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Post Easter Sugar Detox: How to Bust Cravings and Bad Habits with Food

We asked Nutritionist and founder of the Natural Balance, Kelly Mulhall, her tips on how to bust sugar craving post Easter bank holiday. Here's what she had to say... Battling...

We asked Nutritionist and founder of the Natural Balance, Kelly Mulhall, her tips on how to bust sugar craving post Easter bank holiday. Here's what she had to say...

Battling with incessant sugar cravings can feel like an uphill struggle, especially when they lead to unhealthy eating habits that are hard to break. However, understanding and mastering the art of blood sugar balancing could be your secret weapon in overcoming your cravings - yes even after the 100th easter egg! This guide will lead you through the essential steps to control your sugar intake, helping you to not only bust those sugar cravings but also to adopt healthier food habits.

Understanding the Impact of Sugar on Your Body

Firstly, let's just explain some of the ‘sciency’ bits about sugar in the body.


Sugar, whilst a source of quick energy, can have detrimental effects on our health when consumed in excess. Its overconsumption is associated with a range of adverse outcomes, from hormone imbalance to immune system suppression, increase in inflammatory signals, microbiome disruption and naturally blood sugar imbalance, the latter, which can cause weight gain and escalate the risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes.


The mechanism behind blood sugar balance involves the bodys insulin response; to manage the influx of sugar, insulin is released to facilitate its absorption by our cells. However, persistent high sugar intake can overwhelm this system, leading to insulin resistance. This condition undermines our body's ability to manage sugar effectively, setting the stage for diabetes and further health complications. It also leads to too much sugar freely circulating in the blood, which can cause that feeling of a sugar high, followed by a rapid sugar low. Understanding the negative effects of excessive sugar consumption is essential for anyone looking to manage their
cravings.


Identifying Your Sugar Triggers


To effectively combat sugar cravings, pinpointing the cause is crucial, such as improper fuelling at meal times, emotional eating, lack of hydration or poor diet choices. Emotional eating, in particular in periods of stress, or even social events can often prompt the consumption of sugary snacks.

One valuable way to understand the trigger for your cravings is by keeping a food and mood diary. By logging your dietary choices, their timing, and your emotional state (tired, moody, coming on period, stressed with work, anxious), a pattern may begin to unfold. This pattern recognition is instrumental in discerning the underlying causes of your sugar cravings. With this knowledge, you're better equipped to develop targeted strategies for managing these triggers, paving the way for a more balanced and controlled approach to your sugar intake.

Additionally, reflecting on your physical activity levels in relation to your cravings could reveal insightful info. For example, are you always starving and needing a quick fix after fasted workouts? Then perhaps, fuelling before you workout with a proper meal (ideally 1-2 hours before, could massively help your cravings.
It's very common that during busy days at work, you may ‘forget’ to eat. You’ve been running on adrenaline (and coffee) and when you finally realise you are hungry your body is in such a deficit of energy that it sends you off to find the quickest source of energy to replenish itself.


This is when you get the instant need for chocolate, sweets, biscuits etc as they are quick and simple carbohydrate sources that will provide the body with a fast energy boost.

Balancing Your Meals for Optimal Sugar Control


To regulate your sugar levels effectively, it is important that each meal you eat is a balanced blend of macronutrients that mitigate the rapid absorption of sugar. This entails crafting meals rich in proteins, carbohydrates, healthy fats, and fiber, all at the same time. By integrating proteins into your breakfast, you're not only enhancing satiety but also curtailing the likelihood of succumbing to mid-morning sugar temptations.


Similarly, the inclusion of fats and fiber across all meals plays a crucial role in stabilising blood sugar levels by slowing the digestion process and preventing blood sugar spikes. By incorporating a variety of vegetables, whole grains, and legumes into your diet, you are adding excellent sources of complex carbohydrates and fiber that contribute to prolonged energy release. This is what you want, rather than short and sharp bursts of energy which come from simple carbohydrates eg: cakes, sweets, biscuits, pastries, sliced white bread and pasta.


If you prioritse balanced meals, it ensures a steadier energy flow throughout the day, diminishing the appeal of sugar-laden snacks and facilitating a more controlled approach to managing your sugar intake.


The Power of Planning and Preparation


Efficient meal planning and shopping preparation are essential tactics for preventing sugar cravings and maintaining a healthy diet. By organising your meals and snacks in advance, you significantly reduce the risk of reaching for convenience foods high in sugar.


Start by mapping out your meals for the week (or even 3 days in advance will do!), paying attention to incorporating a balanced mix of those macronutrients that support blood sugar balancing - protein, fats and complex carbohydrates. Batch cooking dinners and even freezing some is by far one of the easiest ways to ensure you have healthy meals when you most need
them.

Ensure that your kitchen is stocked with the essentials for these meals, making it easier to stick to your plan - healthy grains like quinoa, wild or brown rice, couscous, lots of veg, and easy to prepare proteins such as fish, eggs, beans and lentils. Frozen vegetables and even your protein sources are a great way to ensure you always have the ingredients needed to make a balanced meal.


Similarly, preparing snacks ahead of time is a smart move. Pack nutrient-rich options such as nuts, seeds, and chopped vegetables to have on hand when you're out and about. cravings.


Finding Healthy Alternatives to Satisfy Sweet Cravings


Just because you may struggle with sugar cravings, doesn't mean you shouldn't ever eat sweet treats. Food is meant to be enjoyed after all! Rather, it's about eating 3 well balanced meals a day to keep your blood sugar stable, as well as discovering nutritious sweet alternatives that can squash those sugar cravings without compromising your blood sugar by eating nonnutritious, dead calories.


Fruits, with their natural sugars and abundant fibre, serve as an excellent choice, offering the sweetness you desire alongside valuable nutrients. Consider berries, apples, and pears, which are particularly beneficial for their high fibre content and lower glycemic index. But it's important to note that sugar from fruit is still sugar and will have an impact on your blood sugar levels! So aim for a max of 2-3 fruits per day.


For those moments when only chocolate will do, dark chocolate is best, as not only does it contain less sugar, it is rich in antioxidants. Exploring recipes for homemade treats that utilise ingredients like dates, bananas, or sweet potatoes, such as protein or bliss balls, flapjacks or black bean brownies can provide a
satisfying sweetness whilst packing a nutritious punch. These alternatives not only help in managing sugar cravings but also enrich your diet with a variety of nutrients, making them a win-win solution in your journey towards better health. Where possible always try to include some good fats alongside them, which will slow sugar absorption. For example the classic combo of apple slices with peanut butter or a trail mix of nuts and raisins, smoothie with nuts or avocado.

 

Staying Hydrated to Beat Sugar Cravings


It is true what they say, that sometimes you think you are hungry, when in fact you are thirsty! Think of our bodies like a flower. If you don’t water the flower the leaves become limp and sad looking. The same happens with us!


Ensuring adequate hydration is a fundamental yet often overlooked strategy in the quest to curb sugar cravings. Many times, the body's signals for thirst can be misconstrued as hunger, leading us to reach for sugary snacks instead of a glass of water. By prioritising fluid intake, specifically aiming for around 2 litres of water daily, you can effectively diminish the urge for unnecessary sugar consumption.


Introducing variety into your hydration habits, such as by adding slices of cucumber, lemon, or fresh mint to water, not only makes it more palatable but also adds a refreshing twist without contributing to sugar intake. Caffeine free, herbal tea also counts towards your 2 litres per day.


Keeping a water bottle at hand serves as a constant reminder to drink regularly, ensuring you stay well-hydrated and better equipped to resist the lure of sugary snacks. And if you really struggle at remembering to drink water, then set an alarm on your phone.


Practicing Mindfulness to Overcome Emotional Eating


Emotional eating can often derail efforts towards healthier dietary habits, making mindfulness an essential tool in addressing this challenge. Before diving into a packet of biscuits or running for that chocolate bar, pause to consider if your craving is born of hunger or emotional need. This pause allows for a moment of reflection, helping to distinguish between physiological hunger and emotional desire.

Engaging in mindful eating habits, such as savoring each bite and eliminating distractions during meals, (especially being on your phone and eating in front of the TV!) enhances your awareness of the body's hunger and fullness signals. This practice not only heightens the enjoyment of your food but also helps send signals to the brain that you are full.

Cultivating mindfulness around food encourages a more thoughtful and intentional approach to eating, enabling you to navigate emotional triggers more effectively and maintain your commitment to balanced sugar intake.

Reducing sugar cravings can be tough, but it is possible to overcome! Once you identify your triggers and learn to fuel yourself correctly you will start to feel in control again - of your cravings, emotions and energy levels. After a few weeks you’ll feel SO much better as your blood sugars stabilise that you will suddenly realise that you haven't had the cravings like you did before. It's all about balance and it's absolutely within your control to achieve it.

Written by Kelly Mulhall Dip NT, mANP, mBANT
https://www.thenaturalbalance.net
Nutritional Therapist - Gut & Women’s Health Specialist

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