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Three Easy Ways to Reduce Sugar Cravings

by Elle Penner, MPH, RD
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Three Easy Ways to Reduce Sugar Cravings

Most of us have experienced intense sugar cravings at one point in time — and we can all agree that once a sugar craving hits, it can be tough to ignore. Unfortunately, the key to reducing sugar cravings is actually eating less of the sweet stuff. While some may prefer to go cold turkey and completely stop consuming added sugar, many of us find this approach unrealistic and unsustainable in the long run.

For those wanting a less restrictive approach, here are three easy tips to reduce sugar cravings for good.


Dehydration often masks itself as hunger — particularly in the form of sugar cravings. This is because even mild dehydration can make it difficult for our body to tap into energy stores, particularly glycogen, the body’s main storage form for carbohydrates. When your body can’t access simple carbs quickly — especially after exercise — your cravings for them increase, often in the form of a sugar desire.

Hydration Tips:

  • Down a minimum of 64 fluid ounces (8 cups) of water daily. Split it up by drinking 32 ounces (4 cups) before lunch and another 32 ounces before dinner is over.
  • The next time a sugar craving strikes, drink a tall glass of water and wait 15–20 minutes. Your craving might just disappear.

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A 2013 study at Yale University suggested the brain is not easily fooled by artificial sweeteners in lieu of sugar-sweetened foods and beverages. The study looked at a specific brain signal involved in choosing between real sugar and no- or low-calorie sweeteners — a signal that regulates dopamine levels which, in turn, mediates pleasure in the brain. Not surprisingly, the brain finds greater reward from real sugar than it does from artificial sweeteners. These findings suggest frequent consumption of artificially sweetened food and drinks, particularly when we’re hungry or overtired, may lead to greater future consumption of higher sugar- and calorie-laden alternatives as the brain seeks that reward.

Tips to Cut Out the Imposters:

  • Instead of diet soda, reach for a club soda with a splash of fruit juice.
  • Use half the amount of artificial sweetener you usually add to your coffee, and continue to cut back over time.



Gradually reducing the amount of sugar you consume can be an effective approach in reducing cravings. It may take a bit longer to feel the difference, but when you gradually reduce sugar intake, you don’t endure the physical side effects and feelings of deprivation associated with cold-turkey withdrawal. Making just two or three of the following small changes can make a big difference in reducing sugar consumption and curbing cravings.

Ideas for Cutting Back:

  • Order lattes and other sweetened coffee drinks with half the amount of sweetener.
  • Prevent overeating by pre-portioning sweets and other packaged foods that list sugar (or one of its many nicknames) within the first five ingredients.
  • Mix plain yogurt into your usual sweetened yogurt.
  • Dilute soda and juice with club soda or plain water.
  • Pair sweets, like chocolate, with nutritious foods rather than eating them alone. (Think: apple slices topped with peanut butter and chocolate chips.)
  • Reduce the amount of sugar in recipes by 1/3 or up to 1/2.

Want more ideas for cutting back on the sweet stuff? Here are 15 Simple Hacks for Eating Less Sugar.

Written by Elle Penner, a nutrition and wellness writer, recipe developer, blogger and nutrition consultant whose favorite things include her camera, carbs and quality time with her toddler. For more from this busy mama, check out Elle’s lifestyle blog or connect with her on Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.


  • Sugar cravings come from eating sugar and refined carbohydrates. Eat
    more fat!!! Yes animal and saturated too. What you crave is not your
    cognitive conscious self. It’s your biochemistry. A calorie is not a

    • Cathy Bryant

      Totally agree! But if you have been eating lots os sugar, expect 1 to 3 uncomfortable days when you first go off it. Just like other addictive things, there are a few days’ in the withdrawal period. Just eat an apple if it’s driving you bananas! Yes, it has sugar, but not nearly as much as you have been eating! And it has fiber to slow it down. Or put a dab of peanut butter on it to add some protein.

      • Nick Fergadis Giannakopoulos

        “Eat an apple if it’s driving you bananas” 😀 😀

  • David Worley

    Unfortunately i taste all the clorine in the city water. If I filter i taste the metallic taste of the filters. I add a little lime juice and splenda, the only way i can drink it. Or i go find some clean well water

    • Bryce Irby

      You should get Nestle water it’s the best water I have drank for a low price. The others have a weird teast to me. Try it see what you think.

      • David Worley

        It is great water. We used to have it at work. Then they went to a cheap brand 🙁

    • BK Jackson

      I keep a Brita pitcher in my fridge. I could not drink water straight from the tap, but filtered through Brita, it’s fine.

  • BK Jackson

    I consume a LOT of water daily–it does not reduce sugar cravings. Easing back on sugar intake helps. And despite all the naysayers of apple cider vinegar, mixing small amounts in a bottle of water helps cut the sugar cravings. Used judiciously, it is not the great evil that the “I won’t believe it till you can prove it” scientific community thinks. I’ve been reading some great material regarding the benefits of exercise to the brain–including the benefits of vigorous aerobic exercise for people with addictions–a category in which I place sugar, based on my own experience. Check out the book “Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise & The Brain” by Ratey. Don’t take the book’s word for it–what have you got to lose by trying?

  • This doesn’t work. If anything, drinking more water makes me crave more sugar. If I drink more than 2L of water, I feel the need to eat sugar more instead of less. I don’t really use sweeteners either. The third will work for a bit but if it goes below certain levels, it comes back in full force. I’ve come to understand that it’s probably due to a lack of glucose in the other foods I eat. Sugar has quite a lot of glucose. And for those of us that tend to think a lot, we need that glucose. If you want to be an unthinking human being, yea, go ahead and cut down on sugar. That’s what the corporations want anyway.

    • Nick Fergadis Giannakopoulos

      Sooo… if you don’t consume ‘enough’ glucose, you are unable to think properly? Wow, new science right there.

      • Not really new science but part of stuff that the mass media ignores. What doesn’t make money, is not important after all.

        • Nick Fergadis Giannakopoulos

          You are most probably confusing glucose with glycogen. Which is what all carbs, not just ‘sugar’ gets converted to for energy. Even protein and fat gets partially converted as well. But clearly, you are ignoring basic body chemistry, making it all about ‘corporations’ and ‘media’. More power to ya, I’m done here.

          • It is very possible that I am confusing the two. It has been quite a long time since I read the article in regards to it. Mind if I ask where your sources are from? I wouldn’t mind learning the proper details so I don’t make this mistake again.

          • Nick Fergadis Giannakopoulos

            Just google glycogenesis. The Wikipedia article is a good bet as well.

      • Mary Dearing

        If we don’t consume sugars, which break down easily into glucose, we can derive quite enough glucose from breaking down proteins.

    • Nigel Coey

      @ZarethKnyght, you are probably lacking Chromium.

  • BK Jackson

    If your library has a digital loan program, you should be able to borrow it digitally.

    • Ky

      Then I’d be losing time that I could be using towards working out or something else that’s much more productive with my time.