Q: Can I really be hooked on sugar?

A: Some indications that you may be using sugary foods in ways that aren’t healthy include craving it, losing control around it and eating more of it than you planned.  It’s not your fault that you struggle with sugar.  Understand that your brain sees sugar as a reward which keeps you wanting more and more.  Sugar fuels every cell in your brain and if you eat a lot of sugar, you end up reinforcing that reward which can make it a tough habit to break.  The more sugar you eat, the higher your tolerance becomes.

If you find yourself getting a rush when you eat a candy bar in the middle of the afternoon, this is because you are experiencing a quick spike in your blood sugar levels.  Instead, you can eat a piece of fruit, which also has fiber, and this will slow the process down so you don’t experience the rush.  The midday candy bar will set you up for poor eating habits because your body will search for more sweets to regain that sugar “high”.  You should be eating no more than 6 teaspoons daily for women and 9 teaspoons for men.  At least half of the sugar we consume comes from soda, fruit drinks and sports drinks.  The rest sneaks into our diets in the form of ketchup, teriyaki sauce, granola bars, chocolate milk and the obvious sweets like cookies, cakes, ice cream and breakfast cereal. Surprisingly, some “healthy foods” such as yogurt and instant oatmeal can pack in 5-7 teaspoons of sugar alone!

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If you don’t think you have a sweet tooth, but instead, you crave bagels, chips or French fries, you will also experience a blood sugar surge and the accompanying rush.  White rice, white flour and potatoes will do this as well.  Highly refined starches like white bread, pretzels, crackers and pasta are the worst.  A high intake of carbohydrates and/or sugar, releases a feel
good chemical in the brain.  The “high” of a sugar rush is temporary and after it wears off you may feel very tired, fatigued or lethargic.

There is good news! You can retrain your taste buds because you don’t need sugar as much as you think you do. You can begin to enjoy things that aren’t as sweet.  How? Try cutting out one
sweet food from your diet each week.  Pass on dessert after dinner, try putting less sugar in your coffee, etc., and over time you will lose your desire for that sugary sweet taste.

Observe your food intake – Keep a food diary and track how much sugar you are eating.

Notice how you feel after you eat sugar and gain some insight into what might trigger a sugar binge by paying attention to when you are eating more of it and why. Does one bite lead to a
desire for more and more?  Become aware of your patterns.

Take good care of yourself – Eat breakfast every morning, include fat and protein in every meal, eat regularly which will be calming and reassuring to your body, drink more water – remember you want to eat your calories not drink them, get at least 7 or more hours of sleep each night, and create a relaxed bedtime routine.  Choose sweets that are good for you. Try getting sweetness from sources like fresh berries or a low-sugar, plain Greek yogurt.

Start getting curious about the sugar content on labels – Watch out for items that list any form of sugar in the first few ingredients or have more than 4 total grams of sugar, and begin to
cut out a little bit of sugar each week.  After a few weeks, you will be surprised at how little you miss it and how much better you feel.

Eating more fiber also helps fight a desire for sugar – Why? It keeps you full, it gives you more energy, and there is no crash afterwards because high-fiber foods don’t raise your blood
sugar. Suggestions? Try natural almond butter on an apple, hummus with cherry tomatoes or fresh cucumber slices.

Did you know that exercise can also help lower your sugar cravings?  Exercise can also help change the way you eat in general because you will start to feel better and will want healthier
foods.  Choose activities you like and work toward at least 30 minutes, 5 days a week.

Take a look at the list below and get inspired to buy and eat a variety of these foods to replace sugar cravings:


If you have a question that you would like to ask Ann, email it to contact@annpelino.com.

Ann Pelino, Madison based nutritionist and personal training professional speaks about a balanced lifestyle and staying healthy at any age

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer.