10 Foods That Curb Sugar Cravings

Kristina LaRue, RD, CSSD, LDN
by Kristina LaRue, RD, CSSD, LDN
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10 Foods That Curb Sugar Cravings

Today’s food landscape is rife with quick, cheap access to sugar whenever we are craving it — and even when we aren’t. Grocery and convenience stores are stocked with cookies, candy, sugary beverages and other sweet snacks strategically placed at the checkout prompting unhealthy impulse buys. What’s more, sugar can be hidden under many names in unsuspecting foods ranging from condiments to frozen fruits.

Even after a satisfying meal, sugar cravings can hit you hard. This could be due to factors such as dehydration or lack of sleep. Another explanation is hedonic hunger — or eating for pleasure rather than for satisfaction. Researchers are still trying to figure out why this happens, but before we take the first bite, the sight of a sugary or fatty food causes the brain’s reward circuit to get excited.

Once the sweet treat hits your tastebuds, signals are fired off to the brain to release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that causes an intense feeling of pleasure. Overeating sugary foods not only floods the brain with dopamine but also creates a pattern of sugar cravings. In a short time, the brain starts to crave more sugar to reach the same threshold of pleasure it once got from small amounts of these feel-good foods.

To cut back on sugar, start by tracking your intake with an app like MyFitnessPal and prioritize whole foods. These 10 picks provide important satiating nutrients like proteinhealthy fats and fiber to keep you fuller, longer and prevent cravings caused by blood sugar crashes.

Packed with heart-healthy fats, almonds can help control blood sugar, keeping intense sugar cravings in check. The healthy fats in nuts keep you feeling satisfied even longer, making it less likely for you to have an energy dip between meals — when sugar cravings are often at their worst. Add them to oatmeal, sprinkle them in salads, use them in energy bars or make your own almond butter and almond milk.

The healthy monounsaturated fats in avocado can play a role in satiety and satisfaction, while helping to keep your blood sugar balanced. Avocados are also rich in fiber, which can help with the feeling of fullness, and antioxidants. Add avocado to your sandwiches, toast, soups, salads, egg dishes, smoothies, dressings and even desserts.

Unlike fruit juices and dried fruit that are high in sugar and low in fiber, whole, fresh fruit like raspberries provides a great source of fiber that allows for the slow-release of the natural sugars. With only 5 grams of sugar per cup, raspberries are also a low-sugar fruit, along with blackberries and strawberries. Pro tip: Blend frozen berries into a smoothie or cream them in the food processor with half a frozen banana to create a thicker frozen texture similar to soft-serve ice cream.

Many sugar cravings stem from undereating in general or imbalanced meals and snacks. The brain sends signals craving sugar or energy. Cheese is high in the amino acid tyrosine, which helps the brain release transmitters such as dopamine that regulate pleasure centers and can have a calming effect. Cheese is a great source of protein and fat to help balance blood sugar, and also provides micronutrients, like zinc, calcium and vitamin B12.

Eggs are a nutrient-dense, budget-friendly source of protein and fat. Their savory nature lends them to be a great option for stabilizing blood sugar and sugar cravings. Not only does their protein and fat help keep you full, but they also offer essential nutrients, like choline, vitamin D and B vitamins. While eggs are a great breakfast option, they can also be used on pizzahard-boiled as a snack, or in grain bowls.

The fiber from celery paired with protein and healthy fat from peanut butter is a triple play for stable energy. Snacks rich in these three nutrients are the best way to keep you sustained between meals, as protein, fats and fiber are digested slowly to gradually release energy over time, making it less likely you’ll hit that afternoon energy crash.

Beans and lentils are great plant-based proteins to add to your diet, plus they are budget-friendly pantry staples with a long shelf life. A cup of beans offers 7–9 grams of protein and 6–8 grams of fiber, which are filling and stabilize blood sugar. Legumes can also help with digestion and provide an array of other nutrients, such as iron, B vitamins and potassium. Add them to salads, soups, pasta, veggie burgers and even in desserts like brownies.

Another cause of your sugar cravings could be an imbalanced gut microbiome, where the bacteria have adapted to thrive on sugar. To reset your gut’s natural balance of bacteria, choose low-sugar Greek yogurt and kefir that are packed with active probiotics. Greek yogurt is also rich in protein, keeping you fueled until your next meal. Add them to parfaits, smoothies, or use Greek yogurt in baked goods or as a substitute for mayo or sour cream.

Beyond being a great source of protein, fiber and fat, pumpkin seeds (also known as pepitas) are rich in magnesium. If you crave chocolate, maybe your body is asking for more magnesium, as cocoa is also rich in this crucial mineral. Choose other high-magnesium foods such as leafy greens and seeds to boost your magnesium levels. Pump up your magnesium by topping this squash soup with toasted pumpkin seeds.

Sweet potatoes are naturally sweet without sugar, so they’re great substitutes for sugary options when your sweet tooth hits. As a fiber-rich complex carbohydrate, they also offer long lasting energy that can help keep you focused and stave off cravings for hours. Enjoy them with eggs in breakfast hash, pair them with black beans in enchiladas, add them to salads and grain bowls, or use them in healthier desserts like these brownies or pie bars.

Originally published September 2017, updated with additional reporting by Sarah Schlichter, RD.

Discover hundreds of healthy recipes — from high protein to low carb — via “Recipe Discovery” in the MyFitnessPal app.

About the Author

Kristina LaRue, RD, CSSD, LDN
Kristina LaRue, RD, CSSD, LDN

Kristina is a board certified sports dietitian located in Orlando, Florida where she specializes in intuitive and mindful eating. She is the author of the food and nutrition blog, Love & Zest where she shares {mostly} healthy recipes with simple ingredients that are meant for real life. As a new mom, she knows that eating well and living an active lifestyle isn’t always easy… but it’s always worth it!! Kristina loves spending time outdoors with her family, sweaty workouts, and a good cup of coffee. Get in touch with her for one-on-one nutrition coaching (virtually or in person), or connect with her on PinterestInstagramFacebook  and YouTube.

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30 responses to “10 Foods That Curb Sugar Cravings”

  1. Avatar Ronnie says:

    I can’t stand raw celery so I’d use carrots instead with the peanut butter. Top and tail the carrot. Peal off the skin and quarter length ways then eat with peanut butter as a dip.

  2. Avatar Lynn says:

    matcha smoothie recipe has 1 cup of orange juice, not something that seems to make sense for this article on cutting back on sugar

  3. Avatar Arthur Holmes-Brown says:

    I guess sprinkling sugar strawberries defeats the whole purpose 🙂

  4. Avatar Simon Woodward says:

    What a load of twaddle! SADly Registered Dieticians are still being shackled by the constraints of their Registration Board, to stick to the SAD (Standard American Diet), and look at the burgeoning epidemic of diabetes that has produced. The system needs to get caught up with the modern scientific research. It’s happening only very slowly. If you want to kill sugar cravings, migrate to an Low Carb – Healthy Fats diet, or stronger still, go ketogenic. For more in-depth information explore the various Reversing Diabetes Groups on Facebook – they are so much more than a bunch of zealots – they are recovering diabetics who have found a way of eating that satiates hunger.

    • Avatar Fabbbarry says:

      What a load of twaddle written in response to an excellent article! Simon is talking out of his rear.

      • Avatar City of Blue Tile says:

        Keto is the answer to everything these days before it used to be paleo! I wonder what fad diet will be the answer to life next?

    • Avatar Janet Mary Lee says:

      Actually Simon is spot on. I have had to try to lose weight for almost 50 years, and a low carb or keto diet does stop the cravings almost like magic. I was stunned. Paleo also does, but tends to be rather restrictive and changes your metabolism if you do not continue it, and not in a good way. Many find they feel almost sick if a “bad ” carb is not had occasionally. And some of the substitutes on the Paleo are really awful tasting. A low carb or keto diet is not a fad, more like correct healthy eating with benefits.

      • Avatar Michael R Edwards says:

        Simon, I have talked to several dieticians. None seem to go with a “standard” diet. They work to help one to modify one’s eating habits. Less food and healthier foods. So far with this approach I have lost 50# and still going strong. A good dietician will also recommend safe excersie. I think you are reading old information or talking to old school dieticians.

    • Avatar Dog says:

      RDs base all advice off of documented large scale scientific research, not fad diets. Now, they can tell you about all of these quick result eating hacks up and down, but the focus of dietitians is to always promote heath of the human body through dietary, physical activity, and lifestyle choice alterations. Humans can only stay on fad diets for so long, eventually they will return to consuming carbohydrate because this nutrient provides the glucose that feeds all cells in the body. In ketosis, the body basically perceives it is in a starvation state and will break down lean tissue to convert some of it to glucose and it can derive about 30% of energy from ketone bodies, which are a product of fatty acid breakdown. This process puts a huge demand on the kidneys, liver, heart and lungs as well as your body attempts to normalize pH levels. Yes, you will lose weight and most definitely lose your appetite for sweets, but you also lose your health, lose your lean tissue, damage your body, and drastically decrease the amount of calories needed to survive. Thus, leading to fast weight gain when normalized eating is established again. So, I stand by the advice given in this article. Yes, sugar is a bear to kick and our society saturates access to it, making it harder to kick the habit. Basically, the old advice is great! The problem is everyone is looking for something new and shiny and something that will deliver quick results. Try 7 servings a day of fresh vegetables (organic if in budget) 2 servings of whole fresh fruit (organic if in budget), breads and cereals that are 100% whole grain (again, organic if in budget – try sprouted and ancient grains), 3 servings of organic 1% or skim milk or organic Greek yogurt, 1 to 2 servings (2 T) or unsalted nuts or seeds, and about 5 to 6 ounces of lean protein (fish, shellfish, breast meat, soy, beans or peas) each day. Eat like this, and you will have so much energy, sleep better, have clearer skin, and the texture of your hair will improve. This is the secret diet!!

      • Avatar Pauline Pantaleo says:

        Dog, I am more for your plan than a fad except dairy. Goat cheese or goat milk, sheep instead. I also do not like meat myself and there is a sufficient amount of science about the benefits of giving up meat. I agree with the vegetables, fruit, fish, nuts/ nut butters, seeds (sprouted or soaked are best), NON GMO soy/ tofu/ tempeh (except people with very high estrogen or allergy), maybe old fashioned gluten free oats, sweet potato or buckwheat in moderation and cacao. Hemp is amazing- hemp tempeh, hemp protein and hemp seeds. I use a plant based protein. I have a scoop at night in warm cashew or coconut-almond milk and hot water (like hot cocoa). Satisfies the craving for sweets, dessert and keeps me full.
        Some people also thrive with free range eggs and egg whites
        The best book I have read that truly gives a whole different perspective on wellness as a whole is ” The Blue Zones “- Lessons on how to live the longest from people who lived the longest.

    • Avatar Sara says:

      Hi Simon. I’m on an NHS (National Health Service) course at the moment in the UK which is part of a National plan to reduce the risk of type 2 Diabetes. Basically it’s for people who have slightly elevated blood glucose levels but who are a way off being diagnosed with Diabetes. The advice you have given about low carb and higher healthy fats is exactly what we’re being taught. There is indeed modern scientific research to support this approach. The course is filled with people who were given the food pyramid or healthy plate information 20-40 years ago and are struggling to understand that the high carb diets they’re existing on are what got them into trouble in the first place.

  5. Avatar Mahrie Reid Glab says:

    Imake a dip that is half all natural peanut butter and half plain or low sugar vanilla yogurt. I often use the fermented almond milk “yogurt”. For extra boost I usually stir in a half a tablespoon + – of a vegan protein powder. If ot is too stiff, add a splash of almond milk. Great with apples, Grapes, carrot stick or any other veggis or fruit.

    • Avatar Sue says:

      I’m with you on this Mahrie. I don’t even use greek yogurt anymore, go strictly almond milk yogurt or coconut milk yogurt. I add fresh ground almond butter, chia seed, grind some flax seed, half frozen banana, handful of spinach and about a cup of frozen berries, any type. Tablespoon of turmeric and then Top it off with almond milk unsweetened vanilla. mm m mmm mmmm.

  6. Avatar Wayne Stone says:

    I agree with the article and have been eating celery with natural peanut butter (just peanuts, needs stirring)
    a couple years and it helped me to lose weight.

  7. Avatar Katina Smith says:

    I have a bag of raw pumpkin seeds by my bed along with a 16oz bottle of water, I eat a spoonful of peanut butter on slice of whole wheat bread, I have switched to a pescatarian diet and I am still compelled to make apple pies, banana puddings, and chocolate cake. Sugar is addictive like a drug. It a constant struggle to not eat it. End of story.

  8. Avatar 1celost says:

    That sounds great, but I am allergic to nuts and seeds….so what do I do?

  9. Avatar Mazinga says:

    From my personal experience there is only one “cure” for sugar cravings, … being on keto. 🙂

  10. Avatar Pauline Pantaleo says:

    So much controversy and debate. It is hard not to chime in so here is what I have seen, experienced and learned- there IS no “right diet” for EVERYONE. I have been into fitness, nutrition and supplements since I was 12. I work in the field and may not be a doctor but am in close correspondence daily with all kinds of licensed practitioners. It comes down to individuality. There are some basic principles that are almost always applicable- leafy greens, some form of healthy protein, basics, but- Keto, Paleo, Vegan, Pescatarian, Macrobiotic, Vegetarian, etc. all have people who have done well and do well on all.

    I can not stand strait keto. Personally it makes me feel gross and limited then spins off to a carb binge. I stay on a Mediterranean- pescatarian – semi paleo and keto combination. IN other words, a plan specific for my LIFE. No junk, whole foods, leafy greens, some fruit in a.m. or greens or nut butter. I have gone all over the board trying everything and this seems to stick.

    I have a plant based protein at night, with warm cashew or coconut almond milk like hot chocolate. I also make a cup with NON- GMO tofu, cinnamon and Truvia. I may have a TBSP nut butter with a hot herbal tea. I get plain unsweetened cocoa and make hot cocoa. This all helps and the warm keeps me satisfied. The most successful plan I have seen recently is- 1-2 day keto, 3-4 day intermittent fasting then 1-2 days “rest” or clean eating with balance then repeat.

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