Diabetes and Endocrinology
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All of us get a temptation for dessert every now and then. But what happens when you’re craving sugar all the time? Are sugar cravings normal? And what should you do when the sweet tooth strikes?
Why do we get cravings?
We all can experience cravings for a variety of reasons, says Alicia Buterbaugh, RD, certified diabetes educator with Kettering Health Network. “You are more likely to experience cravings if you are following an overly restrictive eating pattern or if you eat based on emotions. Do you go for long periods of time without eating, avoid certain food groups, or turn to food under stress? When you’re stressed, you don’t crave cauliflower.”
What can I do?
Buterbaugh advises fueling your body with food every few hours. “Try to include foods that are high in fiber, as these will help you stay full longer. When you crave something sweet, try having a piece of fruit. Fruit is naturally sweet but will also give you more fiber and nutrients than items with a lot of added sugar.”
When sugar cravings hit because of stress or feelings of sadness, try waiting 20 minutes to see if the craving passes. Go for a walk, call a friend, color in an adult coloring book—try to engage in an activity that will help relieve stress. “After those 20 minutes, if the craving has disappeared, great,” says Buterbaugh. “If you’re still wanting to snack on something, mentally rate you hunger on a scale of 1-10: are you physically hungry or just mentally hungry? If you really are physically hungry, try to choose a snack that will provide some nutrients.”
Help! I already gave in to the craving!
If you do have an experience where you overeat on sugar or fatty foods, the best thing to do is forgive yourself and move on. “You can’t change it, so move on. Just get back on track,” says Buterbaugh. “Beating yourself up leads to more feelings of guilt which can lead to it happening again.” She also points out that many women find it helpful to choose a day of the week to eat their sugar craving in one serving size. “If I know Tuesday is the day that I get to eat a Snickers bar, it can be a lot easier to stick to more healthful choices on the other days of the week.” Some women feel they have more control of cravings when they pre-portion items they are likely to overindulge in. For example, put two small cookies in a snack bag instead of reaching for the whole package.
Indulging in sugar on occasion isn’t inherently bad. It is the portion size and frequency that count. In fact, Buterbaugh says that one of the most common struggles she sees in women is attaching self-worth to food choices. “So many women struggle with feeling guilty when they don’t eat perfectly. But it’s the overall picture that matters—not every single item that we put in our mouth will be healthy, and that’s okay.”