If the stress and uncertainty of the lockdown has made you reach for comfort food, you’re not alone. As the weeks have dragged, you may have unwittingly increased your sugar consumption. With summer in sight, and plans to move forward out of lockdown, it’s time to think about reigning in your sweet tooth and curbing your sugar cravings.
WHY DO I CRAVE SUGAR?
A desire for sugary food is often a signal for wanting ‘sweetness’ in another form, whether it is stress relief, comfort, reward, or overcoming fatigue. When we are stressed the hormone cortisol floods the body, releasing glucose from your liver which raises blood sugar levels.
When we eat sugar, our brain releases dopamine in our brains and has a positive impact on mood, at least in the short term. We tend to want to eat sweet foods as a quick fix for low mood and low blood sugar which is why it can sometimes feel like an addiction.
HOW MUCH SUGAR IS TOO MUCH SUGAR?
Sugar in small amounts is not a cause for concern – perhaps you swirl a spoonful of honey into your morning porridge or have a square of chocolate after dinner – it’s a natural part of a healthy balanced lifestyle to want to enjoy the odd treat once in a while. The better choice is a naturally sweet snack such as fruit or natural sweeteners such as honey or pure maple syrup that have added nutritional benefits.
That said sugar in larger amounts can be seriously detrimental to your health. Sugar is linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, liver disease and weight gain as well as tooth decay. Consumption of sugar can result in blood sugar highs and lows causing your energy levels to surge and crash leading to more sugar cravings.
The UK government recommends that adults should have no more than 30g of “free sugars” a day, which is roughly 6 teaspoons. Free sugar is the term given to sugar that is added to our diet such as a sugar in your coffee, or the sugar that food manufacturers add to their products.
The Institute of Optimum Nutrition says “these guidelines should be viewed as a maximum rather than a target to be met. A healthy individual does not need sugar – and the less we eat the better”.
HOW CAN I CURB CRAVINGS?
Listen to your cravings
Are you eating because you are truly hungry? Or are you thirsty? Is your desire for sweet things supporting an emotional need, or have you developed a habit because you are bored? Examining your motives critically will cause you to question whether you are really going to gain satisfaction from that sweet treat.
Eat a balanced diet
A diet that is high in protein, healthy fats and fibre helps maintain your blood sugar levels. Our meals are specially designed with this in mind, so you do not have to worry about it.
Fill your plate with whole foods
From fruits and vegetables to whole grains legumes, nuts and seeds. Fruit and vegetables contain natural sugars but also fibre and protein which slows the rate of digestion. The nutrients they contain outweigh sugar concerns and regular consumption of fruits and vegetables is known to reduce the risk of disease.
Start the day well
Choose a breakfast that is low in sugar and rich in slow-release carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats. This will keep you feeling fuller for longer. Our favourite breakfasts include roasted fruits with Greek yoghurt and granola, fig and nut butter on rye bread or eggs and avocado on rye bread.
If you are in one of our food programmes you know that we consider snacking important to achieving consistent energy levels and a healthy body. Fresh fruit, nut and a handful of nuts or seeds are an ideal mid-morning snack. Make a simple dip by mashing or blending a tin of butterbeans with a handful of sundried tomatoes or pesto. Scoop it up with crisp sugar snap peas, or carrot and cucumber sticks.
Always read the label
While convenient, hidden sugars can be found in many shop-bought products, from dips to sauces, to cereals and yoghurts. Added sugars to look out for include dextrose, glucose, fructose and sucrose, corn syrup, molasses syrup and fruit juice concentrates.
Let us help you
If you need a little help to reset your diet, order a rejuvenating Balance Box. Containing three meals a day, we make sure to include two delicious snacks every day to keep your cravings at bay and ensure you are eating at regular intervals.
The odd ‘naughty’ snack is not the end of the world. If you’re eating sensibly, the odd treat is not going to do any harm.