Trying to cut back on sugar? It’s a good thing to do. Americans, on the whole, eat and drink far too much added sugar, averaging about 22 teaspoons a day. Recommendations are that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons a day, and men 9.
Excess sugar has been linked with overweight and obesity, oral health issues, addictive-like behaviors, and premature skin aging. A high glycemic load (increased blood sugar levels associated with intake of sweets and highly processed starches) has been linked with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Limiting your sugar intake can be challenging, though, especially on those days when you’re tired or stressed. These are the days the body and brain scream for fast energy, and that candy bar or chocolate cake can look just too good to pass up.
Once you’ve convinced yourself that it’s time to cut down on sugar, you probably know a lot of items that you should eliminate from your diet. But what should you be adding?
Below you will find 10 foods that can save the day when you’re suffering from those inevitable sugar cravings. Pack your cabinets and refrigerator with these for regular use or just for emergencies!
10 Foods to Put on Your Grocery List When You're Trying to Avoid Sugar
It sounds plain, but drinking a nice tall glass of ice water (maybe with a little lemon in it) can go a long way toward helping you forget about your sugar cravings. It will help you feel full, quench your thirst (we often crave food when we’re actually thirsty), and if you have to get up and go get it, it will get you moving, too, which can help you clear your head.
2. Green tea
Did you know that green tea (and other types of tea) can help regulate sugar levels? If you drink about four cups a day, you can even potentially reduce high blood sugar levels. It can also help suppress appetite overall, which makes it a great choice when you’re craving something unhealthy.
3. Sweet potato
Because of its naturally sweet taste, the sweet potato can help you satisfy your yearnings for sugar, yet it doesn’t spike blood sugar levels like white potatoes can. It’s full of good-for-you nutrients, too, like potassium, vitamins C and A, and magnesium. Try roasted sweet potato strips for a snack or baked sweet potatoes at dinner.
These are low glycemic fruits, meaning they won’t send your blood sugar levels flying, but they’re also naturally sweet, and easy to pop into your mouth. This is a fun, tasty snack that will help you sidestep that office birthday cake.
5. Plain Greek yogurt
A lot of yogurts are full of added sugars. Avoid these, and choose the plain Greek yogurt. It’s full of protein, which has been shown to help soothe the reward centers in your brain, calming the craving for sugar. Flavor it with a few of your berries, if you like.
Speaking of protein, nuts are full of it, and they make a super satisfying snack. They’re full of healthy fats, which help you feel satiated. They’re powerhouses of nutrition, delivering high levels of nutrients and fiber which soothes digestion and keeps you feeling full for hours. Choose almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, pecans, and any other nut that sounds good to you. Macadamias have a naturally sweet taste that may be especially timely when you’re craving cookies.
These are naturally sweet, but not so much that they'll raise your blood sugar levels. They’re full of fiber, antioxidants, and nutrients, and also have a good amount of “pectin,” which keeps you full for longer.
It’s nearly sugar-free by nature, but yet it tastes like a treat, doesn’t it? It’s also full of protein and fiber—a truly satiating food—and has natural fats that give your brain what it hopes for. Try raw treat bites, coconut in your granola bars, or some coconut water. We love Thrive Market’s selection of coconut products.
Full of appetite-soothing protein, eggs are known for satisfying pretty much any craving. They help keep you full, and are also full of B vitamins—great for reducing stress, which is often the reason we feel cravings in the first place. Studies have also shown that eating eggs for breakfast can help you consume fewer calories throughout the day. Try some hard-boiled eggs when you’re craving sweets, or add a few slices to a green salad.
Bet you wouldn’t have thought of this one, right? Tomatoes are high in serotonin—the “feel good” neurotransmitter in the brain. Studies have found that when your brain is low on serotonin, it will crave sugars and simple carbohydrates (which break down quickly into sugars in the body). Eating a few tomatoes can help satisfy what your brain craves, and you’ll no longer need that sugary food. Other items high in serotonin include avocados, eggplants, and walnuts.