the taste, allowing your taste buds to get used to less sweetness.
And even if you end up drinking the other half of the can (diluted, naturally) you’re still getting twice as much water, helping your body stay hydrated.
Mix the food you’re craving in with something healthier, to reduce the amount of the treat you consume.
For example, you could eat a banana dipped in chocolate sauce, or you could mix chocolate chips in with some dried fruit and nuts.
You still get to have the taste of the sugary food, but you also get a dose of healthier food along with it, which will help to fill you up faster.
You’ve decided that you’re going to give in to your cravings. Let’s do it a little differently, and you might just reduce the impact and amount of sugar you consume.
Research shows that people eating snacks with their non-dominant hand, end up eating significantly less.
Having to use a different hand from the one we’d normally use, slows us down and makes us more aware of our eating habits.
Often we end up eating mindlessly, so switching things up helps to kick our brains into action, helping us regulate how much we eat.
And if you’re ambidextrous? Try eating with your toes. Or not. ;)
If you’re going to give in to your sugar cravings, choose the best quality treat you can afford.
Buy and eat a super-rich superfood truffle, instead of a king-sized candy bar, for example.
Or buy a slice of that raw vegan cheesecake you’ve been eyeing off, instead of a whole frozen cheesecake from the supermarket.
Not only will the higher price tag stop you from buying and eating as much, but it also means you’re putting the best quality ingredients into your body.
Go on, you’re worth it!
If you decide to eat whatever you’re craving, eat it as slowly as possible.
This means instead of stuffing it in while you watch TV or work at your computer, stop and pay attention to what you’re eating.
Pay attention to every detail – the smell, the taste, the texture – and just notice it all.
Also, take a full breath between each mouthful.
This gives your body time to catch up with what you’re eating, and you may feel full sooner.
No matter what you end up eating, take the time to enjoy every bite.
Feeling guilty about what you eat just creates more stress that needs soothing with food, so work at getting the maximum amount of pleasure out of every bite.
Feel the “happiness” chemicals flooding your body as you savour every taste, smell and texture. Amp it up!
Take the time to enjoy every single moment while you’re eating your treat and skip the guilt, and your body will find it much easier to handle your indulgence.
Get your body moving, and start feeling better without the sugar fix.
Throw on some comfortable shoes and get outside for a walk.
Not only are you putting distance between yourself and the food you’re craving, but you’re also getting exercise, which releases endorphins, which make you feel good.
So get going, and beat that craving with some gentle exercise.
Just like going for a walk, running gets you away from the temptations, and also gets your body moving.
Running has been shown to decrease cravings for unhealthy food, and just one hour of running was enough to encourage people to choose healthier options, like fruits and vegetables.
So as soon as your cravings hit, get out there and pound the pavement, and watch your cravings melt away.
Whether you choose a gentle yoga class or an intense workout like cycling or Zumba, heading off to an exercise class can help you deal with your cravings in multiple ways.
Firstly, you get yourself away from the temptations, secondly, you’re flooding your body with feel-good endorphins, and thirdly you’re getting out and about amongst other people, all of which can reduce your need for the sweet stuff.
Just make sure to bring along a healthy snack for after your workout, so you don’t end up at the vending machine at the gym.
Do something completely different, to take your mind off those treats you want to eat so badly.
Most cravings tend to last between five and twenty minutes, so crack out a timer, or just watch the clock, and see if you can wait it out.
Pretend you’re having a staring match with the clock face, and the one who blinks loses. Or count each second as it passes.
Make into a contest or a fun game, and before you know it, the time will have passed, and so will your craving.
The more often you use this trick, the faster your cravings will disappear.
When cravings hit, jump into a hot shower. Make the water hot enough that it feels uncomfortable, but not so hot that it burns your skin.
Just stand there in the shower, letting the hot water run over your back and shoulders for 5 to 10 minutes.
By the time you get out, you might feel like you’ve been in a sauna for a while, but there’s also a good chance that your craving will be gone.
If you’re feeling brave, some people recommend alternating between hot and cold showers, but I’m not sure this would be nearly as much fun.
If you love a good book, this is a perfect way to distract yourself from sugar cravings.
Keep a great book on hand for when cravings hit, and lose yourself in the pages for 5 to 10 minutes.
By the time you lift your head, you’ll have discovered a whole new world, and your cravings should have vanished as well.
Sometimes sugar cravings can be triggered by exhaustion, so if you’re feeling tired at all, take a nap.
Even a 10-15 power nap can take the edge off your tiredness, as well as off your cravings.
And if nothing else, it gives your cravings time to pass, so by the time you wake up, they’re long gone.
Find a beautiful spot in nature and soak in your surroundings. Admire the trees, the flowers, the birds and the insects.
See how many different colours of flowers you can count, watch the ants scurry about, and listen to the sounds of nature.
Not only are you distracting yourself from your cravings, you’re also giving yourself a well-needed break and a boost of pleasure, both of which can help to reduce the need for sugar.
Jump in the car, and go for a drive somewhere. Anywhere except the local bakery, or sweet shop, or fast food joint, that is.
You don’t even need to go anywhere in particular, just head on out, and enjoy the change of scenery. Or you can run some long-overdue errands.
So long as you don’t have any sugar stashed in the glovebox, your car is a safe space to pass the time until your cravings are gone.
If you’re going for a drive anyway, why not head to your local library?
I’m constantly amazed at the resources available to me, for free, at my local library.
You can find movies, music, computer games, and a wealth of online resources. And of course, there’s the books.
Spend as much time as you like exploring your local library, and your cravings will vanish.
You might even learn something too.
What better way to take your mind off your cravings than a chat with friends.
Whether it’s organising a get together on the weekend, or just walking across the hall at work for a chat, connecting with friends is a great way to derail cravings.
Not only does it take your mind off your urge for sweets, it also helps you to feel better, which can reduce the intensity of cravings.
Keep your goal in mind, and do everything you can to stay on track.
I’m sure you have some very good reasons for trying to reduce your sugar intake, so use them to motivate you.
Whether you’re dealing with a health issue, or trying to lose some weight, bring your reasons to mind any time the cravings hit.
Remember why you’re going to so much trouble, and how important this is to you.
You could even stick a note to your computer screen, or put a picture or a quote up on the wall. Whatever it takes to keep you focused.
Imagine that there’s a bunch of little people in your body, the “bad guys”, who are the ones demanding that you eat some sugar, right now.
Get creative, and imagine them clearly in your mind’s eye. They’re desperate and they’ll do anything to get you to eat some sugar.
Have a conversation with them (in your head or out loud, it’s up to you), and make it very clear that you are not going to give in to them.
In fact, you’re going to do everything in your power to make sure that they die, go away and never come back.
Instead of drooling over that chocolate cupcake, or the exotic sweets some helpful person left lying on the table, focus on what you can have.
Say to yourself, “What sweet things CAN I have?” and start listing them off. “Well, I can have fruit, and I can have dark chocolate..” and so on.
Remember just how many wonderful treats you can enjoy, and how many healthy-but-delicious foods there really are available to you.
And if you feel like it, go and eat one of those instead.
Find something that’s worth holding out for, but not too far out of reach and promise it to yourself as a reward if you can hold out against the sugar cravings.
For example, you could set aside a few dollars for each day that you go without sugar, and every so often, treat yourself to a massage or buy something you’ve had your eye on.
And when cravings hit, just remind yourself of that reward, and how nice it will be when you finally get it, and stave off those cravings for a little longer.
Probably best not to reward yourself with food, though.
There’s nothing worse than finding yourself in a tricky spot, and not being able to remember what to do.
So make a list of the tricks that work for you to stop your sugar cravings, keep it handy and refer to it any time you need to, so you don’t have to deal with remembering what works when you’re in the middle of a craving.
If you can, rope in a friend, co-worker or family member to support you when cravings hit.
Arrange this beforehand, and then text them, call them or go for a chat the moment you feel the need for sugar.
They’ll help you remember why you’re trying to make these changes, and help you make use of all of your coping strategies.
Recognise that your sugar cravings might have nothing to do with food, and try to address the underlying cause.
When you find yourself reaching for a sweet treat, ask yourself, “Do I actually want this, or am I eating this out of habit?”
Our lives are full of routines, and some of them set us up to eat things even when we don’t really need or want them.
Maybe you pull out a tub of ice-cream or a bag of candies every time you sit down to watch TV.
Or maybe you always head to the vending machine at 3PM for your afternoon sugar rush.
But just stopping and asking yourself whether you’re doing this out of habit can be enough to gently shift the habit.
Sometimes, eating sugar is a way to add more pleasure to our day.
After all, no-one can deny that it feels pretty good to eat a piece of cake or a chocolate bar.
It tastes good, it smells good and it feels good after we eat it.
So instead of reaching for a sweet treat, try doing something else that makes you feel good.
Whether it’s doing a crossword, watching a funny cat video, or getting a massage, see if you can find ways to add more fun to your day without sugar.
As soon as a sugar craving hits, stop and take three deep, slow breaths.
Remind yourself that you won’t die if you don’t eat sugar right now, and that you do have time to take a few breaths.
If you can, keep breathing slowly, deeply and naturally for as long as your cravings last, and you should find them disappearing quickly.
And as a bonus, breathing like this will help to reduce your stress levels, which will also reduce your cravings.
Feeling the need for sugar is often an attempt on our parts to soothe ourselves, usually in a response to stress.
So when you find yourself wanting something sweet, notice what’s happening around you.
Are you stressed? Is something in your environment happening that’s unsettling you? Is your desire for sugar being triggered by stress?
And if it is, see if you can find a way to reduce or remove the stress.
Step out of the office for some fresh air, call a friend to talk it over, or start seeing things differently.
When the stress goes down, very often you’ll find your need for sugar goes down too.
The many benefits of meditation have been well documented, but did you know that it can also reduce your cravings for sugar?
As soon as the urge hits, find yourself a quiet spot, with a comfy chair or cushion, and set a timer for 5-10 minutes.
Spend the time sitting quietly and breathing gently, focusing all of your attention on your breath.
It’s doesn’t matter what aspect of your breath you focus on, just keep your attention on it.
Any time you find yourself thinking about anything else, just come back to your breath.
Not only will this distract you from your sugar cravings, it’s also a great way to reduce stress and improve your general well-being.
If you’re not a big fan of meditation, then journalling is another way to process thoughts and feelings that might be causing you to reach for the sugar.
There are no rules with journalling, except to write. Find a pen and a notebook, and just write whatever comes into your head, no matter what.
Do this for 5 to 10 minutes, without editing your work, or worrying about anyone else seeing it. This is just for you.
At the end of your writing, not only will your cravings have diminished, you might also have learned a thing or two about yourself.
Cravings are usually a way for our bodies to communicate with us, so learning to listen to the signals can be extremely helpful.
When you notice yourself wanting something sweet, take a moment to stop and notice what’s going on in your body, with no expectations.
Are you hungry? Are you tired? Is something bothering you? Are you dehydrated?
With practice, you’ll learn to recognise the different signals your body sends you, and you’ll be able to address those needs without reaching for the sugar.
Emotional Freedom Techniques, or EFT, is a simple, yet powerful tool that you can use to change your thoughts, habits and emotions.
It involves tapping on specific points on your body, that correspond to the different energy pathways (or meridians) in your body.
It’s easy to learn, quick to use, and can result in amazing changes in your mental and emotional state, helping you overcome the desire to eat sugar.
As soon as sugar cravings strike, you can use EFT to reduce their intensity, and gently release the underlying emotions.
The effects are permanent, completely safe and can work absolute miracles.
I highly recommend giving it a try.
Keep these three things in mind as you put these tips into practice, to make sure you have the best chance of success in overcoming your sugar cravings.
Don’t be discouraged if the things that seem to work for everyone else don’t work for you.
Your body has a unique set of needs, so have patience while you figure out what works for you.
And once you find what works, keep doing it until it doesn’t work any more, or you don’t need it.
You might find that what works this week, stops working for you next week.
As frustrating as that might get, be willing to mix it up to keep winning with your sugar cravings.
Stay flexible, keep trying things, be open to new possibilities, and you will find your way through.
No matter what happens, go easy on yourself.
If you give into your cravings, do your best to forgive yourself and move on.
We all stumble on our way to our goals, so just remember that you’re not alone in this, and it’s OK to make mistakes.
Keep the end goal in mind, and just keep moving forward one day at a time until you get there.
If you’re ready to put a stop to your sugar cravings, here’s a recap of these 50 quick and easy tricks you can use as soon as cravings strike:
So, which of these tricks are you going to try first?
Have a fantastic day!
Nikki H Stokes, Eating Vibrantly
I studied Biochemistry and Genetics at Monash University, graduating with a Bachelor of Science, with Honours.
I've always had a passion for natural health, having grown up with asthma, eczema and numerous food allergies, and I wanted to help my kids avoid the same issues.
I love blending science and alternative approaches to find the best of both worlds, and I'm always looking for ways to create more amazing health and happiness in my life.
Learn more about me
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