This is one of the most common questions I get from my clients.

Even though cravings are super common, they are equally mysterious and sometimes frustrating to experience. You can’t always pinpoint where a sugar craving will come from or when it’s going to strike, making it difficult to understand how to best deal with sugar cravings.

If we aren’t mindful, cravings can really derail us from feeling our best and prevent us from reaching our goals. Luckily, I’ve learned a few tried and true methods over the years to help myself and my clients reduce and manage sugar cravings so that they don’t get in the way of your progress. Now I know how to support my body so that I rarely ever get intense sugar cravings, and when I do, I know how to respond in such a way that supports my body & mind and allows me to enjoy sweet indulgences without over doing it.

My top 10 tips to manage sugar cravings:

When it comes to sugar cravings (and cravings in general), there are 10 key principles that will help you keep them at bay:

1 . Eat balanced meals of protein, fiber and fat. Frequent cravings are usually a sign that you aren’t getting what you need nutritionally in your every day meals. By focusing on blood sugar balance (aka making sure your meals include protein, fat and fiber), you will ensure your body feels as satiated as possible throughout your day. Other ways to balance blood sugar include opting for complex carbs, getting enough sleep, and exercising. Implement meal prep companies like Balanced Body Foods to help you keep healthier treats on hand for when the cravings hit.

2. Don’t cut it out completely, consume it mindfully. A huge mistake I see people make is completely removing the foods they crave hoping that eventually, the craving will disappear. This is actually not the right mindset and usually leads to binge/restrict tendencies around certain foods. Instead, learn how to consume your cravings foods mindfully. It’s better to have 1 cookie today then deprive yourself and eat 10 cookies later when you finally “cave.”

3. Sleep!  This might not be what most people think of when they consider managing cravings, but when we’re tired, we need energy. And a lot of times we crave sugar for energy, so make sure you are focusing on good quality sleep: 7-9 hours, ideally all the way through. Check out my night time wellness tips if you struggle to fall or stay sleep.

4. Take stock of what you might be craving emotionally. Cravings are not always physical. Sometimes we crave sugar when we are anxious, lonely, bored or otherwise feeling negatively because it’s a “quick fix” of dopamine. But what is it that you really need? A hug? A nap? A few deep breaths? Learning to satisfy and soothe ourselves without sugar is important for overall health and happiness.

5. Break the habit. A lot of times I notice sugar consumption with my clients is simply a habit – it’s really uncomfortable to break for a day or two, and then the desire disappears. You can use habit replacement techniques – like taking a walk or sipping lemon water every time you get a sugar craving. I promise once you get in the habit of NOT having something insanely sweet after every meal, you’ll feel better.

6. Check for hidden sugars in foods. Sugar is hidden in most processed foods because it’s highly addictive and, therefore, will keep you buying! Check for added sugar and skip anything that has more than 5-10g per serving. Look for labels that say “no sugar added” rather than “sugar free”. Artificial sweeteners, which are often found in things labeled sugar free, cause more harm than real sugar. Ideally you stick to natural sugars wherever possible (like those found in fruit and honey), but it’s okay to start small in the beginning.

7. Avoid artificial sweeteners. Not only will artificial sugars harm your gut health, which has downstream effects on hormones, weight, skin, mental health and more… but artificial sweeteners also keep you hooked on high levels of sweetness! Artificial sweeteners are much sweeter per gram than sugar is, which has been known to make sugar cravings worse. Like sugar, artificial sweeteners can become addictive.

8. Manage stress levels. Similarly to #4, sometimes we crave sugar when we are stressed because it has a soothing effect on our nervous system. However, sugar only takes away the stress for a few seconds, making you come back for more and more. Learning to manage stress with tools that actually benefit your nervous system is key. I like to use practices such as breath work, meditation, sauna, journaling, and any form of movement. Learn more about my favorite stress management tips here.

9. Satisfy your craving with something sweet but more nutrient dense like dates, almond butter, dark chocolate, fruit, etc. Natural sources of sugar contain lots of nutrients and fiber and are designed to support our bodies instead of hurt them. In today’s day and age, I can almost guarantee there are super tasty nutrient dense versions of your favorite sweet treats!

10. Let go of craving guilt. So many of the people I talk to feel like cravings are a terrible thing to be avoided at all costs… but cravings are a natural part of being human, and they’re nothing to fear. The goal is to make friends with your cravings, get curious about them, and learn that they are a normal part of life. By following the steps in this guide, soon you’ll see that cravings aren’t actually that bad, and they certainly don’t need to derail us from reaching our goals.

Plus, when your body has the right fuel, you may find that your cravings subside naturally.

Need help navigating cravings and reaching your health goals? One of our Balanced Body nutrition coaches are here to help you today!