How to stop sugar cravings

People often ask me; how to stop sugar cravings and processed food cravings. Especially in the late afternoon when they get an energy dip. My answer is always the same. Eat more animal based, whole-food protein sources during the day!

Protein is our most satiating nutrient; therefore it keeps us feeling fuller for longer and stabilizes our blood sugar levels throughout the day. This helps keep our appetite steady throughout the day and we don’t get those afternoon dips in blood glucose levels, which often results in fatigue and a “pick me up” processed food craving.

It is amazing how much of a difference good quality protein intake at each meal can have on people’s satiety levels, energy levels and cravings. While processed food and sugar intake may be due to psychological factors (e.g. bad habits), they are also driven by physiological mechanisms as well.

Once our blood sugar levels drop, our brain makes us seek out calorie and carbohydrate dense foods in order to get our blood sugar levels back up. Blood sugar drops are also exacerbated when we are stressed, which is also a physiological reason as to why stress can lead to increased processed food intake, aside from the psychological factors like “comfort eating.” Therefore, it is all the more reason to prioritize good eating habits when we are stressed, despite it being difficult to do.

Good sources of protein are our animal-based sources:

  • Meat (does not include processed meat)
  • Whey protein powder
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Greek yoghurt (natural and unsweetened with no added sugar)

Make sure your intake of these foods are predominantly home prepared, cooked in healthy oils like olive oil and flavoured with your own herbs and spices, rather than sauces or pre-packaged/pre-flavoured meat and fish.

Note: Classification of foods into their respective macronutrient categories (i.e. protein, carbs and fats), is based on the predominating macronutrient in a given food. For example, while foods like beans, legumes and lentils do contain protein, they are mostly made of carbs, therefore they are classified as carb sources. In order to obtain adequate protein intake from these foods, you would also have to take in a lot of calories via carbs as well. Same goes for nuts. Nuts do contain some protein, however they mostly contains fats, therefore they are a fat source. Trying to get adequate protein intake from nuts will lead to excess calorie consumption via fats. These foods are healthy and are part of a balanced diet, however they are not good sources of protein. They are rather good sources of carbs and fats.

Lastly, plant-based proteins are not as “well absorbed” as animal based proteins, therefore, you need to eat more food sources of plant based proteins to get the same amount of absorbable protein as you would from a smaller amount of animal based foods. This also means higher calorie intake as well.