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Tips To Overcome Sugar Addiction

Last updated Jan. 31, 2017

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD MPH

Sugar addiction can impede your life and consequently your health, but there are methods to defeat these sugar cravings.


It may seem inconceivable that sugar addiction is a legitimate concern, as addiction is habitually associated with drugs or alcohol. But if you have ever experienced the recurrent sweet craving a few hours after eating a sugar-heavy snack, you understand your body’s dependency on it. Eating plenty of simple carbohydrates, sans protein or fats, can rapidly satisfy appetite while providing a temporary energy boost, but they can just as promptly leave you starved and yearning for more.

Sugar addiction can impede your life and consequently your health, but there are methods to defeat these sugar cravings. Here are several tips to help you steer away from these addictive, sugar-infused options:

  • Get rid of sugar-rich foods: Having a constant reminder of sugary foods in the cabinets and fridge can be a large trigger for you. You can start your sugar detox by eliminating candy, cookies, and other high sugar foods and instead keep fruit handy.
  • Choose to sweeten your own foods: Make it a habit to buy unsweetened iced tea, and plain yogurt or oatmeal. Chances are, adding your own amount of sweetener will be much less than the manufacturer would have added.
  • Be aware of hidden sugars: Be cautious of foods where sugar often hides, even in reduced-fat products. Foods that have their fat removed usually replace almost all of the calories with sugar. Do not buy products that list sugar as one of the first ingredients on the label. Manufacturers will hide sugar in ingredient lists by using other forms such as brown sugar, cane nectar, honey, corn syrup, and molasses.
  • Do not skip breakfast: Beginning your day with a nutritious meal high in protein and fiber will make you less likely to give in to cravings. Great breakfast options include steel-cut oatmeal, Greek yogurt, eggs, and fruit.
  • Keep moving: If you get a craving to eat a sugary snack, get up and take a walk or change your environment. This will help to take your mind off food.
  • Eat regularly: Waiting to eat meals too far apart could cause you to eat fatty or sugary foods to eliminate the hunger in between. Eating every 3 to 5 hours can help keep your blood sugar levels more stable and help you to avoid senseless eating behavior.
  • Combine the good with the bad: If you cannot seem to stop the sugar craving, opt for combining the food with a healthier option. If you crave chocolate, consider mixing it with a banana or nuts. This way, you still get the nutrients you need while still indulging.
  • Chew gum: Research studies have suggested that chewing gum can help diminish food cravings. Keep gum handy when healthy snacks are not available. This can help keep you from indulging in a sugar-filled snack that you will feel guilty about later on.

Once your body adjusts to the lesser sugar intake, or “sugar withdrawal,” you will crave it less and feel more fulfilled with less sweet choices. Splurging on those rare occasions will not make you feel remorseful when you stick to a healthier diet. By taking small strides to decrease your dependency and detox from sugar, you will start to look and feel healthier and in better control of your food choices.

References:

Carbohydrate Addiction [Internet]. American Heart Association [updated 2014 Mar 17; cited 2015 Jan 30]. Available from: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEating/Carbohydrate-Addiction_UCM_305906_Article.jsp

Tips for Cutting Down on Sugar [Internet]. American Heart Association [updated 2014 Oct 24; cited 2014 Jan 30]. Available from: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEating/Tips-for-Cutting-Down-on-Sugar_UCM_461811_Article.jsp

How to Break the Sugar Habit and Help Your Health In the Process [Internet]. Harvard Health Publications: Harvard Medical School; 2013 Jul 1 [cited 2014 Jan 30]. Available from: http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-break-the-sugar-habit-and-help-your-health-in-the-process

Added Sugar: Don’t Get Sabotaged by Sweeteners [Internet]. Mayo Clinic; 2012 Oct 5 [cited 2015 Jan 30]. Available from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/added-sugar/art-20045328

Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:

Lustig, R. H. (2012). Fat chance: beating the odds against sugar, processed food, obesity, and disease. Penguin.

DesMaisons, K. (2002). The sugar addict's total recovery program. Ballantine Books.

Gittleman, A. L. (2008). Get the Sugar Out: 501 Simple Ways to Cut the Sugar Out of Any Diet. Harmony.

Bennett, C. (2006). Sugar Shock!: How Sweets and Simple Carbs Can Derail Your Life, and how You Can Get Back on Track. Penguin.

Alpert, B., & Farris, P. (2013). The Sugar Detox: Lose Weight, Feel Great and Look Years Younger. Random House.

Jones, P., Williams, A. M., & Clare, G. (2013). Self Care: A Guide for Addiction Professionals. Journal of Drug Addiction, Education, and Eradication, 9(1/2), 85.

Warren, R., Amen, D., & Hyman, M. (2013). The Daniel Plan: 40 Days to a Healthier Life. Zondervan.

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: Jan. 31, 2017
Last updated: Jan. 31, 2017