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?

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. Sadie Avatar

    Fantastic article! You included great tips I’ve never heard before like the L-Glutamine and B vitamins which is really helpful, thank you!

  2. Jamie Avatar

    Would taking I-Glutamine help with my cravings for soda? I’m trying to cut back on sodas and eventually not drink them at all but I’m having a hard time especially with the side effects with quiting. I get migraines naturally and trying to quit sodas just makes that worse plus I feel tired and have mood swings.

  3. Amy Avatar

    The sweeteners of choice in this household are raw honey, pure maple syrup, & molasses. Katie, I’m curious why you don’t use honey as a sweetener when it is so nutritious. As an Herbalist, I also use it medicinally.

  4. Adhee Avatar


    Thank you for the good advice, i really need it! even though i eat really healthy i still crave sweet, someone recently introduced me to coconut sugar to use in cooking instead of suger i did not see it on your list , should i stop using?

  5. Dr. Deborah Avatar
    Dr. Deborah

    Oh, one other quick comment since it looks like nobody’s been comfortable addressing the question about safety of L-glutamine in pregnancy and breastfeeding. It’s just an amino acid, so is present in protein sources you eat every day, so it’s safe, as long as you aren’t overdoing it. The dose and product Katie links to above is safe. (The potential problem with overdoing it is that it could interfere with absorption of other amino acids.)

  6. Dr. Deborah Avatar
    Dr. Deborah

    Thank you for sharing your successes; this is a great article. Another really successful strategy is to eat the right kind of breakfast. Katie discusses proteins and beneficial fats; these are important always, but most especially at breakfast if you’re prone to sugar cravings. In fact, I advise my patients who struggle with sugar cravings to do their best to avoid carbs at breakfast, and focus on protein and fats (and vegetables always earn major bonus points, and don’t count as “carbs” here in the sense that they’re generally pretty low-carb, and they arrive with fiber).

    Here’s why: protein, fat, and fiber all slow “gastric emptying,” which affects the speed with which sugar in the diet turns into glucose in the blood. Slower is better. When you eat a high-sugar meal (including a meal or snack high in refined carbs, like flour), your blood sugar will spike quickly. High blood sugar stimulates the release of insulin. This is beneficial, in the sense that it gets that sugar out of the blood and into your cells, where it can be burned for fuel. BUT. High blood sugar is followed by high insulin, and this will rapidly escort the sugar into the cells, resulting in LOW blood sugar. Low blood sugar is the #1 reason you crave more sugar – your body doesn’t want you to reach dangerously low levels, so a craving is adaptive. Or it was, back in the days when there weren’t “90 types of candy bars and 40 kinds of soda at every checkout counter” as Katie points out. In the old days, before all that sugar was available, a craving impelled you to go eat more food. All food available in hunter-gatherer days was healthy, so this worked out fine.

    If you start your day out with a high-carb meal (like, heaven forbid, donuts), you inadvertently set yourself up for a blood-sugar spike, followed by a blood-sugar drop, which brings on a craving for… more sugar, to ostensibly correct that problem. If instead you start your day with a healthy meal involving protein, fat, and fiber, you never get a blood-sugar spike in the first place, so you don’t get the blood-sugar low that creates a craving. This morning I ate 2 eggs over a warmed leftover massaged-kale salad. Holy moly, yum. And more importantly, no cravings at all.

    Hope that additional strategy helps someone!

    1. arume Avatar

      Hi Dr Deborah. I just read your comment on eating low carb for breakfast. I’m diabetic..kinda new..but long enough that I Shld have gotten my numbers under control by now…anyways I’m thinking maybe taking your advice on breakfast will help. Can you give more food ideas please? many times I just grab toast with P.B. Or cream cheese which is 15g but of course it doesn’t hold me for long. I sometimes do eggs but many mornings I’m in a hurry getting kids out the door(6) school kids). Any hints or idea would be appreciated to get my A1C down!

  7. Kelli Avatar

    Hi, Katie.

    When you say “occasional indulgence” and “in moderation” when it comes to healthy desserts, how often do you mean? Once a week? Once a month? Before discovering stevia, I just enjoyed regular treats every once in a while, but now I find myself enjoying stevia-sweetened treats every day. I’d like to go back to not having much of a sweet tooth! I also think the stevia is messing with my hormones. Any advice you could give is much appreciated 🙂

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      My general rule is that we can have fresh or baked fruit any night after dinner for a treat with no added sweeteners (baked apples, berries and cream, etc) but actual treats are once a week or less. The book “The Adrenal Reset” talks about how small amounts of natural carbs at night can help balance hormones, so we try to eat fruit and night (or any treats). My kids love berries or melon for dessert.

  8. Roxanne Avatar

    we’re the same! I used xylitol and stevia too as a sweetener! Because they cannot cause a spike up in my blood sugar compared to the other natural sweeteners.

  9. Jasmine Avatar

    Thanks so much for writing this. So glad I caught it on the weekly recap.
    I’ve experienced the cravings really, REALLY, go away when I have taken basic sugar out (like not eating sweets like cakes, cookies, choc., even basic cereals, like corn flakes, etc., instead eating fruits). Also, when I have eaten bread (even if it was totally natural and grain loaded), my cravings came back and came back BIG…like suddenly I wanted cake the next eating opportunity.

    Love to you all,

    1. Sarah Avatar

      Jasmine, I’m the same, and what I found to cut cravings the best (and within a day) is a dose of probiotics (for me, about 50 billion active cells per day, but every body is a bit different). With probiotics, I don’t even crave the sweets or the bread, and cutting them out is easy. I completely agree with you that cutting them out is what keeps the cravings away. Yeast bread feeds a yeast imbalance in the gut which brings on sugar cravings, no matter how healthy of a bread it is.

      1. Jasmine Avatar

        Hey Sarah, Thanks for the confirmation and info!
        I tried some probiotics once, but had a bit of an allergic reaction the same day (itchy under my skin around scalp and ears…) and the only thing I thought I did different that day was that pill. Could it be I took too much, or was it maybe a fluke? I have a pretty sensitive system so I chocked it up to God telling me something I already knew…(girl, quit messing about and trying to correct afterward, and just eat the way you know you should–) Ouch!. .but with heaps upon heaps of Love and Mercy!
        All the best to you all and your precious bodies… as “my momma says” -take care of yourself, your body is a temple…so, not taking care of yourself is sacrilege (add twang)”

  10. Bonnie Avatar

    Thank you for this very informative article. After a week away on vacation, and an unfamiliar diet of heavy rich and sweet foods, chased by wine and beer, I find that my head is foggy and I am in constant desire of sweets! I’m going to give l-glutamine a try! Many thanks!

  11. Kelle Doran Avatar
    Kelle Doran

    Hello! I loved your article. I used to be a sugar addict. In fact I had eating dissorders for 10+ years. The only thing I didn’t see you mention was the awesomeness of raw, local honey for a sweet treat option. Thats my go to if I really feel a need for sweetness. By the way, you are one of my favorite bloggers. Keep helping people! 🙂

    1. Alisha Avatar

      That was my question to wellness mama… What is your take on raw honey? It is still very high in sugar, but is it ok In small amounts for its benefits?

  12. Anna Avatar

    Can you please provide a link to the fermented live-source b vitamin complex that you mentioned? Thanks!

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