When sugar craving starts to strike in the body, there’s no doubt that it is hard to control. More often than not, enjoying sweet treats after a meal makes you feel delighted and happy with what you have. It’s common for anyone to experience a release of these “happy hormones”, leading to a sense satisfying sugar rush.
On a side note, sweet cravings begin in several parts of the brain which are responsible for pleasure, memory and rewards. Your body starts craving the flavor of ice cream or chocolates all of a sudden, and you feel the need to reward yourself with something delicious. Sound familiar?
Dealing with sugar cravings has always been a challenge, and many have fallen in love with the taste of sweet treats. Thus, there might be instances where handling these delicious snacks gets to be too much to handle.
This guide can help you deal with your sugar cravings when you feel like you’re at your wit’s end. We’ll also try to cover some tips on how you can still enjoy eating those sweet treats while having a balanced and diet meal.
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How to Handle Sweet Cravings
The first question that you should ask yourself is "Am I really hungry?".
There are a lot of instances where you think you are craving for sweets when you aren’t really hungry at all. Why is this happening?
Christine Gerbstadt, MD, RD, an American Dietetic Association spokeswoman and dietitian says that "Sweet is the first taste humans prefer to birth." Eating foods with sugar and plenty of carbohydrates initiates the release of the feel-good brain chemical serotonin in the body. When you eat sugary foods and satisfy your cravings, you suddenly feel even more relaxed and calm.
Cravings for sweets are also associated with handling your stress level. Nicholas Bakalar of New York Times mentioned that sugar found in sweet foods reduces the levels of cortisol (stress hormones) in the body. An experimental study from the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism also showed that people who took beverages with 25% table sugar decreased cortisol levels. They even improved in controlling and overcoming their fear or stress.
Although the hunger and thirst for sweet cravings can seem unavoidable, there are lots of ways you can deal with it. Believe it or not, a big factor that can contribute to handling your sweet cravings is how you manage your habits. Here, we’ve included some strategies that will help you deal with your cravings for sweets.
Rating your Hunger
Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD suggests rating your hunger or assessing yourself if you are hungry is the first thing to consider. Picture yourself and think of the exact time you last ate. If the time measures two-three hours ago, you might not be hungry at all. Your mind might only be dropping some signals for you to chew something while busy doing an activity. You can also consider drinking a glass of water and waiting for a few minutes before deciding. Take note that dehydration sometimes makes you crave for sweets. Stephanie Kay Nutrition mentions that the lack of fluid intake can make it harder for the body to break down the stored glucose for energy. As a result, your body yearns for some sugar for a quick source of energy when all you need is just a little drink of water.
Getting enough sleep
Surprisingly, sleep deprivation is one root cause for you to crave for sweets. According to News Medical Life Sciences, a new study about craving for sweet foods gets worsened by lack of sleep. This idea also affects your body in terms of maintaining a healthy weight diet.
Results of the study showed that people who increased their sleep hours gradually lessened the intake of sugar by 10% a day. Maintaining a good sleep habit can help you deal and control your sweet cravings as long as you're keeping to a proper sleep routine. There are also many other benefits to a solid sleep routine, which you can read about in our foundational sleep series!
Likewise, this factor is not the only thing that you should consider as getting insufficient sleep can also lead you to some more serious complications.
Eating the right foods
One way to avoid hunger and the subsequent cravings for sweets is to eat high volume foods that are low in calories and high in fiber. Vegetables and greens that are high in water content fit the bill perfectly here. Studies have even shown that people who focused on high volume diets ended up taking in fewer calories.
Another way is drinking coffee, it will help as an appetite suppressant. Also, coffee is full of antioxidants and it provides numerous health benefits.
If you are still left with cravings, you can look into sugar alternatives that use artificial sweeteners; however, it is important to not overload your diet with artificial sweeteners. Although Stevia and Splenda are not sugar, too much can lead to higher blood glucose levels (more sugar in your blood). This is because your gut changes to be more resistant to insulin (the body’s response to sugar) and this leads to increased blood sugar. More basic and natural foods like fruit and berries are a great way to tackle a sweet craving with options that are better for your body. Fruits are generally lower in calories than packaged sweets and your body can more easily digest the sugar from fruits.
Is it ever okay to have sweets?
There's no problem at all with you eating sweets. While it is important to eat junk food in moderation, there is no reason you can’t construct a meal plan that allows for sweets as well as your ideal physique.
Constructing a meal plan that will go with your body's needs is the best thing to do. Planning your meals allows you to look at how much you are regularly eating. In this way, you are also able to avoid all the foods you must eat and even schedule if it's a time for a real treat!
When is the best time to eat sweets?
If there are right food choices for you to eat, there's also a suitable time for you to take these delicious snacks. If we're not mistaken, this topic has always been an issue especially to those people who want to satisfy their cravings yet wish to balance their diet.
One recommendation is to eat sweet earlier in the day so that you'll have the opportunity to burn off the calories later in the day, says Nutritionist Kristy Rao. An article made by Levels also states that sweets are easier to process earlier in the day than later in the day.
Sweets can also make for great fuel for your workouts, so eating quick digesting sugars right before the gym can be a good idea!
While there are different times throughout the day that are optimal to take in sweets and sugar., It’s not something to get too carried away with. As long as you keep to your meal plan (whether it’s for muscle growth or fat loss), you could eat all of your food at one point in the day and still achieve your goals. In that sense, worrying about the "timing" isn't a big deal.
Overall, dealing with sweets doesn’t have to be impossible!.
While self discipline is always a factor, you can make keeping to your diet easier by learning to differentiate between hunger and craving. You can also adjust your behaviors and meal plan to reduce having cravings in the first place.
It’s also important to remember that even the most strict meal plan can allow for a daily sweet treat.
Lastly, while there are times that a sweet snack can be a great utility, timing your snacks isn’t as important as your overall diet.