If you feel like you’re flagging a bit it can be all too tempting to grab a chocolate bar or a fizzy drink to give you a quick lift. The problem with doing so, however, is that the effects are short lived and you soon crave more. So, what is the best way to manage your cravings and what are the alternatives?
The appeal of sugar
When we’re tired we tend to want something sweet. There are a number of possible reasons for this. It may be that humans naturally prefer sweet things. From birth the first tastes that we encounter are sweet. When we are little we are often given sweets as a reward and this association continues into adulthood. Carbohydrates such as sugar also help release serotonin in the brain which makes us feel good and endorphins that relax us.
Whilst the old adage “a little of what you fancy does you good” is true when it comes to sugar the difficulty arises when we over consume. Too much sugar is bad for our waistlines, teeth and general health. And, it’s easy to have too much without really thinking about it, particularly when eating processed foods such as bread, sauces and yogurt. So, what can you do to limit your sugar intake?
In the short term
There are a number of tactics that you can employ and you may find that some work better for you than others. Some people find it helpful to have a little bit of what they’re craving such as a fun size chocolate bar or to limit themselves to one expensive chocolate rather than a whole high street bar. If this won’t leave you feeling full, however, then you may find combining foods helpful, for example, by dipping a banana in chocolate sauce.
Others find the only way they can manage their cravings is by going cold turkey and cutting out all sweet treats. Chewing gum or keeping fruit and foods such as nuts and seeds close to hand can help and these foods also aid serotonin release. And distractions techniques such as going for walk when the cravings hit can also work. Try to avoid using artificial sweeteners though as there is little evidence that they’ll help your cravings to reduce.
Think about the times of day when you crave sugary food. Do you go a long time between meals? If so, this might be the problem. Rather than eating a lot at each meal think about ways that you can spread what you eat throughout the day. Have cereal or toast at breakfast and then a yoghurt mid-morning. Enjoy your sandwich or salad at lunchtime and then an apple or banana mid-afternoon.
Food for thought
There are also some longer term actions that you can take to help beat the cravings. Most of us lead such busy lives now that we simply grab the first thing we fancy in the supermarket to eat. Planning your meals, however, will help you to make healthier choices and enable you to eat what you’re intending to eat rather than making the easiest choice when hungry.
Also think about whether there are any other reasons why you’re craving sugar. Many people reach for the chocolate when they’re unhappy or stressed. Try and find other solutions to any emotional issues as food won’t make them go away.
Finally, remember that it takes a while to retrain your taste buds and habits. Reward yourself for your successes, both large and small.
This article was contributed by John, a freelance health writer, who is currently working with Range Cookers.