If I had a nickel for every time a client confided in me, often dejectedly, that they have a sweet tooth, I would be sitting at a much more comfortable desk right now. We are socialized to believe that if we crave sugar, there is something wrong with us, especially if diet culture is constantly whispering in our ears that sugar-containing foods are “bad.” That is, they are not. Sugar cravings can be managed relatively easily by making a few small changes to your eating habits and mindset.
Eating on a regular basis
One of the primary reasons we crave sweets is that our meal times are irregular or that we skip meals. Long periods without food, skipping breakfast in favor of a quick coffee, or working through lunch on a deadline can all contribute to a sweet tooth. The reason for this is not because you are a bad person or lack “willpower,” it is entirely physiological. If your body is not receiving the nutrients it requires, it will find the simplest way to communicate this to you. When we skip meals or fast for an extended period of time, we can experience dangerously low blood sugar levels. This is not a place the body wishes to be. The nutrient that raises blood sugar the fastest, pulls us out of the “danger zone,” and provides usable energy to the body is glucose, or sugar. As a result, we crave sugar. If skipping meals or having irregular mealtimes indicates that you are not eating enough in general, your body may crave sweets for fuel if it feels as though it is running on or near empty.
If you consume regular meals but cut back on carbs, you may experience increased cravings for sweets and carbs. This is also not because you’re following the wrong “diet” or because sweets and carbs are intrinsically “bad.” It’s because you require carbohydrates! Bear in mind that carbohydrates are not the evil toxic substances that diet culture would have you believe. Simply put, they are the body’s preferred source of energy. and, if you don’t consume them, even if you consume a lot of protein, fat, and vegetables, you’re likely to crave sweets and carbs. The simple solution here is to consume carbs on a regular basis. Carbohydrates can and should be included in all of your daily meals. Choose carbs that contain some fiber, such as whole grains, skinless potatoes, beans and legumes, and fruits, to help promote satiety and maintain stable blood sugar levels.
Consume (some) sugar
You heard it first here: this dietitian is advising you to consume sugar. and yes, I am aware that many people in this country consume an excessive amount of added sugar, which may contribute to the risk of chronic disease in some way. I promise I have a point. We’ve discussed some of the physiological reasons for our sweet tooth. however, psychological ones are critical as well. When you deprive yourself of a food you enjoy, let’s say cake, it’s a little depressing. Then you begin to crave the cake more and more, until you finally “cave” and eat the entire thing. Following that, feelings of discomfort and guilt set in, and the deprivation cycle begins again. It is possible to deviate from the path here! What if you removed cake entirely from your “off-limits” list and made it available to you whenever you wanted? To be sure, you may initially consume an increased amount of cake on a daily basis. However, the cake’s potency diminishes over time, as do your cravings for it. Regularly including some sweets in your diet can actually help you consume less sweets in the long run.
The short version
We need to abandon the notion that our cravings for sweets and sugary foods must be “managed.” Rather than that, let’s dig a little deeper into what may be missing from your diet and your relationship with food. If this work appears intimidating or difficult, consulting a registered dietitian who takes a “non-diet” approach may be beneficial.