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10 Ways to Break Your Sugar Addiction—For Good

If you find yourself having a hard time avoiding sugar, here are the strategies than can help you break your sugar addiction.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

Sugar cravings are a familiar feeling for many. While a small bite of chocolate to satisfy your sweet tooth is totally fine, eating added sugar in higher amounts and on a regular basis could be harmful to your health. If you have a hard time passing up sweets, there are some easy ways to break your sugar addiction. In fact, eating more of other foods, for example, could help curb your cravings in no time.

While more research is needed to understand the addictive properties of sugar, there is some evidence to support the idea that one can develop a dependence on sugar. Although it may not be addictive in the same way as illicit drugs and other substances, many experience strong cravings for sugar and have a hard time passing up an opportunity for something sweet. Going "cold turkey" and avoiding the ingredient altogether is one way to go about breaking your sugar addiction, but there are other methods that can promote healthy habits while reducing your cravings.

A small amount of added sugar can be part of a balanced diet. The American Heart Association recommends women consume no more than 25 grams per day while men should eat fewer than 36 grams. This budget is generous enough to allow sweetener in your morning coffee, added sugar in miscellaneous foods, like bread, and even a small square of dark chocolate in the evening. However, if you find yourself desiring more sugar than this, and have a hard time skipping it, here are 10 ways to break your sugar addiction for good. Read on, and for more, don't miss 5 Sneaky Ways To Cut Out Sugar & Lose Weight Faster.

Eat more protein

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As the most satiating macronutrient, incorporating protein into each meal is an effective way to feel fuller. When you are full and satisfied, you may be less likely to grab sweet treats and desserts. Protein comes in so many forms, and convenient sources of this nutrient will make it easier to incorporate into more meals. For some low-prep protein sources, try Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, eggs, and protein powder. Or, the next time you're shopping at the grocery store, consider picking up precooked animal proteins like a whole rotisserie chicken, heat-and-eat options such as canned or microwaveable seasoned beans, or refrigerated entrees such as seasoned shredded chicken.

Boost your fiber

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Fiber is another satiating ingredient, like protein. The more fiber you eat, the more likely you are to feel full and satisfied after a meal. This satisfaction may make you less likely to search out other food, including sweet treats. Fruits and vegetables are a great source of fiber and pack many other essential nutrients. Including produce at each meal and snack is a great start to boosting your fiber intake. Additionally, eat whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds to reach more than the recommended 25 grams of fiber per day. As you increase your fiber intake, make sure you drink plenty of water to help your body process this nutrient properly and avoid uncomfortable side effects, like constipation.

Drink plenty of water

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Speaking of water, mild dehydration could lead to you feeling hungry even if you don't physiologically need food. Consuming enough water throughout the day takes little to no preparation, yet it is a habit many adults struggle to maintain. Staying well hydrated could be a simple way to reduce sugar cravings and possibly minimize other dehydration symptoms, like lethargy, lightheadedness, and trouble concentrating. There is not a one-size-fits-all fluid goal that works for everyone; however, drinking 80 ounces of fluid per day, at least half coming from water, is likely a good start for most people. In addition to meeting this minimum fluid amount, pay attention to your urine color and aim for a pale yellow to clear color within the first couple hours after waking up.

 6 Reasons You Have Water Weight & How to Lose It

Manage stress

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Keeping your stress in check can be easier said than done, but an effort to manage your stress level could also help you kick your sugar cravings. Chronic stress can increase your levels of cortisol, a hormone that may increase your appetite. This appetite increase could lead to a desire for sweets and more snacking on sugar-containing foods. Not to mention, sugar cravings can be driven by a desire for a reward, leading you to look for sweets to counter your stress. Manage your stress with exercise and meditation, avoid stressful environments, and practice breathing techniques to get you through stressful periods.

Incorporate fat at each meal

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Eating a bowl of cereal for breakfast or a can of soup for lunch doesn't cut it. While these meals can provide important nutrients, like fiber, they are lacking in fat. Compared to carbohydrates, fat is a more satiating nutrient, helping you feel fuller after a meal. In addition to making sure each meal provides protein, you should be incorporating fats in meals, too. Instead of just cereal and milk, top your bowl with chopped nuts for a boost of fats and protein. If you like the ease of soup for lunch, incorporate cheese or avocado to add fat, or add a side of veggies and hummus.

Choose healthier carbs

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Carb-based foods can be very convenient and easy grab-and-go options. Packaged granola bars, pastries, and chips don't take any effort to prepare and can be a little too easy to rely on for meals and snacks. These foods are generally made with lower-quality carbs, like sugar, and provide little fiber. Manufactured foods can have a place in a well-rounded diet, but skip those with added sugar. When you compare brands of granola bars, for example, go with options that provide the least amount of sugar and most fiber. You should follow this same practice when it comes to all packaged carbs, including pancake mixes, bread, crackers, and the previously mentioned foods.

 6 'Bad' Carbs That Are Actually Good For Weight Loss

Get active

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One of the reasons people crave sugar is this ingredient can produce more dopamine in the brain. The release of this endorphin can help you feel happier and may even produce a feeling of calm. Instead of reaching for sweet treats to boost your dopamine, incorporate exercise into your daily routine. Whether it is a brisk walk, a workout class, or a simple circuit at home, exercise can lead to a release of endorphins. Getting this mood boost from exercise can have many health benefits, and may reduce your desire to reach for sweets.

Get sugar out of your house

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If you find yourself having a difficult time controlling your portions of sweets, start by making them less accessible at home. This doesn't mean sugar is an off-limits ingredient forever, but while you work to reduce your cravings, avoid having it within arm's reach. Instead of a nightly bowl of ice cream for dessert, reach for a bowl of berries. If you're used to grabbing a sweet pastry as you head out the door, trade that for a microwavable breakfast sandwich that provides more protein and no added sugar.

Don't starve yourself

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Going too long without eating can lead to intense hunger. We have all been there—we skip a meal or snack and several hours later find ourselves ravenous and raiding the pantry for anything we can get our hands on. Not only can this hunger lead to quick consumption of low-quality, sugary foods, but if you go too long without eating, your body may crave sugar. This is because of a blood sugar drop that may occur, leading to your body physiologically needing sugar to rebalance levels in your blood. Instead of a cycle of starvation and needing sugar, eat every few hours throughout the day and include produce, fat, protein, and fiber at meals and snacks to maintain healthy blood sugar levels and avoid cravings.

 10 Superfood Snacks to Stay Full & Energized All Day Long

Avoid sugar substitutes

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Artificial sweeteners provide sweetness with few to no calories. This may be good for your waistline, but sugar substitutes may lead you to crave sweetness. While this may not be the case for everyone, if you notice that adding sugar substitutes to your coffee, for example, leads you to want more sweetened food and drinks throughout the day, you're better off skipping it. Instead of sweetener in your coffee, add some milk to soften the flavor. If you like to use sugar alternatives in baking, try using unsweetened applesauce or other pureed fruits instead. This will provide sweetness and some fiber without the sugar and substitutes.

Kelsey Hampton, MS, CSSD, RDN, LD
Kelsey is a Texas-based dietitian and professor who specializes in sports nutrition. Read more about Kelsey
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