12.3.2021

The Science Behind Sugar Cravings (+ tips for blunting them)

By Sam Presicci, MCN, RD, LD, CPT

Some people say that cravings are a sign that your body is missing a certain nutrient, but is this really true?

There can be some truth to this! For example, craving salty foods could be a symptom of needing optimal sodium in your diet. However, most people struggle with cravings that feel intense or hard to control. 

If your cravings are starting to feel out of control, we’ve got you covered!

Cravings are complex because they often serve as a signal that something deeper is going on, and they change based on your current eating pattern! For example, when you stop drinking soda, many people report significantly less cravings for sugar over time. In fact, people often report that soda is “too sweet” when they have it again after taking a break from the sweet drinks. 

Cravings are influenced by both what we eat the majority of the time and what we might be missing. Let’s take a deeper look at exactly what you can do to beat your sugar cravings. 

Tips for Blunting Sugar Cravings

Eat enough calories

There’s a reason going on low calorie diets results in craving all the high calorie foods! 

Eating enough calories in your day to support your body is the number one thing you can do to beat cravings -- especially your evening sweet tooth. If you tend to “be good” all day with very little food, only to end up starving and craving high calorie foods at night, this is likely where you should start! 

Skipping meals or eating very few calories throughout the day always catches up to you later. When you’re busy at work, your mind might be off your appetite. But once you get home and have fewer distractions, all bets are off! Choose to eat breakfast, lunch, and consider a snack before going home for the day to prevent intense nighttime cravings.

Decrease ultra-processed foods

Ultra-processed foods tend to be high in calories and added sugars. While these foods are delicious when you’re snacking on them, they don’t truly satisfy cravings. Ultra-processed foods are hyperpalatable options that often leave us wanting more. Lay’s potato chip has it in their motto -- “You can’t just have one!”

Because they are hard to portion control, these foods can leave us with even greater cravings for them. If you are eating hyperpalatable foods after a day of not eating enough calories, overeating or even binge eating these foods is a concern -- another reason to follow tip #1 and eat enough calories earlier in your day. 

Choose less processed options and see how you feel after your meals. Consider homemade oatmeal instead of cereal, fruit instead of a sweet drink, or dark chocolate instead of dessert. 

Opt for macronutrient-balanced meals

Balanced meals work to blunt cravings. Choosing a protein, non-starchy vegetable, complex carb, and high-quality fat at meals can increase satisfaction and satiation at meals, which can decrease hunger throughout the day and reduce cravings.

Protein and complex carbs in particular are known to contribute to feeling satiated, meaning that they make it easier to naturally stop eating as you feel full.

Rather than using willpower to eat as little as possible, consume a variety of nutrients at each meal to give your body what it needs.

Balance your blood sugar 

Blood sugar fluctuations between meals can bring on cravings for a sugar boost. Both high and low blood sugars can leave us needing a pick-me-up. 

The best strategy for balancing your blood sugar? Balance your plate, like we discussed in the previous point. Aim for plenty of non-starchy veggies, healthy fat, and high-quality protein on your plate at each meal. Additionally, try not to snack in between meals. 

Hydrate

Our water intake plays a huge role in appetite control. In fact, the same signals in your brain that you experience for hunger are also activated by thirst. Meaning, you may be dehydrated in addition to feeling hunger!

Staying hydrated can be challenging. Here are a few simple tips to drink enough water:

  • Keep a reusable water bottle with you and fill it up whenever it is empty
  • Use a straw to remove the barrier of drinking water out of a bottle
  • Spruce up your water with fun add-ins like fruits, lemon, and herbs
  • Choose other fluids like herbal tea, sparkling water, and bone broth!

Next time, try guzzling a glass of water before reaching for that sweet snack. 

Change your environment

Sometimes the nighttime munchies are habitual. If your nighttime routine includes snacking, consider changing your environment to change your habits. 

Environment plays a huge role in our habits. Often, we have environmental “triggers” that activate us to snack. We start to associate these triggers with food, and over time, we can get stuck in the pattern of craving something to eat. These could include watching TV, having snacks on the counter, or spending time with someone else who tends to snack at night.

Whatever your environment looks like, challenge yourself to change things up in order to break the craving in the evening. Go for a walk, drink tea, draw, read, or do something crafty with your hands. 

Take a break from sweets

Taking a break from sweets can improve our sensitivity to them. Our taste buds are highly adaptable! What once felt normal can seem too sweet after you haven’t had it for a while! If you worry about your dependence on sugary foods, removing the sweet stuff -- even for a short period of time -- can help beat the craving. 

One way to evaluate your sugar intake is to tally up your added sugars throughout your day. Consider counting the sugars in all meals, snacks, and drinks. Be sure to take a close look at the labels on sauces, dressings, marinades, and other condiments. 

The recommendation for added sugars in your diet is less than 24 grams a day for women and 38 grams a day for men. If this sounds like a lot, you might be surprised how quickly they add up! 

Take an added sugar break for a week, and see if you can notice a difference in your sugar cravings!

Bone Broth and Cravings

Bone broth includes a powerful combination of many things we need to blunt sugar cravings: protein, salt, and hydration!

  • Protein: Bone broth is packed with high-quality protein from pastured animals! This source of protein keeps our blood sugar stable, offers a boost between meals, and can prevent hunger and cravings later in the day.
  • Sodium & electrolytes: If you love a salty treat, sipping on bone broth might be your new sodium fix! Plus, bone broth has the added benefit of all the electrolytes to balance out the salt itself! If you’re wondering why we don’t sweat the salt, read more about our take on sodium here!
  • Hydration: Like we mentioned above, electrolytes are some of bone broth’s superstar ingredients for their effect on hydration. Electrolytes improve hydration by moving fluid from your bloodstream to your cells -- where it can be put to use more effectively! 

Shop with us to start beating your cravings today! Shop our single-flavor 4-packs or build-your-own box today for better health!

Takeaway

Ultimately, cravings are highly personal and complex. If you struggle with sugar cravings, try to beat the sweet stuff by focusing on one or two of these tactics at a time. 

Evaluate your diet and ensure you’re eating enough food every day and choosing balanced meals, and consider taking a break or changing up your nighttime routine to kick the habit!

Are you bone broth curious? We’ve got you covered with Everything You Need to Know about Bone Broth