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How to Overcome Post Holiday Sugar Cravings

I need a break from sugar. Big time.

If you’re anything like me, you’re pretty careful about sugar. But the holidays came and went and you indulged more than usual. Even though the celebrations are over, you’re still stuck wanting sweets and stumped at how to overcome post holiday sugar cravings.

I’m right there with ya, friend.

I mean, we all know sugar isn’t good for us, but it tastes so darn good. And I’m not one of those strict 100% sugar free folks, especially around irresistible home-baked treats.

Maybe you’re thinking I should know better… (heck, I do know better), but I’m a big believer in eating being a pleasurable experience just as much as a nutritious one.

So, like most years, I’ve indulged in too many sweets during the holidays and I’m ready to take a break.

Actually, my body is asking for it. It feels sluggish and worn out. Like I need a vacation from vacation.

There’s something about having treats around 24/7 that makes us want them more. (Truly sugar can be addictive!)

As always, January is the time to break the cycle and retrain your taste buds back to their usual state.

Here’s how you can retrain your taste buds away from sugar and overcome post holiday sugar cravings:

1. Get them out of the house

I hate to pawn off sweets on other people because I know none of us need extra sugar, but sometimes that’s the best option. (You know you want to take those reject-flavor chocolate truffles to the office… Stop eating them out of pity.)

If you really like those peppermint chocolate chip cookies and can’t handle parting ways, stash ’em in the freezer and save them for next month when your house isn’t as overwhelmed sugary treats.  On the other hand, if you don’t enjoy them or they are full of junk ingredients (like the trans fats from “partially hydrogenated oils”), just throw. them. away. I don’t wish that garbage on my worst enemies.

2. Say “so long” to gum

This might come as a surprise to you, since many people believe that chewing sugar-free gum is the perfect calorie-free way to satisfy their sweet tooth, but your body is not that easily tricked! Chewing gum can actually make you hungrier, lead to more sugar cravings, and cause some undesirable digestive effects (like bloating and gas). I review all of this an more in this post: Is Chewing Gum Bad For You?

3. Start using less sugar in coffee/tea

Every little bit adds up and a fair amount of sugar sneaks into our morning drinks setting us up for cravings later on. So if you’re using 4 spoons of sugar, try reducing it to 3 and see if you can handle the taste difference. Sure it won’t be as delicious, but over time your taste buds will adjust and you can keep reducing. Who knows, maybe someday you’ll enjoy a cup o’ Joe without any sugar at all. To help wean off of sugar, you can try using stevia in lieu of sugar (or in combination with using less sugar). I suggest you steer clear of artificial sweeteners, like Splenda, for these reasons.

Also, be careful with those flavored creamers. They are 50% sugar by volume (or more) and full of unpronounceable ingredients. Try vanilla extract, almond extract, grated nutmeg, or a sprinkle of cinnamon for flavor instead.

4. Eat a good breakfast

Yeah, it’s tempting to have pastries for breakfast (or cereal and milk), but much like a super sweetened cup of coffee, that sets you up to have sugar cravings the rest of the day (more on that here). Try to get a hearty serving of protein and fat in the morning to keep your blood sugar stable (and stay craving-free) all the way to lunch.

We’re talking a veggie omelet cooked in butter OR sausage with sauteed kale and tomatoes OR full-fat greek yogurt with nuts. Yes, I said full-fat. And yes, I said butter.

5. Cut out juice

The new year usually comes with a strange obsession with detoxing, and for many people that means guzzling more juice. Unfortunately, that’s not always a good idea. (Nor is it a good idea to start one of those “detox” cleanses you find at health food stores. psst – here’s what detox products don’t tell you!)

What’s my problem with juice?

Ounce per ounce, fruit juice has the same amount of sugar as a soda. (<-Tweet That!)

Even though it started with better ingredients (fruit instead of high fructose corn syrup), the effect on your energy levels, blood sugar, and cravings is identical – a fleeting high followed by the all-too-familiar crash and burn. If you want a healthy juice, get one freshly made at a juice bar with mostly green veggies and just a wee bit of apple or pear to make it taste good. I’m not anti-juice, I’m anti-HIGH-SUGAR-juice.

And remember, you can over-do it on whole fruit too! (Blasphemy, I know... But here are 5 signs you’re eating too much fruit.)

Take it Slow!

Know that when you retrain your taste buds to overcome post holiday sugar cravings, it’s not an overnight process. When we become accustomed to sweet foods, it takes an adjustment period for our taste buds to stop craving it. You may surprise yourself though. After a few days of cutting back on sugar, that piece of candy might taste sickeningly sweet to you.

So although it’s tempting to go all-in and ditch every last gram of sugar, be sure you’re also listening to your body. Watch this clip from one of my past workshops on Mindful Eating:

Before you go cold turkey on sugar, try some of the above steps first. Even a slight reduction in sugar is healthy, such as swapping our milk chocolate for antioxidant-filled dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao (I love a 85% or 95% cocoa chocolate). Dark chocolate is so rich in flavor that most people are satisfied with a much smaller amount.

Nervous that if you allow yourself even a little sugar, you’ll go overboard?

I hear that a lot! I personally recommend the Hunger Awareness Exercise, so you can focus on enjoying your food, rather than worrying about counting calories or grams of sugar. You don’t have to be black and white about this to tame your sweet tooth.

Now I’d like to hear from you in the comments section:

  • How do you overcome post holiday sugar cravings?

Until next week,

Lily

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Lily Nichols is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist, Certified Diabetes Educator, researcher, and author with a passion for evidence-based prenatal nutrition and exercise. Her work is known for being research-focused, thorough, and unapologetically critical of outdated dietary guidelines. She is the author of two bestselling books, Real Food for Pregnancy and Real Food for Gestational Diabetes.

18 Comments

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  1. Great tips and video, Lily! My way to cure sugar cravings is to drink hot water in the form of green tea or with a squeeze of lemon juice and cinnamon! It never fails 🙂

    • That’s a great one, Cassie. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Great post Lily! I totally can relate to the sugar hangover feeling! I’ve been careful not to let any sugary treats into the house and seem to do well by avoiding sweet tastes earlier in the day. Like, eggs instead of granola, saving fruit for evening makes it feel like more of a treat and I can skip the chocolate.

    • I’m the same, Amy. 🙂 As long as I start my morning without sweet flavors, I have far fewer cravings!

  3. I love the idea of freezing and eating later! Feels less wasteful than throwing away… And who knows, maybe it gets forgotten 🙂 I also find drinking a big green smoothie helps me feel fuller and not crave sweets so much.

    • Yeah, I’m really against wasting food, so if I can save some treats for later and avoid sugar overload, I’m a happy camper!

  4. This is very timely, Lily! I always joke that when I get any sugar in my system, it’s like I become a vampire, hungry for more! So true. And I do juice, but like you, I keep it low fruit, high veg. I also drink a lot more water – because I find sometimes that my cravings are really thirst in disguise. Thanks for posting this!

    • You make a good point, Jennifer. Dehydration can masquerade around as food cravings sometimes!

  5. Lily, Thank you for the reminder. I’ve been wanting to cut out sugar in my coffee. I will start with 1/2 as much as I usually put in. I’m sure it will bet easier. My body is also feeling overloaded with sugar and heaving food. Have a great New Year!

    • Happy New Year to you as well, Brenda! Yep, slow and steady win the race when it comes to weaning off sugar. 🙂

  6. Great tips! I’ve definitely read about that issue with gum. And tip #1 is my favorite… because I had this Costco-sized jar of Nutella some weeks back… and 1 week later it was empty. And it was ALL ME. Christ. So without it in the house, that can’t happen 😀

    Good luck to us 😉

    • Natalia, I completely understand. Some things are so addictive, it’s best to keep ’em out of sight (Nutella definitely fits in that category!).

  7. Great post. I am definitely in need of some help with the sugar at the moment. Way too much eaten at Christmas and it is amazing how quickly your body gets used to it and craves it. It always amazes me which products they manage to hide sugar in. Never thought about the cereal one!

  8. Yep-guilty of too much sugar! Great tips and you’ve inspired me to do what I’ve been putting off-cutting out the sugar!

    • Way to go, Jenn!

  9. This is a wonderful post with easy tips to apply right away. It is really important to listen to your body.

  10. Finally someone who agrees with me! I did Weight Watchers and I started looking at food as numbers and it was so depressing. Took the joy out of eating. But I do think the program is one of the better ones and it is just me–my bad not WW cuz here I sit in my 50s and overweight by at least 50 pounds. Oops! Another depressing number!! (But when I was your age I didn’t need to count anything. Boo old age!)

    • Hi Trish, Many of my clients are in their 40s, 50s, and 60s and are living proof that mindful eating (without any counting) can result in lasting, sustainable weight loss. Age is just another number… Maybe this article will give you some perspective on why counting calories isn’t the best long-term plan. 🙂

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