Cutting Back on Sugar in 9 Simple Steps

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Cutting Back on Sugar in 9 Simple Steps

Sugar is a hard habit to kick, especially around the holidays. Between pumpkin pies, apple pies, pecan pies, cranberry sauce, bread puddings, and other sweet, seasonal treats, cutting back on sugar can feel impossible.

One reason most people struggle with cutting sugar out is because the more it’s consumed, the more the body wants and craves it. Sugar is a carbohydrate, and carbohydrates stimulate the release of the feel-good brain chemical serotonin.[1] Essentially, the more sugar you eat, the more serotonin is released, and the brain becomes addicted to its effects.

The taste of sugar releases endorphins as well that calm and relax the mind and body and sometimes even creates a natural “high,” according to many dietitians. This reaction establishes an even stronger addiction and makes it all the more more difficult to tame the sugar monster.

The American Heart Association estimates that the average person eats 22 added teaspoons of sugar every single day.[1] They recommend that women consume as little as six teaspoons of sugar a day and eight for men. Obviously, sugar overload is out of control, so here are a few helpful tips to help curb your cravings.

Read labels. You would be shocked to know how much added sugar is in processed foods. Especially dubious culprits include bread, yogurt, juice, and sauce. By reading labels, you will gain a better understanding of the hidden sources of sugar in your diet.

Eat a combination. Try eating sugary foods with other, more nutritionally dense options, like fruits dipped in chocolate. By combining the two, you’ll feel more satisfied from smaller portions, while also obtaining essential nutrients from the healthier food item(s).

Replace when possible. When a sweet craving comes on, try to first reach for a sweet fruit, like a pear, banana, or apple. This way you’re still satisfying the craving while making better and healthier choices.

Leave the room. Nothing is more difficult that standing in the kitchen when your sweet tooth starts acting out. If possible, leave the kitchen during these times. Go for a walk, sit on the front porch with a book, or play in the yard with the kids.

Choose quality over quantity. Cutting out all sugar isn’t absolutely essential, but when you do opt for something sweet, choose a quality item. Small, decadent morsels of dark chocolate are much better for you than a King Sized candy bar.

Eat regularly. Waiting too long between meals sets you up for failure. By eating in moderation every 3-5 hours, your blood sugar will remain more stable and you’ll be able to avoid sugar cravings and irrational eating.

Choose foods that help control cravings. Certain foods are better than others at controlling your desire for sweets. Here are a few to stock up on:

  • Foods high in magnesium. Sugar cravings might actually stem from a deficiency in magnesium, so eat lots of dark, leafy greens, raw cacao, nuts, seeds, brown rice, and avocado.
  • Foods high in chromium. This mineral helps regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Foods include: broccoli, apples, sweet potatoes, whole grains, and pastured eggs.
  • Foods high in zinc. Zinc is needed for insulin and glucose utilization and deficiency often leads to sugar cravings. Eat foods like whole grains, pumpkin seeds, and Brazil nuts.

Get plenty of sleep. When you’re tired, you will have more of a tendency to reach for easy, sugary foods.

Manage stress. Emotional or stressful eating usually lands you in one of two camps: overconsumption of sugar or overconsumption of salt. By managing your stress through healthier outlets like exercise and meditation, you’ll be less likely to make poor eating choices.

No matter how you go about it, know that too much sugar is not the best for your health. It can lead to obesity and diabetes, just to name a few. While you’re cutting back on the sweets, be gentle with yourself’—it’s a hard process. Going cold turkey almost always backfires. Take it slow. Over time, you’ll notice you start naturally making wiser selections without having to even think about it and your health will thank you.


[1] Chang, L. (2011). 13 ways to fight sugar cravings. Retrieved from

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