I rarely have sugar cravings anymore. This is probably a hilarious statement given that I talked about wanting sugar in Tuesday’s post. But honestly? The sugar cravings I have are few and far between. There was once a period of time in my life where I needed something sugary every day. I would purposefully plan to have a scoop of ice cream as a small “snack” in order to satisfy my craving so I wouldn’t overindulge later. Yet now, I’ve had a carton of ice cream in my freezer for months, and I haven’t touched it. I don’t even remember when I bought it.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately because it feels like a huge shift in my health and my eating habits. Listen, I am not one to say you shouldn’t eat sugar—I recommend eating all the foods you love because deprivation doesn’t work. But what I am saying is that when you stop attaching emotions to food and allow yourself the freedom to eat all kinds of foods, you’ll notice a shift in your preferences and cravings over time.
Also, let me clear: Just because I don’t crave sugar doesn’t mean I don’t eat it. I still enjoy it once in a while! I just don’t crave it in the same ways I used to.
Let’s dive into the science behind how you can stop craving sugar with a nutritious diet.
If you don’t restrict it, you don’t crave it like crazy.
One registered dietitian recently told me for an article that if you find yourself having “cheat meals” every now and then, your diet is too restrictive. Cheat meals tend to be moments of overindulgence, which isn’t great for your body’s overall health.
Studies easily back up this claim. One study published in the Current Nutrition Reports focused on the psychology behind all of this and did find that food restriction can lead to increased cravings.
Instead, incorporating those foods into your meals is important to stop craving sugar. Another study published by the International Journal of Obesity also shows how food cravings can become less frequent when you are properly feeding your body a healthy diet while also still incorporating these foods. Over time, those cravings will become few and far between.
Eating a healthy diet will actually keep your body satisfied.
When you eat sugar, your blood glucose levels spike. The sugar goes straight to your liver, which creates that spike of insulin and will give you energy. Hence why the term “sugar rush” is a thing.
However, we all know that with that sugar rush, there’s also a “sugar crash” that quickly follows. That’s because blood sugar will quickly dip if you’re not digesting anything else, causing you to crave it all over again.
Sugar is a quick form of energy. But tf you’re properly feeding your body a healthy diet, your body is getting sustained energy already. Digesting protein, fiber, and healthy fats can actually assist with slowly lowering your blood sugar levels, giving you quality energy for longer periods of time. Plus, one study in Nutrition Research even shows how diets that are higher in protein or carbohydrate both result in reduced cravings.
Eat a small treat immediately after a meal to stop sugar cravings later.
This was a huge tip from my dietitian that I recently learned. If your blood sugar is already high from the meal you just ate, then it won’t spike again after eating something sugary. It will just naturally go down as your body digests the meal. This gives you the chance to still enjoy the sugary food you love without causing sugar cravings a few hours after dinner—and you won’t feel that blood sugar “crash” that is linked to those cravings.
So I actually will have a small bar of dark chocolate after lunch sometimes, or if there’s a dessert at a gathering, I’ll put a cookie on my plate and nibble on it right after I finish my meal.
Healthy eating habits will cause your brain chemistry to shift.
Hello, neuroplasticity. Our brains can actually be trained to change our preferences towards anything by changing our habits! The process is called neuroplasticity, and studies show that consistently eating healthy and participating in physical activity can actually make you prefer and crave being healthier overall.
On that same note, remember how I pointed out that eating comfort foods can release certain hormones that feel good? This also applies to sugar, which studies show can release the feel-good hormone serotonin.
So let’s bring it back to neuroplasticity. Eating a healthy diet can also make us feel amazing, and if our brains know that, after a period of time they will start craving different foods. Do I find myself dreaming about apples and peanut butter instead of ice cream these days? Absolutely. Because I know how good it makes me feel after, and my body craves to feel that amazing.
“Food cravings and energy regulation” (International Journal of Obesity)
“The Psychology of Food Cravings: the Role of Food Deprivation” (Current Nutrition Reports)
“Reductions in food cravings are similar with low-fat weight-loss diets differing in protein and carbohydrate…” (Nutrition Research)
“What causes food cravings?” (Medical News Today)
“How chocolate and sugary things may prime your brain to want more” (The Washington Post)
“What Happens to Your Body When You Eat Healthy Every Day” (Eat This, Not That!)
“Neuroplasticity and Healthy Lifestyle: How Can We Understand This Relationship?” (Neural Plasticity)
“Study pinpoints brain cells that trigger sugar cravings and consumption” (University of Iowa Health Care)