Sugar cravings were the reason I used to say over and over again, “I’ll start again on Monday”. Having fought them off Monday to Friday, by the weekend, my willpower had flown out of the window. I used to feel guilty about not sticking to a diet for longer than five days, but, now I appreciate that this was caused by my food choices, not my lack of motivation. Today, I am so pleased to have found a diet that has released me from such debilitating sugar cravings.
When starting a ketogenic diet, expect to experience “keto-flu”. This happens when the body transitions from burning carbohydrates (glucose) to fat for fuel. This is the only time I have had to deal with sugar cravings on keto so it’s worth sticking it out.
Tips for dealing with sugar cravings on keto:
- Are you experiencing true hunger?
Frequently, sugar cravings are masked as hunger. If you find yourself “fancying” a piece of toast with jam or some sweets, ask yourself whether you feel hungry for an avocado, some nuts or leafy green vegetables with butter / coconut oil. If not, chances are you aren’t actually hungry but are experiencing sugar cravings or are simply bored.
- Eat more fat
Eating enough fat at each meal ensures satiation so there will be less need to snack between meals. Most people tend to reach for sugary snacks over savoury ones, by reducing your need to snack, you will no longer have to.
- Are you getting enough salt in your diet?
When insulin is lowered, excess water and sodium are expelled from the body. This is why readings on scales sometimes show considerable weight loss within the first few days of starting a low carb diet. Sodium is a crucial electrolyte for health and so it is important to replenish and maintain stores. In my experience most cravings arise alongside other keto-flu symptoms. So, by reducing the fatigue and headaches experienced when transitioning to a high fat diet, you will be in a better position to resist sugar cravings. Add high quality sea salt to your meals or mix 0.5 to 1 teaspoon in a glass of water and drink upon waking.
- Eat coconut
Coconut is a great food to eat when cravings arise. Its sweet flesh satisfies taste buds but, as it is jam-packed with healthy fats and little sugar, it will not spike insulin and lead to sugar-crashes. The combination of fats and fibre will help stave off cravings and hunger.
- Make some keto friendly treats
You can buy low-carb “healthy” bars in supermarkets and health food shops but they often contain a host of preservatives, flavourings and sweeteners. So, make your own! By using simple ingredients such as fresh or desiccated coconut, you can make some tasty, nutritious treats. My recipe for “coconut bites” will soon be on the blog.
- Avoid natural sweeteners, even if they are healthy
Some sweeteners, such as erythritol and xylitol from hardwood birch trees, do have various health benefits and can feature in a ketogenic diet. However, I would recommend excluding them when starting a ketogenic diet. If you have cravings for sugar and carbs, continually satisfying your sweet tooth through sweeteners is not going to help you to overcome them. I find the cold-turkey approach best.
- Avoid “diet” or “sugar-free” foods and drinks
When the sugar is removed from these products, its replacement is frequently far more harmful to brain and body function. Aspartame is used in a lot of sugar-free drinks, take a look at this article on the dangerous effects of consuming it. Instead of reaching for the diet lemonade, I like to make my own using sparkling natural mineral water, ice, fresh mint and a slice of lemon.
- Get the family involved
There is no doubt that being supported by others is a huge help when changing your diet and lifestyle. At first, it can be difficult to resist sugary snacks kept in the house for other members of the family, so, if you all make a pact to reduce sugar intake, it will be far easier to succeed.