Do you feel unsatisfied after a meal, reach for the sugar to get you through that 3pm slump or sift through the pantry once the kids are in bed? Feeling unsatisfied after a meal means you are more likely to build a habit of unnecessary snacking, often including sugary foods.
Many people find that they are craving sugar-containing foods, perhaps because sugar is something that we have learnt to love! Our bodies response to sugar makes it hard to ditch the habit, as when we eat sugary foods and beverages our body releases the feel good hormone dopamine. The high experienced from the release of dopamine can lead to feelings of withdrawal when you try to go without sugar, making it more difficult to get through the sugar cravings.
So what can you do to tame your appetite and overcome sugar cravings?
Identify and understand your craving triggers
Most of us can acknowledge that there is more to hunger than that rumbling feeling in our stomachs. Common appetite triggers (other than hunger) include boredom, stress or sadness. Understanding what type of hunger you are feeling, and what your food triggers are, is key to curbing unnecessary snacking.
Ask yourself, am I trying to satisfy:
Physical hunger: True hunger is the feeling of discomfort due to a lack of food that causes that rumbling tummy feeling!
Taste hunger: Ever walked past a bakery and smelt freshly baked bread, causing your mouth to water? That craving can be described as a taste hunger.
Scheduled hunger: “It’s lunch time, time to eat!” Eating to the clock rather than your body’s internal hunger cues is satisfying your mind’s ideas on meal times, rather than hunger.
Heart hunger: Filling an emotional void with food. Emotional eating can be triggered by many different emotions such as stress, worry, sadness or loneliness.
Thirst: Being dehydrated can drain you of energy, making it easy to confuse thirst for hunger.
Retrain your palate
Like most of the cells in our body, the receptors on your taste buds are constantly being replaced. If you consider yourself to “have a sweet tooth” then try to retrain your palate and within a couple of weeks you can reduce your taste for the sweet stuff.
Forming any new habit, or changing existing habits takes preparation and planning. Take a look at what snacks you are currently choosing, and aim to swap sugary foods for savoury options.
Remember natural sugars such as those often used in “raw treats” (think honey, maple syrup, agave and dried fruits) will still cause the dopamine response in your body!
Some suitable savoury snack options include:
Whole grain crackers and cottage cheese
Find things that make you feel good that AREN’T food or drink
If you have identified emotional hunger as a trigger for your cravings then part of the journey to healing your relationship with yourself and food is to find ways, other than food, to make yourself feel good!
Most of us tend to feel good when we reach milestones or experience big moments in life, but as we know, those big achievements can feel few and far between (the house, car, partner, dream job etc.). Being able to practice gratitude for the little moments each day is so important for your wellbeing. Turning to food or alcohol in times of stress, worry or sadness is also unhelpful, so instead of finishing a rough day at work with a glass of wine at night, set aside some time to compile your own list of feel good strategies you can turn to in times of need.
Your list could include:
Phoning an old friend for a much-needed catch up
Running a bath
Reading a book
Listening to a podcast
Playing a few of your favourite songs (dancing is encouraged!)
Up your protein intake
Having satisfying main meals means you are less likely to need snacks to get through the day, so learning about how to build better meals is key. Protein is the star of the show when it comes to food that makes us feel full, and also helps to promote stable blood sugar levels - therefore reducing sugar cravings. Aim to make protein-containing foods a common staple in your home, and include protein at each meal time. Some good options are:
Trim milk (by itself as a snack or added to a smoothie for a great start to your day)
Low-fat yoghurt (add to cereals or smoothies)
Eggs (makes a satisfying breakfast)
Canned lentils or beans (can be added to salads, soups and casseroles)
Canned fish (affordable and a great addition to your lunch time meal)
Boost your fibre
Ever notice that fresh fruit keeps you fuller than fruit juice? That’s the beauty of fibre! Fibre helps to create the feeling of fullness, slow digestion and, much like protein, stabilise blood sugar levels. The texture of fibre containing foods also helps us to feel satisfied, as these foods tend to take more chewing! Give your diet a fibre make over by including sources such as oats, lentils and beans, nuts and seeds and remember to leave the skin on your fruits and vegetables where possible.
Give these changes a go, and see if it makes a difference to your snack and sugar intake. If you need some more personalised advice, come in and see us! We’ve got qualified Nutritionists and Dietitians around the country, just get in touch, chat through your goals, and we’ll book you in with the best consultant for your needs.
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