Eliminating Sugar Cravings

by Jen on June 8, 2012

Ahhh…sugar.  Something we’ve craved since the moment we first tasted it.

Over the past year, I’ve tried to eliminate added sugar from my diet.  This hasn’t been easy.

You see, when we eat sugar, it increases the levels of serotonin – a mood elevating hormone – in our body.  Our bodies and brains get used to this higher level of serotonin and depend on it for a sense of well being.  So when our serotonin levels dip, we reach for the sugary stuff to elevate it.  But you have probably noticed that although sugar gives you an initial high, you usually crash a couple of hours later.  You feel sluggish and depleted.  And that’s when we reach for sugar, again.

So how do we begin to stop this vicious cycle?


The first step is to make the decision to eliminate added sugar from your diet.  Yes, the first few days are going to be extremely hard.  Extremely.  Hard.

I used to eat red licorice like it was going out of style.  I would buy a large bag of it almost every week at the grocery store.  And as soon as I got home, I would eat a few pieces.  A couple of hours later, I would eat some more.  The next day, I would wake up craving the stuff.  And yes, I would even eat some before breakfast.  I figured, if I just had one more piece, I would satisfy my craving.

Turns out I was wrong.  The more licorice I ate, the more I wanted.  One day I decided enough was enough.  I was gaining weight and I didn’t feel healthy.  So I quit buying licorice.

Wow, I didn’t expect to feel like I was going to die from the cravings.  Headaches, mood swings, intense cravings.  Every time I saw a commercial on TV for Twizzlers, I thought I was literally going to get up and lick the TV screen.  But I fought through it.  Whenever I felt an intense craving, I would occupy myself with something else.  I would go for a walk, chew gum, read a really good book, anything to occupy my mind for 15 minutes.

After 3 weeks of this, the cravings finally slowed down.  I didn’t eat, breathe, and dream about licorice anymore.  I could actually walk right buy a package of licorice in the candy isle without picking it up.  And now?  I don’t even think about the stuff.  It’s like it never existed.

Here are some more steps you can take to help eliminate your sugar cravings:

1. Eat more protein: when you have an intense sugar craving, what your body is really craving is protein.  So instead of reaching for that cupcake, eat a hard boiled egg or a handful of almonds.

2. Remove temptations: go through your pantry and fridge and throw out all the sugary stuff you have stashed away.  If you can’t see it, you won’t eat it.

3. Distract yourself: just as I was saying above, when you experience a craving, do something to occupy your mind so that you will forget about the craving altogether.

4. Replace sweets with fruits: the sugar in fruits is digested differently than refined sugar, so it doesn’t cause that “crash.”  I find eating an apple or a handful of grapes takes away any sugar cravings I am experiencing.

5. Go for quality, not quantity: Eat a small piece of dark chocolate instead of a large piece of milk chocolate.  I eat a small square of dark chocolate once a day.  I let it slowly melt in my mouth and enjoy every second if it.

6. Read labels: you would be surprised how much sugar is hidden in foods.  Looking for the sugar content in foods can help you eliminate high sugar foods from your diet.

7. Eat more healthy fat: the first thing you might hear when you go on a diet is to eat only “low-fat” foods.  But the truth is, you need healthy fat.  When I started adding more fat to my diet such as nuts, avocados, and coconut oil, I started feeling more satisfied.

8. Don’t skip meals: eat 6 small meals throughout the day to keep your blood sugar levels more stable.  And be sure to eat a satisfying breakfast to keep you full for a few hours.  My personal favorite, a big bowl of oatmeal!

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Heidi @ Food Doodles June 8, 2012 at 1:12 pm

Ah, this came at the perfect time for me. After I lost the weight after my daughter I could eat a little bit of sugar without going crazy(and without going back for more and more and more) but since then and being pregnant again and now nursing I’m back on the sugar in the worst way and I need to get off! I definitely need to replace sugar with fruit and add in lots of healthy fats – I know that works well for me. Other things like brushing my teeth or drinking a big cup of hot unsweetened tea really help when I’m craving sugar but I know I’m not hungry. I’m loving all your tips, I’m going to need them in the next couple weeks!
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2 Jen June 8, 2012 at 1:51 pm

Brushing your teeth after dinner and drinking hot tea are also great tips! I know it sounds strange that adding fat to your diet makes you crave sugar less, but it’s so true. Once I rejected the idea of a “low-fat” diet, I stopped having the cravings! I love me some avocado 🙂


3 Heather Daper July 20, 2012 at 8:43 am

This is such a downfall for me! I am going to work on the fruit tip!! thanks!!


4 Jen July 20, 2012 at 11:44 am

It really works! If you replace all sweets with fruit for 2 weeks, you won’t crave refined sugar anymore 🙂 Plus, adding healthy fats like nuts and avocados really helps too.


5 Pascal's Patisserie August 2, 2012 at 11:23 pm

Hope you don’t mind we add to the chorus about healthy fats. Butter is basically a superfood with tremendously good stuff for you but given a hugely bad rap from the food industry that wants to sell you ‘lower fat’ margarine – which is basically a molecule away from being plastic. Not only is an artisan-made baked croissant a great treat with only a trace of sugar and salt to balance the pastry, it is also a much more healthy treat than other options out there. With ours clocking in at only 190 calories, it is calories well spent!


6 Jen August 3, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Thanks for the info! Yes, I like to stay away from the “low-fat” versions as much as I can, whole food is always best 🙂


7 Jana September 21, 2012 at 10:52 am

So I found myself the other day downing the rest of the cake topper of mine and my husband’s 10 year wedding anniversary party…and this after I had shared a banana split with my daughter the day before, and had a cupcake the day before that. I decided to go on a cookie/pastries/cake fast for 30 days, but failed on day 6 as I gave in to my cravings and ate a piece of chocolate pie. So in my efforts to start over and reduce my sweet tooth cravings, I found your encouragement. A PIECE of dark chocolate a day may be the ticket for me. I have also been snacking on roasted edamame and air popped “apple pie” popcorn [1/4 cup kernals + 1 Tbsp of apple pie spice in a paper bag in the microwave for 2 minutes] to help my cravings. Thank you for your help and advice.


8 Jen September 21, 2012 at 12:20 pm

That apple pie popcorn sounds delicious! Yes, I think the mistake people make is giving up sweets entirely, and that usually leads to failure. I allow myself a small piece of dark chocolate each night and then 1 dessert during the week. Once you get into this rhythm, your body won’t crave all that sugar anymore. Best of luck and thanks so much for leaving a great comment 🙂


9 ClinicalPosters January 26, 2013 at 5:18 pm

Not skipping meals is often overlooked. Great minds think alike. Though yours article is more comprehensive, it’s similar to one recently pinned.
End Carbohydrate Cravings


10 Loreta Kurkowski March 8, 2013 at 6:27 am

In the twizzlers I think it is the corn syrup that is the devil. If I eat anything with corn syrup in it I need more and More and MORE and MORE!!!!! If it is good quality chocolate or homemade cookies I can have 1 or 2 and be happy. I really think corn syrup is the food equivalent of meth.


11 Jen March 8, 2013 at 11:03 am

I think you’re right Loreta! I definitely feel more satisfied if I have a piece of homemade cake versus a store-bought. The quality of ingredients makes a huge difference. Thanks for you comment 🙂


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