How to Deal With Sugar Cravings

Our week of sugar free eating has started! Thanks to everyone who joined this week. It should be exciting to see how everyone does. I am still sorting out what topics should have priority this week, but the question that seems to loom the most for many of you is how to deal with sugar cravings. I will address that first.
Hopefully some of you took my advice and slowly weaned yourself off of sweets this weekend, but even if you did, you may find yourself with some serious cravings. I wanted to offer just a few tips that have really helped me (and please feel free to share your tips in the comment section).

Let the Craving be a Reminder

First, let your sugar cravings be a reminder of why you are doing this sugar fast. I think that all of us doing this challenge don’t want to be controlled by our desire for sweets. It really shouldn’t be that hard to go a week without sweeteners, or even just white sugar and white flour. But, yet, it can be very difficult for many of us. One friend told me that she would get a headache any day that she didn’t eat a dessert, another would crave it (even when she had already had a dessert), another would be unable to resist sweets. Food addictions are hard to beat, but generally only for the first few days to a week. Let the cravings remind you why you are doing the sugar fast, and remind yourself that you won’t feel like that forever.

To encourage you, I can say from my own life, that it does get easier once you have removed white sugar completely from your diet. It really does. And we can impact our families so much too! When my four year old daughter started eating food, it was really interesting to see what foods she liked. She did not like sweet food for a long time (though she definitely likes sweets now!). I believe a big reason why was because I ate a very low sugar diet (out of necessity) when she was nursing. It was so encouraging to see her love eating nourishing foods from the get go. All to say, it can be both humbling and motivating to realize how much impact we have on our children. (By the way, now that she has experienced other foods that are not so nourishing, I have to really work at keeping her taste buds aligned to a more nourishing diet. ).

Lacto-Fermented Foods and Drinks

Lacto-fermented foods can really help with sugar cravings. First, for some reason something sour seems to counteract the craving for something sweet. Since fermented drinks and foods are sour, that alone helps. But even more, they provide probiotic support that directly counteracts the sugar loving bacteria in our bodies. Homemade sauerkraut, if you have it on hand, is great, or coconut kefir, milk kefir, yogurt. At some local health food stores, you can sometimes find locally made lacto-fermented sauerkraut and other lacto-fermented veggies.

Apple Cider Vinegar
Along the same lines, raw apple cider vinegar is also thought to be helpful with sugar cravings. Over at The Body Ecology Diet, they recommend taking two teaspoons of raw apple cider vinegar in 6 ounces of water when you are experiencing a sugar craving.

Hot Tea
But sometimes, I find that my sugar craving is really a craving for comfort. If this is the case, sitting down with a gentle brew of tea does the trick for me. You can sweeten it a bit with honey (if you are allowing it) or stevia, or have it plain. I also find that it’s more satisfying with some cream or coconut milk in it.

Good Fat Snacks
Especially when I am pregnant, I’ve found that when I crave sweet things, I am actually craving calories. When I’ve allowed myself to get too hungry and my blood sugar too low, I want to snack on the nearest scone, muffin, or cookie. I’ve found that, first, having good fats in my regular meals to be helpful. And second, to eat something with good fats when I am craving something sweet. Examples include, avocado, nuts, tea with cream, etc.

Keep Your Blood Sugar Even

But it’s even better not to allow yourself to get too hungry and be tempted. Keep your blood sugar even by eating regular meals and snacks and it will certainly be easier to avoid sugar snacks. I think that it’s important to eat a really nourishing diet to help with any type of food craving.

Amino Acid Help
In the book, The Mood Cure, the author recommends taking two supplements to help with sugar and carb cravings.

“The mineral chromium helps keep blood sugar level stable, but it gets used up by a high-carb diet. Putting more back into your body as a supplement restores blood sugar stability (even more diabetics). It also eases the cravings for carbs that erupt during blood sugar drops….. Glutamine is an amino acid that your brain can use an am emergency substiitude fuel when you haven’t eaten recently or have been eating too many carbs and your blood sugar level is too low. This glucose stand in stops the impulse to ran to the candy machine when it’s low blood sugar time. This, of course, saves your adrenals from overworking. L-glutamine can stop carb cravings and get you feeling steady and even within ten minutes (less if you open a capsule and place the contents under your tongue. “

She recommends taking 500-1500 mgn of l-gulutamine on awakening, in the midmorning and in the midafternoon and taking 200 mg of chronmium with breakfast, lunch, dinner and at bedtime.

I haven’t tried these remedies myself (and of course, you should always consult with your doctor first before trying out new supplements), but they are really supposed to help if your sugar cravings are caused by an uneven blood sugar.

Enjoy Natural Sweets
I think that it’s natural for us to want sweets in our diet, we’ve just overdone it as a culture. You can still satisfy your sweet tooth with natural sweeteners (such as raw honey or maple syrup), though I would still limit them, or with fruit. Squash and some grains are actually “sweet” as well, we just don’t realize it when we’ve been chowing down on cakes and cookies. If you are doing the beginner level of this challenge, check out my “Dessert” category for natural sweet ideas. If you are doing the moderate level of this challenge, you will soon find that without any concentrated sweeteners, your fruit will start seeming more and more sweet.

So those are my tips! What are some of yours? And how are you fairing so far in this challenge?

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I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!

Comments

  1. says

    I have found that a tablespoon full of coconut oil everyday helps control my cravings for carbs and sweets.

    Also, a very strange way to satisfy to satisfy your sweet tooth – I’ve found that green peas with lots of melted butter and a little bit of garlic salt make a great snack. The peas are just sweet enough on their own to satisfy. My husband laughs at me when he sees me at night watching a movie and snacking on a bowl of green peas but it works :)!

  2. says

    The first thing I realized was that my canned organic tomato sauce that I was just given has sugar in it! I’ve been canning my own sauce but I’m about out so I was going to use the one I was given to make some pasta sauce. I think I’ll wait on it or pass it on. Just a reminder to myself that sugar, even organic sugar is hiding in almost all prepared foods from the store! :) Other wise going good. I am so glad that you made this challenge. I needed to cut back on my sugar intake even if they are non-refined ones.

  3. Loni s. says

    When 3:00 hits I am always starving. It is then when I go to the kitchen and grab the most convenient snack I can find, which is almost always sugary. Can you recommend some convenient grab-and-go snacks that aren’t sugary? Thanks!

    • says

      I like to keep homemade healthy bars and biscuits in the fridge for snacking; hard boiled eggs are great too! It also might be a good idea to keep chopped fruits and veggies on hand such as sweet potato, carrots, radishes, bananas, or apples.
      One more fun idea: keep left over pancakes (whole wheat, soaked, etc.) in the fridge and eat as a snack spread with butter, peanut butter, or yogurt. Good luck to you!

  4. Nicole says

    I actually started the challenge Saturday because I couldn’t come up with a reason not to (lol) I’ve been having some pretty serious cravings but I’ve been eating blueberries and blackberries whenever it happens. I’ve found avocado helps too, along with macadamia nuts (as suggested by a previous commenter!)

    and…lots and lots of water. I tried coconut water too and thought it was pretty good. :)

  5. Kari says

    I’ve been going sugar free since starting the Maker’s Diet on Jan 3. I’ve been avoiding fruit also to try to get my intense cravings for sweets under control. I have found that Dandy Blend with coconut milk is very satisfying when I need something warm and comforting (I gave up coffee at the same time). I have also found drinking some kombucha after lunch and dinner helps me resist the desire for a sweet ending to my meals. I wonder, though, if I’m getting unintentional sugar from the kombucha. Anyone have any thoughts on that?

    • Lisa Y says

      I think you’re right about the kombucha. I had to get rid of it because it caused me to have issues with yeast. It is after all, a raw product with lots of yeast in it, and sugar. It tastes like vinegar if you get rid of ALL of the sugar and it’s impossible to know how much sugar is left. I no longer make or drink KT.

      Chewing a mint flavored tooth pick like tea tree chewing sticks helps me avoid after meal sugar, or a piece of sugar free (yes, I know, ick) chewing gum.

  6. says

    In the past, I’ve done many fasts for both cleansing and for spiritual reasons. I’ve done water fasts, juice fasts, etc. Fasting/cleansing definitely helped me adjust food cravings. It was amazing how over the years, my cravings for the most part are no longer there, especially chocolate. I actually prefer vegetables.

  7. Joann says

    I didn’t sign up for this challenge but decided to go with it anyway. Intending to cut back over the weekend rebounded on me and I wandered around eating all kinds of non sugary things trying to avoid sugar! Bleh! Thank you for mentioning lacto fermented food because we have a jar of sandwich pickles here at work and they saved me!! My adrenals are low already and I really need to drop the sugar.

  8. Karen says

    Having a really great day. I even found a leftover chocolate from Christmas and gave it away. Made yogurt, salsa and 2 kinds of soup(so I can take it to work). I hope the rest of the challenge goes as well. Good luck to everyone else.

  9. debbie says

    I didn’t sign up for the challenge b/c I already live pretty free of sweets. But I did allow myself honey over the holidays, and interestingly (although I’m only 36), I suddenly had a flare of arthritis in my right hand. I told my husband I had to stop the honey, too. I didn’t know the proportions last night, but before bed I dropped 2 caps of raw cider vinegar in a small cup of water and again first thing this morning. My hand is feeling better (not completely gone yet). But I was glad to read the “recipe” and also the impact it will also have on my blood sugar and cravings. Thanks!

  10. says

    I made a menu plan for the week, void of sugar (save stevia and fruit, as we’re doing the modertate plan). I just started today; so far no cravings. We already only used unrefined sweeteners, so it will be interesting to see how long it takes for the cravings to kick in.

  11. Sarah Mulholland says

    Overall I ate significantly less sugar today. I did eat some sugar at 3:00. This is the worst time of the day for me. I consciously chose to eat a couple hard candies. I’m not being too hard on myself. I have a batch of Kombucha ready so will drink it tomorrow when I have that huge craving and see if it helps. I also have some sour kraut that might be ready. Maybe I will eat a little of it also. Thank you for the tips everyone! I will do even better tomorrow.

  12. Amanda says

    I have a tasty dessert that I like to have when I’m avoiding sugar. It’s a faux mousse that my husband created. I really enjoy it and if I just have to have chocolate but don’t want the sugar, it’s just the thing. :)

  13. says

    Despite my best intentions to go moderate on this one, we’ve ended up on GAPS. So there’s still a very small amount of honey but no grains. I found that having a smoothie every morning [with a mix of fruits and vegetables] with yogurt really got rid of sweet cravings. We had apples today too and some dried fruit when the kids needed something quick. I also made almond flour muffins at snack, which I served with probiotic pickles (great combination, right?). I was mostly trying to get probiotics and raw foods into us as much as possible, along with homemade stock. Trying to keep our food intake up has helped too. Mostly the stuff you said!

    And if you ARE doing grains, a slice of sourdough or sprouted toast covered in butter and unsweetened apple butter is a really nice treat!

  14. says

    Today hasn’t been too bad other than I keep feeling my blood sugar drop even though I’m not even hungry. =0) Kinda funny really. Since I’m doing Advanced the best thing for me is tea. I have a few that are like having dessert if I close my eyes and imagine it that way. =0) The veggie platter in the fridge has been my go-to snack which really helps.

  15. Gail says

    I feel like a failure already! I had the best intentions this weekend and then woke up this morning feeling…..crappy. When I don’t feel well I just grab whatever is quick and easy but also comforting. Sugar is so two-faced!! I crave it for comfort and it ends up making me feel Terrible. I’m feeling kind of hopeless right now but I’m not going to give up. I’m going to take some of the suggestions that others have posted and try to plan some meals/snacks tonight. I desperately want to beat my cravings!

    • lynnpaulus says

      I know how it feels. Just get up again. none of us are pointing fingers!

      Pro 24:16 For a just [man] falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.

      Seven is the number of perfection. We are never going to stop falling down. As Christians being perfect in Christ our savior who never leaves us or forsakes us, we can get up and start again. Now thats love.

    • KimiHarris says

      Don’t feel bad! Do some of the tips I’ve (or others) have shared, but if you still have a hard time saying “no”, try the amino acid and the mineral that I talk about in this post. That could help. The Mood Cure book has some other suggestions as well to beat food addictions. See if it’s at your local library! Sometimes the reason we have trouble avoiding sweeteners goes much deeper than simply self-control, but to body imbalances.

  16. says

    I’m not ready to commit to the sugar free challenge, but I am definitely trying to cut back myself… I had a difficult time this past week trying to stick to my guns and eat healthier, so these tips came at just the right time for me!

  17. Magda Velecky says

    This recipe has been a lifesaver for me: protein, fats and low to no sugar (depending on how you make it):
    http://www.elanaspantry.com/power-bars/

    I skip the agave (though sometimes use maple syrup instead) and I use barely sweetened chocolate for the topping. I always feel guilty for eating these since I think of them as my “candy bars” but there is really nothing bad there! And no sugar!! I make them with almonds and other nuts – I’ve yet to make it with macadamias but it’s on my list.
    Good luck to everyone!

  18. Joselyn says

    I have been processed sugar free for almost 8 years! Keep going. You can do it.
    When you are craving sweets, crunchy peanut butter on a banana or an apple did, and still do, the trick for me. (no sugar peanut butter that is)

  19. says

    I’m so happy to be getting off the sugar! I feel really motivated. I did snack a lot today but I’m gonna be kind to myself about that.

    Here’s my trick for the chocolate cravings: melt bittersweet 100% chocolate (has no sugar or milk) and some coconut oil in a pan, add in a little stevia if you like the taste of it or try lakanto (from the Body Ecology Diet -you can buy it through their website and its sugar free), add in some chopped nuts and eat it like frosting! Yep, I know, sounds crazy, but you know how hard it is when you get the chocolate cravings :-)

    Keep up the good work everyone and if you slip up, it’s ok (really really it doesn’t make you a bad person), just make sure you learn something about what triggered you to slip.

  20. Melissa W. says

    We’re on day 4 of GAPS Intro and it’s hard. We are sticking to it and haven’t cheated at all. Hopefully our sugar cravings will lessen dramatically by staying on GAPS.

  21. Kedesh says

    I am allergic to cane sugar so try to stay off it most of the time. In my water (which I drink a lot of) I use raw organic apple cider vinegar with the mother or fresh lemon juice. It tastes delicious and helps control my appetite and weight. I used to have a real sweet tooth but now things that I used to love taste too sweet to me and things that other people find sour, I find satisfyingly sweet. I’ve trained my taste buds. *smile*

    All the best to those doing the sugar fast! God be with you.

  22. Shalana says

    Two things that have really helped me when cravings strike has been unsweetened coconut flakes (by themselves or with nut butter) and also blueberry tea or any tea with licorice notes.

  23. gg says

    I try to use a really good cinammon – Penzey’s vietnamese cassia with my apples, blueberrries or mixed in greek yogurt- don’t miss the sugar. Another good tea idea is Good Earth’s original…seems very sweet but no sugar and lots of flavor.

  24. Anne Marie says

    I’ve been refined sugar free for about 3 years now. It does get better. Hang in there. It is so worth it in the end to feel better. Your body will thank you.

    I found when I went off of sugar that I carved it most when I hadn’t eaten enough protein. I increased my protein at meals, added eggs or protein powder to smoothies for breakfast and drank a glass of protein juice or milk for snacks.

  25. Lori says

    This is all good news, but I’d like to add some information to the above. Everyone knows that we need to have chromium in the diet to help with sugar cravings, but most people do not realize that you also need vanadium for sugar cravings.
    I am not endorsing any site below or asking anyone to buy from these sites, I am merely posting these to show that there is a wealth of knowledge out there on this particular combination for sugar cravings. In fact, about 18,500 sites will show up if you google this combo together.
    It is important that we use minerals in the right combination in order to have them work properly. The same applies to other vitamins and minerals as well. Most vitamins and minerals work synergistically with one another.
    Hope this helps some of you who are struggling.
    http://www.superpowerslim.com/sugar_cravings.php
    http://performancedu.com/2010/08/12/sugar-cravings/
    http://www.naturesremedyny.com/pages/weightloss/blood-sugar-balance.php

  26. Heather H. says

    I stopped eating all simple sugars and simple carbs over a year ago. I started the first 2 weeks off with the amino acid plan outlined in The Mood Cure. I did it exactly as stated in the book (and above) and it worked very well. I had ZERO cravings and felt so full of energy it was incredible. I really stuck with it for longer than I expected. Its been about 14 months now, and I just now allow myself 1 piece of fruit per day, as a treat. I eat a ton of fat. I figured it out once and 63% of my daily calories are from good fats (lard, beef tallow, coconut oil etc)
    I highly recommend The Mood Cure and The Diet Cure to anyone who is trying this challenge, or to anyone trying to quit coffee, alchohol or any other addiction. I also quit coffee 14 months ago with zero pounding headache or craving at all. WOW!

  27. Greta says

    I’ve started making oatmeal for breakfast every morning (at my 4 yr old’s request) that really cuts cravings for sweet. I prepare the oatmeal with water, and when it’s almost done, I add in tart cherries, almond extract, cream and butter. Once everything is melted and combined, I finish it off with a drizzle of maple syrup on each serving…. Very tasty!

    I also like a tea from Yogi Teas– Mayan Cocoa Spice. I add in some cream, making it a rich, subtly chocolate treat!

  28. Charlie says

    Hi Kimi,
    I make my own kombucha – do you think I can still drink it while doing the moderate level of this challenge?

  29. Magda @ Nofooddiet says

    Sherrie at Simply Living has a great healthy truffle recipe that can help with chocolate cravings: http://simpleliving-sherrie.blogspot.com/2010/12/home-made-chocolate-truffles.html
    I made it with raw cocoa and omitted the sweetener, just using dates and it was fantastic.
    I eat very little processed sugar since I went on a full blown anti-candida diet last year, but I have been letting the sweeteners creep back in and I need to stop them since my digestive issues have been cropping up again. My number one culprit is homemade maple syrup from a family friend’s farm. So delicious!
    I’ve been thinking of making date paste and date syrup as sweeteners but does anyone know how long they would keep for? I know regular dates keep forever in the fridge.

  30. says

    I didn’t sign up for the challenge, but I’ve been sugar (even fruit) free for almost 3 weeks now. It really does get easier. For snacks and low blood sugar, I’ve been making buckwheat (fresh ground and not technically a grain) pancakes in the morning and freezing them or keeping some out during the day. I add a little vanilla and xylitol (a sweetener made from birch trees that actually fights candida and cavities) just to make them not so buckwheaty (but not sweet really) and they are really good!

    I’m off wheat and dairy as well, but I’ve never felt better. There’s also a lot you can do for snacks and treats with almond pulp from making your own almond milk.

  31. Mom of 4 1/2 says

    I’m a bit surprised at this post (first I’ve heard of a no sugar week). I stopped eating sweets years ago, and though I enjoyed many wonderful health benefits, the sugar cravings NEVER quit. Two years later I ran across a website on natural sweeteners which claimed that they were non-addictive. Since I was struggling greatly at the time, being pregnant, with sugar cravings, I went right out and bought myself a big bottle of brown rice syrup and enjoyed sweets made with it to my heart’s content. Within two weeks I was unable to eat large amounts of sweets at once (they’d make me sick) and the cravings were greatly reduced. Not only that, but I no longer craved other unhealthy snacks, like potato chips. Now, another year later, I rarely crave sweets at all. My kids also don’t beg for the candy that people occasionally give us like they used to. Best of all, my biggest fear of switching to natural sweeteners, the cost, hasn’t been a problem. I figure I’m saving money since I never buy prepared snacks anymore (they are SO expensive.) It was that change that actually made me start questioning what other health secrets natural eating held and motivated my search for better eating.

    Having tried both gritting my teeth and going off sugar, and eating natural sweets whenever I feel like it, I say just give in to your cravings with a healthy treat. Then let nature take its course. No need to torture yourself.

  32. Lynn says

    My sweet tooth is HORRIBLE! It helps that we cannot have white sugar around because of intolerances in our family. However, I crave all the time. Someone once told me that my cravings for sugar are always craving for something else, often even water. We don’t hydrate ourselves well, so we crave. Habitually, we fill cravings with something “easy” and sweet because we like it. Enough sugar dehydrates us further, and a cycle begins. I’ve spent time drinking a glass of water literally every time I crave. I’m better hydrated and, so far, so good on this challenge!

  33. says

    I am keeping a diary of this week on my blog. I have learned I hate, like HATE, stevia and can actually drink coffee without it. I also made a poached pears dessert with no sweetener or juice, just butter and sliced pears. It helped.

  34. jani says

    This week has surprised me! I’m not having major cravings at this point.

    I am eating lots of these little local plums that are in season (they’re so small that I keep calling them cherries), carrots, nuts, and bananas as well as drinking lots of water and tea (either plain mint tea or sweetened with honey).

    Monday I was making Eastern Corn Chowder for dinner and remembered just in time to take out some soup for me before adding the creamed corn. I had a partial cup ot flavored (sweetened) yogurt in the frig so this morning I made a smoothie with milk, bananas and strawberries, took out my portion and then added the yogurt to the rest for the family. That’s been the way it’s gone this week so far… I catch myself just before grabbing a coke or finishing the yogurt or whatever sugary thing I’m about to indulge in. But I haven’t felt like I had low sugar… guess because of all the fruit. That’s ok with me. I think God made fruit for us to enjoy and I will never cut it out of my diet.

  35. says

    oh wow! i just stumbled across your sight yesterday and was pleasantly suprised. i quite eating white sugar and white flour 2 years and 6 months ago. I never stopped after I got past my trial week. that week was a night mare for my husband and I. we had drug withdrawls almost. constant headaches, and my husband got the shaks and and itched like crazy. we were shocked at the effect sugar had on us!plus i had seizure problems and couldn”t get pregnant. with this diet and drinking water, they almost completely quit and I got pregnant a month later. my husband who was always tired, Cranky and had a huge headache and had a health problem that he had surgery for many times that just caused a lot of pain, all of it went away and I had this new wonderful husband! we just started it to try it, but we felt so good and I suddenly was a better wife, remebering things, not as emotionally unstable, and more beautiful(no more achne), we just stayed with it and have only delved furthur into healthly eating.

  36. Vikki says

    Lemon water really helps with cravings: juice of one lemon in my water jug, and I drink it through the day. Often when I think I’m craving something, water will cure it – it’s easy to be dehydrated and think that your thirst is actually hunger.

  37. Jess says

    I have brown sugar cravings i eat brown sugar alone i can’t control it and it’s getting worse,i can finish sugar 4rm the sugar and coffee containers at that time

  38. Sarah says

    I started the Candida diet a week ago and need to be sugar free and yeast free for 6 weeks. I have looked at some of comments and have taken some on board. Just thought that the craving would have subsided by now, but it is still really hard. I guess it’s harder as I am not allowed yeast either and so really limits my food intake. Also I’m only allowed two peices of fruit a day.

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