Sugar cravings are extremely common, especially among women.
Those experiencing a sugar craving feel a strong urge to eat something sweet and can find it difficult to control themselves around food. This can lead to binge eating or over-consuming calories, sometimes on a regular basis.
Luckily, there are things you can do to take the edge off. Here are 10+ foods that can help you fight your sugar cravings.
When most people feel sugar cravings, they reach for high-fat, high-sugar foods like chocolate.
However, swapping out the junk food for some fruit when you feel like something sugary could give you the sweet hit you need and stop your craving in its tracks.
Fruit is naturally sweet but also contains lots of beneficial plant compounds and fibre, allowing you to have your fix and keep it healthy. To make sure it hits the spot, eat fruits that are slightly higher in sugar like mangoes or grapes.
If you’re also hungry, try adding some yogurt to your fruit to make it a more satisfying snack.
Berries are an excellent, nutritious choice for stopping sugar cravings. They taste sweet, but their high fibre content means they are actually quite low in sugar.
This could make them a great choice if you think your sugar cravings are linked to habit, rather than hunger. For example, you might crave sweet foods while you’re watching TV.
Additionally, berries are rich in plant compounds and have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This means they may help reduce risk factors for chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.
Chocolate is one of the most commonly reported foods people eat when they crave sweets. This is especially true for women. However, if you find yourself craving chocolate, you can make a healthier choice by choosing dark chocolate.
Dark chocolate is chocolate that contains more than 70% cocoa. It also contains healthy plant compounds known as polyphenols.
However, like regular chocolate, dark chocolate contains sugar and fat, so it’s best to limit yourself to a couple of squares to satisfy your craving.
Not all snack bars are healthy, and some are very high in fat and sugar. However, if you’re craving a sweet treat, there are some good, healthier options out there.
Try looking for a snack bar made with whole oats and sweetened with fresh or dried fruit, rather than table sugar. Also watch out for bars that contain a lot of so-called “healthy” sugar, such as honey, agave syrup or coconut sugar. These are still added sugar, and they aren’t good for you.
The best bars have been made with whole foods. They are likely to be higher in fiber and contain more beneficial nutrients, even if they are still quite sweet.
Chia seeds are a good source of many important nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids, soluble dietary fibre and some healthy plant compounds. In fact, soluble fiber accounts for around 40% of chia seeds.
This sort of fibre readily absorbs water and swells up to form a jelly-like substance in your gut, which may help keep you feeling fuller for longer and prevent sugar cravings.
Chia seeds are also versatile, so if you want a dessert to satisfy your sweet craving, you could try making a chia pudding.
Sugar-free chewing gum or mints
Chewing gum can be a great way to control your sugar cravings. Gum or mints that are made with artificial sweeteners taste sweet but contain a minimal number of calories and no sugar.
Although results are mixed, some studies have also found that chewing gum could help control hunger, cravings and the intake of carb-heavy foods later in the day.
In addition to helping you fight the urge for sugar, chewing gum after your meals is good for your teeth.
Legumes like lentils, beans and chickpeas are great plant-based sources of fiber and protein. In fact, 1 cup (198 grams) of lentils provides you with around 18 grams of protein and 16 grams of fibre.
Both these nutrients are thought to increase feelings of fullness. Thus, in theory, including legumes in your diet could help you feel fuller and reduce hunger-driven sugar cravings.
In line with this, a recent review found that eating lentils may aid weight loss. This may be partly due to the short-term beneficial effects that legumes can have on your appetite.
Yogurt is a healthy snack that’s high in protein and rich in calcium. Additionally, some studies have suggested that yogurt could be a good snack to help regulate your appetite and control your cravings.
In fact, one study found that healthy-weight women who had high-protein Greek yogurt for an afternoon snack were less hungry and ate less later in the day, compared to those who had a lower-protein snack or no snack at all.
The healthiest choice for yogurt is one that contains live cultures and is free of added sugar.
Dates are the dried fruit of the date palm tree. They are highly nutritious and very sweet. Even though they have been dried, they are a great source of fibre, potassium, iron and beneficial plant compounds.
Having a few dates instead of a soda or some candy can give you a sweet fix and also provide you with healthy nutrients. You could even try pairing them with nuts like almonds for a sweet and crunchy treat.
However, remember that dates are very sweet, so stick to one portion at a time, or about three dates.
Sweet potatoes are nutritious, sweet and very filling. They contain mostly carbs but also fiber and a number of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin C and potassium.
Some people get sugar cravings because they aren’t eating enough throughout the day. Including a carb source like sweet potatoes in your meals can combat this by adding calories to your meals and making them more balanced, all while providing you the sweet taste you’re craving.
Meat, poultry and fish
Including a source of protein like meat, poultry or fish in your meals may help prevent sugar cravings. In fact, if you are trying to lose weight, eating adequate amounts of protein may be very important for managing your food intake, cravings and weight.
So if you’re on a diet and experiencing lots of sugar cravings, make sure you’re including a source of protein like meat, poultry or fish in your meals. If you’re vegetarian, don’t worry — plant-based sources of protein may have the same effect.
If you’re craving something sweet and need a snack to quickly nip it in the bud, a smoothie can be a great option. The sweetness of the fruit combined with the filling effects of yogurt can satisfy your need for something sweet, all while providing lots of beneficial nutrients.
If you’re having a smoothie, make sure you use the whole fruit, not just the juice, so you can retain the healthy fiber.
Soda is extremely sweet, and drinking high amounts of sugar-sweetened beverages has been linked to a number of diseases, including heart disease and diabetes.
However, going cold turkey and cutting them out completely can be difficult. In fact, soda drinkers who cut out sugar-sweetened drinks may experience sugar cravings.
Switching to a sugar-free version can help you get a sweet fix without the added sugar and calories.
Prunes are dried plums. Like dates, they’re full of fibre and nutrients and taste very sweet. This means you can reach for them as a healthy alternative to candy when you just have to have some sugar.
Their high fiber content and naturally occurring sorbitol also mean they may help relieve constipation. Sorbitol is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol that tastes sweet but is absorbed slowly in your gut.
Eggs are another high-protein food that may help keep your appetite and cravings in check.
In fact, research has shown that having a high-protein breakfast like eggs may reduce hunger and help people eat less throughout the day.
This may be partly because a high-protein breakfast suppresses the hunger hormone ghrelin and increases some of the hormones that make you feel full, including peptide and glucagon-like peptide-1.
Trail mix is the name often given to a snack containing dried fruit and nuts. The exact combination of ingredients can vary, but trail mix can make a great choice if you’re craving something sweet.
The sweetness of the dried fruit can help halt your sugar cravings, and it’s also a great way to get some nuts into your diet.
Nuts contain healthy fats, proteins, fiber and plant compounds. Eating them has been linked to a number of health benefits, including improved risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. Thus, by choosing trail mix, your sweet treat isn’t only sweet, but nutritious too.
However, trail mix can be very high in calories, so stick to a serving of around one handful.
Fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi, kombucha and sauerkraut are sources of beneficial bacteria.
The beneficial bacteria found in these foods may help maintain the balance of “good” bacteria in your gut and reduce the number of disease-causing bacteria. In fact, the bacteria in your gut are also linked to many of your body’s processes and can “talk” to your brain through the compounds and hormones they produce.
This makes it possible for your gut bacteria to influence your food intake in a number of ways. Some of these compounds may even mimic hunger or fullness hormones in your body, influencing your appetite and food cravings. Because of this, it’s been suggested that including some fermented food in your diet could contribute to maintaining a healthy gut and even help prevent food cravings.
However, no studies to date have examined the effects of eating fermented foods on food cravings, and more research is needed.
Whole grains are high in fiber and contain nutrients including B vitamins, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, manganese and selenium. Eating whole grains has been linked to a longer, healthier life, and their high fiber content also means they may help you feel full.
Whole grains can also promote the growth of beneficial bacteria such as Bifidobacteria, Lactobacilli and Bacteroidetes in your gut. Interestingly, their filling properties cannot be explained by their fiber content alone. It has been suggested that their influence on gut bacteria may also contribute to this effect. However, more studies are needed in this area.
Overall, making sure you are eating enough and including foods like whole grains in your diet will help keep you full and may help prevent sugar cravings.
While eating vegetables may not be satisfying when you are experiencing an acute sugar craving, including them in your diet regularly could be helpful. Vegetables are high in fiber and low in calories. They also contain lots of beneficial nutrients and plant compounds.
Eating more vegetables is probably one of the best things you can do for your health and could lower your risk of diseases like heart disease and cancer. Adding vegetables is also a great way to bulk up your meals, helping you feel more satisfied throughout the day.
Having the odd sweet treat is fine for most people, so you shouldn’t feel guilty if you occasionally indulge.
However, if you find yourself experiencing sugar cravings regularly or feel out of control around sweet foods, then it’s worth taking a closer look at your diet.
If you need something sweet, swap some of your sugar-filled treats out for some of the healthier options in this list.
Julio Gutierrez is the founder and Head Coach of Hurricane Fitness. His love for the deadlift is almost as big as his love of pop culture.