10 tips to break sugar addiction
scroll to bottom for cookie recipe
After several weeks of indulging over Christmas, it can be challenging to return to our usual, healthy way of eating. This is not just due to a lack of willpower. Physiologically, your body and brain are now programmed to want more sugar, making the cravings almost impossible to ignore.
The brain demands sugar
Sugar fuels every cell in the brain. Your brain also sees sugar as a reward, making you want more of it. You reinforce that reward system every time you eat sugar, making it a tough habit to break.
And the body wants it’s share as well
As if that wasn’t enough, now your body also demands that you give it another hit. As insulin moves glucose out of the bloodstream and into your cells for energy, this rapid drop in blood sugar leaves you feeling wiped out and shaky, searching for more sweets to regain that sugar “high.”
Starch equals sugar
Think you don’t have a sweet tooth, but crave bagels, chips, crackers, or french fries? Highly refined starches are complex carbs that the body breaks down into simple sugars. When eaten without protein, fat, or fibre, starches can make blood sugar levels surge and crash, similar to a simple sugar bonk.
So how do we break this cycle?
- Start Slow
January is notorious for making massive commitments to change our lives and diet, only to fail by February and give up.
Instead of going cold turkey on quitting sugar, do it gradually. Try cutting out one sweet food from your diet each week. For example, pass on dessert after dinner or eat one cookie instead of two.
2. Retrain your taste buds
Over time, you can train your taste buds to enjoy things that aren’t as sweet. Start by putting less sugar in your coffee, oatmeal, and baked goods. Over time your taste buds will change, and you will experience the same pleasure or “high” with less.
3. Change up your sugar choices
Include more fruits and vegetables containing natural sugars, fibre, antioxidants, and essential vitamins.
4. Educate yourself
Check food labels. Watch out for items that list any form of sugar in the first few ingredients, or have more than 4 total grams of sugar per serving.
The word “sugar” sometimes goes by another name, like these:
- Agave nectar
- Brown rice syrup
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Evaporated cane juice
- Malt syrup
5. Add more protein and fibre
High-protein and fibre foods digest more slowly, keeping you feeling full for longer. They also don’t make your blood sugar spike the way refined carbs and sugars do. Good protein sources are chicken, yogurt, eggs, nuts, or beans. Good fibre sources are soaked chia seeds, oats, beans, lentils, berries.
Food combining (eating a high protein or fibre along with a high sugar food) will slow the release of insulin and help prevent a sugar crash. But the brain will remain in the same “sugar = reward” feedback loop.
6. Do NOT substitute with artificial sweeteners
Some studies suggest artificial sweeteners may leave you craving more sugar, which doesn’t help break your taste for sweets. Pay attention to your body. Are sweeteners making you crave even more sugar?
7. Get enough sleep and rest
Many times we crave sugar because we are tired and looking for energy. In addition, if we are well rested, we can make better decisions and, therefore, better food choices.
8. Snack on exercise
It is usually around 2 or 3pm when our blood sugar drops and we start to crave something sweet. Instead of reaching for a cookie, get up and complete a short but vigorous form of exercise. Run up and down the stairs or whip off 10 fast push-ups or do burpees in your office. The quick adrenaline rush will boost your energy levels and curb the craving.
9. When baking, cut the sugar by half
Unless the recipe was designed for weight loss or a low-sugar diet, EVERY recipe I have found uses way too much sugar. As a general rule, I cut the sugar by half. If it is just for myself and my husband, I will continue to cut the sugar until I find how low I can go before he notices.
10. Make it easy
Have tasty snacks and food available and easy to access, for when your next sugar craving hits. Some snack ideas are: celery sticks with peanut butter, yogurt and blueberries, hummus and any vegetable, apple and almond butter, raisins and almonds. Eat foods that you enjoy so you don’t feel deprived.
Here is my favourite healthy cookie recipe courtesy of Dr. Leslie Wicholas. Leslie is a psychiatrist and an avid cyclist who rides with Kits Energy. She also designed the food as Medicine program to treat depressive mood disorders and fibromyalgia at the Mood Disorders Association of BC. I love these cookies so much that I double the recipe, so I always have a few in my freezer.
Chocolate Spice Cookies (gluten and dairy free)
by Leslie Wicholas, MD
2/3 cup baked cooked garnet yam. Remove the skin from the yam before using. (You can bake yams ahead of time and freeze them to use later)
4 Tbsp mild flavoured olive oil
3 Tbsp dark maple syrup
1/3 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup oat flour
3 Tbsp cocoa powder
1.5 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
3 Tbsp dark chocolate chips
Bake yam at 400 degrees for 1 hour or until really soft. Fully cool in refrigerator before using.
- Pre heat oven to 350 degrees
- Mix the wet ingredients well.
- Combine dry ingredients and add to wet ingredients. Mix well. Batter will be sticky with a cake like batter consistency. It will firm up after baking.
- Grease cookie sheet with coconut oil. Scoop a spoon full of batter onto the sheet. Gently shape into cookies
- Bake for 20 minutes. Cookies should be firm, with a little “spring” when you touch it.
Makes 15 cookies
Keeps well in fridge for 3-4 days. Freezes well.