Statistics show that the average American eats 130lbs of sugar per year! I'll admit that my intake of sugar has definitely increased in the past week with the start of the holiday season. Between hot chocolate, pumpkin pie, chocolate candy and other delicious goodies, it all adds up quick. And the more I eat, the more I seem to want. Sound familiar? That's because research has shown that sugar has addictive properties and stimulates the same neuro-pathways as cocaine. It is also possible to build up a tolerance to sugar, causing the need to eat more and more for the same 'reward' response.
Looking to nip your sugar cravings in the bud? See my post below for some tried and true tips for preventing yourself from falling into a sugary coma this holiday season.
Staying well hydrated will keep cravings at bay. Oftentimes, our body's signaling processes get confused and instead of drinking when we're thirsty, we grab a bite to eat. Keep a bottle of water with you at all times. Staying hydrated throughout the winter months will fight off dry skin, boost your mood and energy levels, and act as a natural deterrent to sugar cravings. **Side note: Be weary of liquid calories!
Eat adequate calories
Basically, don't let your blood sugar drop so low that your sugar cravings become out of control. Eat at regular intervals (I recommend 3 meals and 2 snacks daily) and make sure you're eating adequate calories for your needs. Depriving yourself throughout the day will only lead to ravenous cravings in the evening hours. So if you have a nighttime function to attend, it's best eat nutritiously throughout the day beforehand. If you overeat at a party, choose to cut back a little bit each day for the next few days, rather than depriving yourself within a short time span.
Push the fruits & veggies
Aim for 5-9 servings per day! The more you crowd out junk food with whole foods in your diet, the less frequent and intense your cravings will be. Combine this tip with staying well-hydrated for a power-packed sugar-fighting punch.
Create yourself a menu
Related to the previous two points, knowing what you plan to eat ahead of time can prevent impulsive snacking, which often leads to poor nutritional choices. Take a few minutes at the beginning of each day to write our your meals and snacks and stick to it!
Focus on non-food rewards
Proud of yourself for a recent long run, or for receiving a promotion at work? Avoid using sugar as a reward. Instead, opt for activities that are relaxing or health promoting, such as a massage or long walk. Buy yourself an early christmas present. Either way, the less you can use food as a reward, the better.
Skip the sugar substitutes
Be weary before choosing artificial sugars because in reality, there's no quick fix to America's love affair with sugar. Not only are you introducing unnatural substances to your body, but because your body doesn't know how to metabolize these "sugars," recent research shows they may be associated with weight gain and other metabolic disorders. For more information check out this blog post by Dietitian Cassie.
Get plenty of sleep
A jam packed schedule during the holidays can lead to sleep deprivation, which definitely will increase your cravings for sugar. Prioritize what you have going on and maintain your normal sleep schedule to the best of your ability.
Going "sugar-free" is an ambitious goal, and not realistic for most. Rather than depriving yourself of all sugar, which can lead to increased cravings, choose to practice moderation and keep your intake in check. Some people need to go "cold-turkey," and I say "to each their own." Do what works best for you!
Do you have any additional tips for fighting off your sugar cravings!? If so, please share!
Kristen Chang is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) and triathlete residing in southwest Virginia with her husband and dogs. Follow along as she shares favorite fueling recipes, general wellness and sport nutrition tips and stories from her athletic endeavors.
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