8 Ways to Stop Sugar Cravings

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Wellness Mama » Blog » Health » 8 Ways to Stop Sugar Cravings

Craving ice cream or searching the pantry for a sweet treat every night after dinner? You’re not alone.

The truth is sugar is incredibly addictive, and in today’s world it’s easily available in many attractive forms! Whether it’s a quick stop at a drive-thru or raiding the pantry for a handful of chocolate chips, we all know how it is to suddenly “need” something sweet.

Many people struggle with sugar cravings. Our modern lifestyle often includes processed foods, irregular sleep schedules, artificial light, and inactivity. These factors all contribute to sugar cravings, weight gain, and mood problems.

Fortunately, there are lots of things you can do to help ease those hankerings.

What Causes Sugar Cravings?

Humans are somewhat wired to crave sugar from birth, and for good reason. Breast milk is naturally sweet and contains important carbohydrates that not only feed baby, but baby’s healthy gut bacteria as well.

The carbs in breast milk stimulate the release of serotonin and endorphins to promote relaxation. This contributes to the bonding process between mother and child.

Later in life, this natural desire for sweet foods continues. The body gets a physiological sense of reward from eating sugar, and when food was scarce, these cravings were life-saving. These days, our cravings generally do more harm than good.

Overdoing it on sugar and carbs perpetuate this craving cycle, and many of us fall victim to it. According to the American Heart Association, the average American consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugars a day in the form of foods, drinks, and sweets.

Of course, occasional indulgence in a high quality and nutrient-dense treat, like homemade chocolate or coconut milk panna cotta, is perfectly fine unless there is another health issue at play. It’s habitual, everyday sugar consumption and cravings that pose a big problem for many people.

How to Stop Sugar Cravings

Ready to go sugar-free? I recommend starting with a sugar detox to break the habit and allow the body to heal. This can be difficult, but going cold turkey might not be as difficult as you think. Stock your fridge with low-sugar fruit, like berries, to help ease those cravings.

You can also slowly wean yourself by reducing your sugar intake over time. Start by replacing refined sugar with natural sources, like coconut sugar or maple syrup, before transitioning fully off the sweet stuff. Here’s how to tackle either kind of sugar detox.

Here are a few other things I’ve found that can help you curb sugar cravings naturally.

1. Briefly Supplement With L-Glutamine

This was a tip I first encountered when reading Dr. Julia Ross’ book The Mood Cure. This book is a gold mine of information about nutrition, and I found her tips for battling a sweet tooth especially interesting. (Also check out her most recent book The Craving Cure.)

Her theory is that stress, poor diet or environmental factors deplete some people of certain amino acids that create intense sugar cravings. In this case, a healthy diet alone may not be enough to reverse the problems. As Food Renegade explains in-depth, any of us with severe amino acid deficiencies and neurotransmitter imbalances can’t overcome sugar addiction with willpower alone.

Fortunately, Dr. Ross’ solution involves short term supplementation with the amino acid L-glutamine. In fact, she claims that when a sugar craving hits, just a few 500mg doses of L-glutamine per day is enough to fix the problem in only a month or two.

In hindsight, I noticed that when I was taking L-glutamine as part of my protocol to improve my gut health and manage my autoimmune thyroid disease, I also lost all cravings for sugar. I hadn’t connected the two at the time. Amazingly, I haven’t craved (or even wanted) sweet foods since then.

I personally took these L-glutamine capsules twice a day, but some people prefer the powdered version that can be added to drinks. As a side note, L-glutamine is often used for building lean muscle mass in athletes and I noticed that I also had a faster recovery time from difficult workouts while taking L-glutamine.

2. Eat More Protein and Good Fats

Sometimes, the cause of food cravings might be as simple as snacking on too many processed carbohydrates on a regular basis and not getting enough protein and fats.

Carbs like sweet potatoes provide a quick and easy source of energy for the body, and they certainly have their place. When you get into a habit of eating too many carbs, however, the result can be blood sugar fluctuations that lead to cravings.

Proteins are made up of amino acids, which are vital for balancing hormones and avoiding sugar cravings. Healthy fats from whole foods like avocado help fuel the body, while increasing satiety to ward off immature feelings of hunger.

Over the long-term, eating healthy fats and proteins (along with lots of veggies) can help with sugar cravings. They provide your body with essential fatty acids, amino acids, and micronutrients it needs to remain in balance and not crave foods unnecessarily.

3. Eat When You’re Hungry (and Plan Ahead)

Times of intense hunger are not times to make level-headed decisions about the best foods to eat. Sometimes the best defense is a good offense. In this case, that means planning or prepping healthy meals ahead of time so you’ll have them on hand when you get hungry. A solid meal plan for the week will make it that much easier for you to stay on track.

Like I mentioned above, eating enough nutrient-rich foods like proteins, healthy fats, and vegetables will help stop extreme hunger and blood sugar swings. This makes it easier to choose healthy options as sugar cravings hit stronger when you allow yourself to get extremely hungry. Especially when this hunger is combined with stress or lack of sleep!

4. Get Moving

Exercise releases some of the same endorphins you get from sugary foods and can be a great substitute when done consistently.

You don’t have to go running or do anything incredibly intense to get the benefits. Just a brisk walk, a few minutes of jump rope intervals, or a few bodyweight exercises can be enough to get the endorphins moving and dodge the sugar cravings.

My favorite exercise these days is a walk or jog with my dog or a quick kickball game outside with the kids, but there are endless options. Planning exercise is also a great way to beat the sugar habit long term. Eventually, you can train your body to love the endorphins from exercise as much as those from sugar.

5. Get Some Sleep

It is no secret that sleep is important. Not getting enough zzz’s is linked to just about every chronic health problem. Specifically, not getting enough sleep can increase your risk of heart attack, cancer, diabetes, and other metabolic disorders.

Sleep is also vital for balancing blood sugar and maintaining the correct levels of the hormones that manage insulin. In fact, just one night of impaired sleep can leave you with the blood sugar levels of a pre-diabetic. Not the best idea for someone trying to master sugar cravings.

For this, and a million other reasons, make sleep a priority. It is one of the few silver bullets in health and it is totally free! These are my best tips for optimizing sleep (even as a mom!).

6. Try Supplementing With Chromium

Doctors sometimes suggest taking chromium to regulate insulin. This essential trace element is important for balancing blood sugar levels.

In small doses, chromium may help ward off blood sugar dips and spikes that lead to cravings. A doctor once recommended that I take 200 mcg of chromium once a day in the morning to help balance blood sugar levels. However, you should check with your own doctor or registered dietitian before starting a new supplement.

7. Get Your B-Vitamins

B-vitamins are important for so many reactions in the body, including the way you metabolize carbohydrates.

You’ll deplete these important nutrients when you’re stressed or eat too many carbs. I found that I had much more energy when I took a fermented live-source b-vitamin complex.

8. Stay Hydrated

Hankering for a sweet afternoon snack? Pour yourself a glass of water instead.

Thirst might be the culprit behind your sugar cravings. When you’re dehydrated, your body has a harder time producing the glycogen you need to stay energized. Drink lots of water to make sure this isn’t adding to your sugar problem!

A Note on Sugar Substitutes

Many readers ask me if they should swap out their refined sugar for artificial sweeteners or other substitutes. Unfortunately, just switching out sugar for another kind won’t address the underlying problem. In some cases, it may even lead to more serious problems. I personally use xylitol and stevia as natural sweeteners on occasion. You can read my full take on sugar substitutes here.

Start Today!

Quitting sugar can be a real challenge, especially if you have children that crave it just as much as you do! Fortunately, adopting a healthy lifestyle, eating the right foods, and getting the right mix of supplements can really help.

This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Lauren Jefferis, board certified in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor or work with a doctor at SteadyMD.

Ever battled sugar cravings? What are some hacks that helped stop your sugar cravings?

  1. Depner, C. M., Stothard, E. R., & Wright, K. P. (2014). Metabolic consequences of sleep and circadian disorders. Current diabetes reports, 14(7), 507.
  2. He, C., Anand, S. T., Ebell, M. H., Vena, J. E., & Robb, S. W. (2015). Circadian disrupting exposures and breast cancer risk: a meta-analysis. International archives of occupational and environmental health, 88(5), 533-547.
  3. Johnson, R. K., Appel, L. J., Brands, M., Howard, B. V., Lefevre, M., Lustig, R. H., … & Wylie-Rosett, J. (2009). Dietary sugars intake and cardiovascular health: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 120(11), 1011-1020.
  4. Matthews, E. E., Li, C., Long, C. R., Narcisse, M. R., Martin, B. C., & McElfish, P. A. (2018). Sleep deficiency among native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, black, and white Americans and the association with cardiometabolic diseases: analysis of the National Health Interview Survey Data. Sleep health, 4(3), 273-283.
  5. Solís, G., de Los Reyes-Gavilan, C. G., Fernández, N., Margolles, A., & Gueimonde, M. (2010). Establishment and development of lactic acid bacteria and bifidobacteria microbiota in breast-milk and the infant gut. Anaerobe, 16(3), 307-310
Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


39 responses to “8 Ways to Stop Sugar Cravings”

  1. Kendall Avatar

    Thank you for this blog post! I didn’t know about the chromium supplements or B-Vitamins. This was a great read and I’m excited too see if these extra steps help keep my sugar cravings at bay.

  2. Radha Avatar

    Thank you so much for this blog , it was so difficult for me to avoid or stop carving for sweet .It really helped me a lot. Keep posting.

  3. joe Avatar

    is L-glutamine a whole food supplement? from what food is it made ?
    i was so surprised you said you use xylitol as a natural sweetner ! since i know your style of diet , xylitol is a no no sweetner like the weston a price people say and a lot more real health eating people !? i use it only for my toothpaste .

  4. Nancy Noe Avatar
    Nancy Noe

    You forgot what to me is the most important fact about sugar cravings. They don’t come from us. They come from our gut bugs. In fact, they come from “bad” gut bugs who live off super sugary sweet things. If we understand that, we can be less down on ourselves. The bad population can be starved out in a week – less, maybe 5 days. But it means NOTHING THAT TASTES SWEET AT ALL in your diet. But knowing why you’re doing it can be very motivating. Fill your fridge with your favorite salty pickles, greens, meats or other proteins, plenty of fat. No bread, desserts, fruit, chips, etc. Just non-carby proteins (less beans and nuts but they are ok for one meal if needed), fats, and lots of good salty greens or other veggies. Absolutely no “healthy sugars” or fake sugars. After the 5-7 days, your craving for sugar will be pretty gone. Day 2 and 3 will be very hard but then – gone. Keep your diet the same, no sweet tastes, except add in some resistant starch foods. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, other root veggies. The good gut bugs love resistant starch. Can also add a little rice, cooked and cooled like sushi rice is great. You can feed your gut bugs every day with potato starch, 1 tbsp in water or other cool beverage. Don’t add fruit back in for another couple weeks. You will be feeling so good. Weight will fall off. Your food will not need sweetening. When you add fruit back in, make sure it’s 1/2 – 1c a day not all day snacks. Your gut population will be working FOR YOU and making you good moods and dreams and digestion. Truly.

  5. Jacqueline Muscha Avatar
    Jacqueline Muscha

    I wish more of the mental and emotional aspects with sugar cravings could be addressed. It doesn’t matter how well I eat or how many supplements I take to help with sugar cravings. If I am not right mentally or emotionally, no food or supplements take those sugar cravings away. I saw that someone commented on tapping to help with the cravings. Any other methods or books to help with the emotional aspects of sugar cravings. I think sugar cravings stem more from what is happening in the mind or what is happening around you or to you by yourself or from others.

  6. Linda Belmont Avatar
    Linda Belmont

    Hello miss Katie, I recently came across your article. I use to suffer from PMDD and well sugar was my biggest issue with it. Well I started taking supplements and started taking Amino acids. I also implemented EFT tapping for my pmdd and it’s been very helpful. But also since I started with the aminos my sugar cravings completely diminished. Even fruits are a bit sweet for me now. I’m very thankful that this happened tho. Sugar is the number 1 enemy for hormonal imbalances especially with pms and pmdd. But will I be okay to keep taking them everyday or should I just take them 2 to 3 days a week better now?

  7. Jennifer W Avatar
    Jennifer W

    I have tried many picolinate products and I noticed I was taking extremely large amounts in order to feel anything. I didn’t connect the dots until my functional medicine doctor explained that chromium chloride and picolinate products only have 0.5 – 3% absorption. It finally dawned on me that I had been taking several pills (400-600mcg/day) in order to get a little effect. The way it was explained to me is that if you take a product based on organic chromium yeast, you get starch, ascorbic acid, minerals, oxalate, and amino acid, which all help improve your body’s ability to use the chromium.
    So, if you are taking chromium and you do not feel a difference, maybe you could try to switch to a chromium yeast product instead. I have really felt a difference and I can completely stay away from sweets and sugar. When I get stressed or go through a difficult time I don’t pig out anymore. It’s so great because I can finally maintain a weight level that I like.

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