This article first appeared on Healthy Inspiration.
Sugar is as addictive as heroin…
As some claim.
There are many theories as to the cause of sugar cravings – reward pathways, hormonal changes, adrenal fatigue, nutrient deficiencies, maybe even allergies and more. While some of the reasons appear to be complex and unclear, I think everyone can agree – we don’t like them!
Sugar cravings can make us feel weak and compel us to make food or beverage choices we might otherwise have declined in a stronger state. Time after time, people blame themselves saying, “I just need more willpower.” But, when the moment is there, everyone feels that urge to go grab a sweet treat to satisfy the desire – it’s natural.
For many, these cravings set in mid- to late-afternoon when we are trying to finish up our work and garner our last bit of energy and finish the workday strong.
So, are we completely at the mercy of these strong, impulsive cravings? Do we have to admit defeat, yet again, when they overpower our thoughts?
Because you are spirit, soul, and body, it is important to combat cravings from all angles. This doesn’t mean you need to have a prayer meeting when the thought of grabbing a doughnut occurs. But, it does mean that these moments are opportunities to execute power, become proactive, and admit weakness.
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV)
God doesn’t “remove” the thought because we beg him to. Nope. Paul tells us that we take our own thoughts captive. We make them submit to Christ. You and I determine the power we hold and how we execute it.
Your Heavenly Father promises that there is always a way out. Nothing is beyond your ability to handle.
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)
God always keeps His end of the bargain, are we doing our part?
Having Done All to Stand
While the war in your head and spirit cannot be neglected, there are some very practical and easy to implement strategies that can help you curb, cure, even defeat some of these sugar cravings so they don’t come back. Not tomorrow, not next week and not next month. That might sound highly confident and maybe even unbelievable, but the truth is that you have a lot more power than you think!
Sugar cravings are often biological signs that your blood sugars have dropped and your body is in need of energy – FAST! It often feels urgent, even if your energy is low. There are several ways you can combat cravings through food choices so that they don’t haunt you all afternoon!
Slay the Crave
1. Eat a Piece of Fruit with Lunch
Fruit is naturally sweet. The best meals are those that satisfy all of our taste buds- sweet, savory, salty, bitter, and sour. When sweet fruit is included as a part of lunch, it can satisfy your desires for sweet, rather than leave you wanting that sugary treat later. Grabbing a piece of fresh fruit may be one of the easiest ways to incorporate this sweet whole food into your lunch!
But for some creative ideas, try these out:
- Add berries, chopped apple or mandarin oranges to a fresh green salad
- Make an almond butter sandwich (or peanut butter) with sliced banana
- Top low-fat cottage cheese with fresh melon
- Pack up this Citrus Asian Coleslaw with Sliced Oranges
2. Include Adequate Protein at the Mid-Day Meal
Protein requires a longer period of time to digest, making it satisfying and keeping you full for longer! If you skip the protein at lunch, opting for a simple green salad or a plate of fruit or a “tomato sandwich,” you will likely find yourself hungry sooner as sugar cravings intensify.
There are many ways to include protein that are easy to pack up and won’t weigh you down.
- Include grilled chicken or 2 boiled eggs on a salad or in a pita pocket.
- Make egg or tuna salad with low-fat mayo or yogurt and seasonings.
- Pack up ½-1 cup low-fat cottage cheese or ricotta cheese.
- Include a 4-8oz container of greek yogurt (regular yogurt contains about ½ the protein compared with greek).
- Add in a low-fat cheese stick or 2.
- Stir in chopped chicken, tofu or tempeh into leftover stir-fried or grilled veggies.
- Top a fresh green salad with ½ cup of steamed edamame beans (find these in your freezer section!).
- Include ½-3/4 cup black beans into a tex-mex bowl.
3. Avoid Refined Carbs at Your Lunch
Simple, refined carbs like white bread, rice and pasta and processed snack foods quickly raise blood sugars, followed by an unpleasant crash. Once that crash occurs, cravings ensue. Not good! By swapping out refined carbohydrate foods with whole grains, beans, and more veggies, your body responds by adjusting to a slower rise and fall in blood sugars, allowing you to stay in control!
4. DO Include Healthy Carbs
While carbohydrate foods are commonly demonized, they really aren’t the bad guys. Unfortunately, processed carbs get linked to whole food carbohydrates when people say, “carbs.” Actually, healthy, whole food carbohydrates have fiber which slows the rise and fall in blood sugars and helps you stay full and satisfied, leaving the thought of sugary treats undetected.
Carbohydrate foods contribute to the production of serotonin, what Judith Wurtman, Ph.D. calls “nature’s own appetite suppressant.” This powerful neurotransmitter does more than simply make you feel good, Wurtman says, “you feel emotionally stable, less anxious, more tranquil and even more focused and energetic.”
Leaving whole carbohydrate foods out of lunch may leave you feeling deprived and eager to satisfy that sweet tooth not long after. A few creative and simple ways to add whole food carbs to your lunch include:
- Add a spoonful of cooked quinoa to a fresh salad
- Swap to 100% whole grain or sprouted grain bread for your sandwich
- Make cracker sandwiches with 1 serving (per box) of 100% whole grain crackers with cheese and lean low sodium deli meat
- Make a vegetarian Tex-Mex salad with black beans, greens, salad, low-fat yogurt/sour cream, salsa and some black olives
- Mix 100% whole grain pasta with leftover roasted veggies and chopped chicken, tossed in a couple tablespoons of vinaigrette dressing
5. Choose Water and Unsweetened Beverages
Sugary drinks contribute almost 50% of added sugars among Americans. And according to the CDC, the prevalence of US adults reported drinking at least 1 sugar-sweetened beverage per day. While we know they are not ideal beverage choices, the soda industry boasts $80.6 BILLION in revenues in 2016.
Choosing water over soda could dramatically reduce your afternoon sugar cravings because all that sugar – 15-18 teaspoons worth in a 20oz bottle – contributes to the rollercoaster of blood sugars. Like stated before, those blood sugar crashes only make you want MORE!
Even 100% juice has about as much sugar as a soda. While it is not added sugar, it will still skyrocket those blood sugars!
6. Eat a Wide Variety of Whole Foods
Including a wide variety of whole foods from each of the food groups – vegetables, fruit, lean protein, dairy, healthy fats and whole grains ensures your body digests and assimilates a wide variety of vitamins and minerals.
Have you ever blamed your ice cream craving on your need for calcium or your chocolate craving on your need for magnesium? There is no blame needed if you are providing your body with an abundance of nutrients from different foods. You can get an excellent dose of calcium from a serving of yogurt and those dark leafy greens are rich in magnesium – so are pumpkin seeds!
So, What’s the Play Call?
Don’t allow sugar cravings to wreck your good intentions. YOU CAN take control, submit them to Christ and take some practical actions that will help you win again and again.
It’s also important to note that sleep plays a significant role in regulating appetite and supplying your body with energy all day long. Failure to get adequate sleep and poor stress management could literally be sabotaging your healthy eating goals, keeping you in an endless cycle.
Sugar might feel addictive. It tastes good and our body likes it. But you are not subject to the powers of this world. The God of the universe lives in you and has supplied you power and a sound mind to conquer your cravings, no matter how powerful they feel.
Take captive and stay proactive.
Westwater, M. L., Fletcher, P. C., & Ziauddeen, H. (2016). Sugar addiction: the state of the science. European Journal of Nutrition, 55(Suppl 2), 55–69. http://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-016-1229-6