This blog was written by qualified dietitian, Millie Padula (@diettitianedition)
Most of us are either sugar obsessed, doing our best to avoid it altogether or curious to know why we always crave it (we are looking at you 3pm slump). Or Perhaps you are ‘D’ - all of the above, and if that is the case you are not alone!
Sugar is an over-achiever to say the least. When we consume it, our brain releases a chemical called dopamine which makes us feel all kinds of good! It’s no wonder so many of us are partial to a sweet or two.
Diet culture has us believing that sugar is the backbone to global illness’ and disease; and should be excluded from our lives at all cost. To be quite frank with you, and truth be told, this idea couldn’t be more flawed.
There is more to sugar than actually than meets the eye, and you might even be surprised to hear that so many of the nutritious foods we eat every single day contain sugar, think fruit, starchy vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains, cereals, lentils, legumes and dairy products - or commonly know as our ‘carbohydrate foods’.
Put simply, when we eat carbohydrates our body breaks them down into sugar molecules (also called glucose), which is then delivered to every single cell in our bodies to be used as energy. Not surprisingly, sugar is also present and added into highly processed foods such as chocolate, lollies, baked goods, ice-creams and soft drink - and these tend to be the ones we desire ever so much when we need a quick energy boost or a sweet hit to get us through the afternoon.
First things first, sugar (those present in less nutritious foods) can most definitely be included in a healthy balanced diet. After all, what’s a movie night without chocolate, a birthday without cake or a summer holiday without ice-cream, definitely not one we want to be involved in thats for sure.
Jokes aside, If you, like many of us can’t seem to fathom a life without sugar cravings, we are here to tell you that you can actually manage them healthily, or eliminate them all together.
- Ensure your blood sugar levels (BSL’s) are balanced: the stability of our blood sugar levels can dictate our appetite, energy levels, mood and therefore our longing to consume sugar. Sporadic blood sugar levels (those that rise and drop dramatically) are one of the main reasons we crave sugar, especially later in the afternoon. Manage your blood sugar levels and keep those sugar cravings at bay by:
- Eating Regularly: regular meals and snacks will help to balance your blood sugar levels by providing a steady and sustained energy source.
- Consuming Balanced Meals: Include a source of healthy fats (olive oil, avocado, olives, hemp seeds, nuts or fish) and a lean source of protein in most of your meals and snacks.
- Prioritising Low GI sources of Carbohydrates: Low GI carbohydrates; those that release sugar slowly into your bloodstream such as whole grains, bread, pasta, fresh fruit and starchy vegetables are more favourable in balancing your BSL’s as opposed to High GI Carbohydrates; refined foods that release sugar quickly into your blood stream and cause rapid spikes and drops in your blood sugar levels. Again, try your best to include slow-releasing carbohydrates in most of your meals.
2. Find healthy alternatives to your favourite sugar-ridden foods and beverages.
There are so many nutritious alternatives to those highly processed and refined snacks we all love and know.
Try these simple swaps to satisfy your sweet teeth:
- Soft Drink for Kombucha
- Dried Fruit or Fruit Juice for Fresh Fruit
- Chocolate Bars for Protein Balls (My favourites are the Mt.Elephant Protein Superfood Protein Balls in Chocolate Hazelnut)
- Ice-cream for Natural Greek Yoghurt with Berries
3. Don’t eliminate foods or food groups from your diet: Unless in the case of an intolerance, allergy, cultural, religious reason or personal preference of course. Eliminating foods groups or nutrients can leave you nutritionally deprived, energy depleted and most typically - hungry (or hangry in this case). Eliminating or restricting certain foods entirely, i.e. those with sugar; has proven to increase disordered eating patterns and obsessive behaviours around that particular nutrient, often leaving you wanting more than you ever thought.
4. Eat intuitively! If you genuinely feel like it, eat it:
If you feel like a few squares of chocolate or a scoop of ice-cream, go get ‘em! If you alternatively ignore your bodies signs and signals, it won’t be a happy camper (and you’ll likely eat something that doesn’t satisfy you). Not only is it merely impossible to cut out sugar from your diet anyway (see list of foods above), but restriction in general can lead to binge eating, food guilt and a confused individual stuck in a diet cycle rut. No thanks!
Eat chocolate by all means, but also eat your greens, and lots of them - it’s really that simple!