How To Avoid Refined Sugar

From nutritionist Mikaela Reuben.

As everyone knows, eating sweets can bring feelings of comfort and happiness. This is because when we eat sugar our brains release dopamine – a feel good chemical that motivates and reinforces behaviors, like eating cookies and hiding chocolate bars beside the bed. We eat sugar, we feel rewarded, and we want more sugar.

In terms of health, sugar is not as sweet as it seems. Sugar can depress the immune system, wreak havoc on blood glucose levels, spike and crash energy levels and focus, cause major weight gain, heighten aging and internal stress, and cause inflammation in the body.

Sugar cravings can strike at any time and can completely derail even the best intentions for healthy eating. Here are some tips for staying on top of cravings!

1. Stay hydrated: Often when our bodies are dehydrated, this signal is misinterpreted as hunger, causing us to reach for high sugared snacks when water is what we truly need.

2. Get enough rest: When we haven’t gotten our eight hours of beauty sleep in, we are actually more likely to reach for sugary foods to help give us a boost. In a perfect world, we would all have time for eight hours a night, but in reality, life gets in the way of that. What can you do? Maximize the efficiency of your sleep. Sleep in complete darkness, avoid screen time within the hour before bed, do a relaxing activity such as yoga, meditation, or reading to stimulate the calming part of your nervous system and avoid caffeine for six hours before hitting the hay.

3. Look for the root cause of the craving: Food cravings can be a signal of something going on at a deeper level, be it emotional or physical. It is common for our emotions to lead us to snack, whether it is anger, sadness or just boredom. Ask yourself what you are trying to feed when you are having the cravings? Nutrient deficiencies can also lead to cravings, so eating a diet full of nutritious whole foods is important.

4. Identify alternatives: Sometimes cravings happen and we need to understand how to feed them best by finding the healthier version. Craving sweets? Choose some fresh fruit or banana slices with sea salt and coconut butter. Craving chocolate? A couple squares of good quality dark chocolate go a long way. Is it something salty that you are after? How about marinated cucumber and celery in apple cider vinegar and tamari, or sea salt and hemp oil on avocado. Try to compromise with the cravings.

Plan Ahead For Eating Out

It can be challenging to socialize and go out to eat with friends when you are being mindful of your sugar intake as it sneaks its way into sauces, dressings, marinades, drinks and desserts. If you want to plan ahead call and inquire about which items you can order to avoid sugar or follow some of these suggestions: Ask for olive oil and vinegar to make your own salad dressing; ask the chef to go easy on sauces or put dressings on the side; if dessert is a must, opt to share something or have a cup of tea to hush the after-dinner cravings for sweets; if you are having a drink while out, be mindful that mixed fruity cocktails usually have a high amount of sugar in them. The best low sugar alcohol options are vodka or other clear spirits mixed with water or soda and citrus. If you want a glass of wine, choose higher quality organic wines that are of the dry variety.