Coping with your sugar cravings

by JANE CLARKE, You magazine, Mail on Sunday
March 3, 2002

If you prefer savouries to sweets, you may be feeling sick to death of chocolates in the aftermath of the sugary excesses of the festive period, but if you've got a sweet tooth, you may be fighting a losing battle trying to resist your constant craving.

In our fat-obsessed world, it's easy to forget that sugar isn't that good for us either, yet not only can too much cause obesity and dental caries,

but it plays havoc with your energy levels, too.

While eating a very sweet food on an empty stomach can give you an instant energy boost, you'll soon start feeling wired and weird, prompting you to reach for another sugar fix, a cycle that can literally be nausea-inducing.

If you're a sugar addict, I'd urge you to break the habit - you'll feel so much stronger and in control of your moods as a result, while additional bonuses frequently include a clearer skin, a more settled digestive system and fewer headaches and migraines.

If you decide to try to beat your sugar reliance, you have two options: either to reduce your sugar intake gradually or to go cold turkey and banish

sugary foods from your life altogether. In my experience, the most successful strategy is a compromise: try cutting sugary foods out of your

diet for a period of a few days to a couple of weeks, and you may then feel sufficiently in control of your sweet tooth to savour the occasional sweet treat.

Be prepared for your body to start behaving differently when it's suddenly deprived of the quick-fix sugar hits that it has become used to - its initial response, for example, may be to overwhelm you with feelings of tiredness, making it best to start your sugar detox at a weekend, when you can give in to your urge to sleep.

And because a hydrated body is better able to cope

with any sudden dietary changes, try to drink 2.5 litres of water a day.

You'd also be well advised to stop drinking caffeine-containing drinks like coffee, tea, colas and 'sports' or 'energy' drinks because caffeine can disrupt your energy levels, the initial caffeine buzz often being followed by a low that can trigger a craving for something sweet.

There are plenty of delicious foods that you can enlist in your quest to quash your sugar cravings, notably chromium-rich foods like cheese,

shellfish, baked beans and such wholemeal products as wholemeal bread, cereals and pastas.

The body needs minute quantities of chromium to

encourage the pancreas to produce insulin, the hormone that helps to control blood sugar levels. The question of how much chromium will stabilise any blood sugar swings is down to the individual, but it generally seems that if you eat more wholegrain foods, along with plenty of vegetables and fresh fruits (although they'll give you a welcome dose of sweetness, their fibre content will suppress any further sugar cravings), your blood sugar level should remain far more steady.

Protein-packed foods, such as chicken, fish, eggs, seafood, pulses, lentils and lean red meat, also ward off sugar urges, so if you have a lunch

consisting of a good-sized portion of protein teamed with some vegetables or salad and a small amount of wholegrain, you may find your mind dwelling less on the subject of sweet foods than if you'd had lots of starchy bread, rice, pasta or potatoes accompanied by only a tiny amount of protein.

When it comes to controlling sugar urges, having small meals often is a better bet than going for hours without eating (you may already have found

that when you skip a meal you end up diving into the biscuit box and then staying there).

Another trick is to carry a small bottle of vanilla essence around with you and taking a sniff of it every time that you feel a sugar

craving coming on - you'll be astonished how quickly it disappears!



Allow about 125g of fruit per person. Ideally choose seasonal fruits for the best flavour - I love pineapple, mango, bananas, tangerines, pears, and in the summer, berries and peaches.

Slice the fruits into similar sized chunks, but don't make them too small otherwise they'll fall off the skewer.

Arrange the pieces of fruit in colourful combinations and thread onto the skewers, allowing about 6 pieces per skewer.

Pre heat your char grilling pan, or otherwise you could use a normal grill. Then place the fruit kebabs onto the heated pan, and cook

until the edges of the fruits turn golden brown,

Serve warm, either on their own or with some natural yoghurt or fromage frais. For very young children, you should remove the skewers before they eat them.

Jane Clarke(BSc SRD), sees patients at her Nutritional Consultancy; 29 Frith

Street, London, W1V 5TL, Tel 020 7437 3767.

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