I get asked this all the time, especially when people are doing the 21-Day Sugar Detox or are new to Paleo:
“What can I do about sugar and carb cravings?”
Before we go any further, know that I can help you with this! There are steps that you can take to break free from this cycle and bust those sugar and carb cravings naturally!
First ask yourself, is it a habit or a true craving?
A habit is something that you might not even think about – something do regardless of a craving or not. For example, before you started Paleo or The 21-Day Sugar Detox, you might have regularly indulged in something sweet after dinner or chips with your lunch, just because it’s what you’ve always done.
Is this you? Maybe it is a craving. A craving is an unsatisfied hunger for something salty, sweet, sour or perhaps even fatty (as in fried foods) and if it’s in your reach… you can’t resist. Maybe this is you. Perhaps you can relate to both. I think most of us can. I’ve been there, done that, and I get it.
Cravings are often due to nutrient deficiencies, such as magnesium if you are craving chocolate, or essential fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins if you are craving fried foods.
Magnesium deficiency is common, as both stress and sugar consumption deplete magnesium stores in the body.
Essential fatty acids and fat soluble vitamin deficiencies are also common since many people who make the switch to Paleo or the 21-Day Sugar Detox previously ate a “health conscious,” low-fat diet.
Sometimes cravings can occur due to digestive impairment. If you're eating nutrient-rich foods, but you're just not digesting them well (for a myriad of reasons), then those nutrients (the aforementioned magnesium and EFAs included) may not actually be absorbed! And, you aren't what you eat – you're what you digest and absorb! Check out my 4-part series on Troubleshooting Your Digestive Issues. For even more detailed information on digestion and how food should work in your body, check out my first book, Practical Paleo. If troubleshooting on your own is not solving the problem, I definitely recommend that you consult with a holistic nutritionist.
So, what can you do about these cravings?
Set yourself up for success. I can help you bust these sugar and carb cravings naturally — you can do this! My program, The 21-Day Sugar Detox, is a fantastic starting point.
Let’s look at some practical ways you can set yourself up for success and bust those sugar and carb cravings!
1. Prepare your environment. Remove offending foods from your reach. It's best to get them out of your home, but if you live with others that prevent you from doing that, either have a talk with them and ask for their support or at least make a deal about hiding them from you. If you work at an office with lots of treats, pack some healthy snacks and avoid that area. The goal here is to reset your habits so that you will be able to resist foods that you previously relied upon without difficulty.
2. Stock up on healthy snacks. I don't generally recommend snacking all day, but at times, you might find that you need some snacks to keep you satisfied between meals. You'll want to switch your previous go-to snacks to healthier choices, so instead of chips, candy, or crackers, have things like olives, nut butters, veggies, jerky, and guacamole on hand. Fat- and protein-rich foods will work best for a quick fix when a craving (or that office birthday cake) is tempting you.
3. Sip on herbal teas. I absolutely love the benefits that herbal teas offer, from providing some fantastic micro and phytonutrients, to supporting healthy blood sugar regulation and digestive function, they're practically a category of “super foods.” Peppermint and ginger teas are some of my favorites for helping with your cravings – Traditional Medicinals is a great organic brand.
4. Eat well-balanced, satisfying meals. Each meal should have a high quality protein, a healthy fat, and some type of nutrient-dense vegetable or multiple vegetables. For recipes and meal ideas that will keep you full and satiated, get Practical Paleo, The 21-Day Sugar Detox, The 21-Day Sugar Detox Cookbook, and here on my website.
5. Try not-sweet treats. Giving up all “treats” is a difficult thing to do long-term and may make you feel more restricted in your food choices than necessary, so see if you can have an occasional not-sweet treat without experiencing intense cravings. Over the years in my practice and with the thousands of participants in the 21DSD program, I have found that “treats” without any sweeteners added provide quality nutrients (including good fats) and tend to keep people from giving in and eating something that might derail progress (not to mention destroy their blood sugar regulation and digestive function). I’ve provided some “not-sweet treats” recipes in The 21-Day Sugar Detox (my favorites are the Lemon-Vanilla Meltaways!) and The 21-Day Sugar Detox Cookbook and there are also some right here on the website. If you find you can’t keep yourself from eating all the servings in a recipe in one sitting, then share a batch or simply don’t make them. It's your call and you can observe your habits around them.
6. Epsom salt baths. This will provide some transdermal (absorbed through the skin) magnesium, which I referred to earlier. Try 2 cups of Epsom salt in your bathwater and cut back if that gives you loose bowels. These baths are relaxing and might also help you sleep. (Tip: purchase plain Epsom salts at a discount drug store or in bulk and add your favorite organic essential oil scent to them if you like, or use them unscented. Buying pre-scented Epsom or bath salts is far more pricey and completely unnecessary!)
7. Cinnamon. Add cinnamon to your food. It gives a bit of a seemingly sweet taste and helps to control blood sugar. Cinnamon is great with beef and pork and on roasted veggies, and you’ll find it in many of my non-sweet treat recipes in the 21-Day Sugar Detox. If you're completing the 21DSD on Level 1 or 2, cinnamon is fantastic when mixed in with full-fat dairy products.
8. Chromium. Incorporate chromium-rich foods into your diet. Chromium consistently demonstrates improvement in blood sugar levels in scientific literature. Some chromium rich foods are liver, oysters, onions, and broccoli.
9. Exercise. Replace that dopamine hit (feeling of pleasure) that you previously got from sugar and refined/bad carbs with some exercise. Go for a brisk walk, do some jumping jacks, or perhaps some pushups — just get your body moving!
10. Journal. Many people find they are more accountable to themselves when they journal their food. Check out the journal I created for the 21-Day Sugar Detox: Daily Success Log.
And… Check out the 21-Day Sugar Detox! I practically hold your hand by walking you through every step of the way, from planning ahead, Yes/No foods for the level that is right for you, meal plans, shopping lists/guides, what to expect every step of the way, recipes and so much more!
Brody, Alonzo. “Take Control of Your Blood Sugar Levels with Targeted Nutrient Compounds.” Life Extension 1 Feb. 2011: n. pag. Print.m/tag/dopamine/