If the temptation of your 3pm or after-dinner sugar fix is too much, nutritionist Amanda Hamilton offers her advice on how to combat cravings

Whether you cave in to carb or sugar cravings, there are practical tips to help you combat them through the day. Nutritionist Amanda Hamilton offers her advice.

Why do we have cravings?

Cravings can be brought on by many different factors; it could be stress or a swing in your mood, it could be fatigue or a response to your blood sugar levels crashing. The trick is to keep your blood sugar levels as stable as possible throughout the day to avoid giving in to those tempting treats.

Beat your cravings at breakfast

Start your day right by making sure your breakfast contains protein. This macronutrient helps to keep your blood sugar balanced, so you feel fuller for longer. Adding protein is as simple as adding a sprinkling of nuts and seeds to your porridge, swapping cereal for Greek yogurt with seasonal fruit, or enjoying some eggs.

Curb sugar cravings

If you still find yourself craving something sweet, add a sprinkling of cinnamon to your breakfast. A 2012 review of several recent studies concluded that the use of cinnamon potentially had a beneficial effect on glycaemic control. One study published in 2009 found that a 500mg capsule of cinnamon taken twice a day for 90 days improved haemoglobin A1C levels — a reflection of average blood sugar level. This is because cinnamon is rich in chromium, which has been positively linked with assisting blood sugar control and reducing sweet cravings.

Combatting carbs

There’s nothing like the smell of freshly baked bread to make you cave in to a carb craving. So, if you’re having some bread, make sure it’s the fibre-rich variety. High-fibre foods will keep you feeling full long after the meal. Rye bread, spelt, wholegrain or oat bread contain soluble fibre, which acts like a sponge, soaking up water in the stomach. The fibre grows in your stomach, making you feel full, and helps to release sugar slowly, to prevent energy dips. Eating more fibre also stimulates the release of hunger-suppressing hormone CCK, which sends the brain a signal to tell you to stop eating. Bonus!

Reach for the good fats 

Never satisfied? Add more fat to your meals. When we consume a large amount of refined carbs with very little fat and protein, our blood sugar spikes and the pancreas overcompensates with insulin release. So, when building a meal to manage energy and reduce cravings, boost the good fat intake from the likes of coconut oil, avocado, nuts and seeds or olive oil. Fat provides satiation and satisfaction after a meal, while carbohydrates alone don’t. For a simple way to add fats and taste to your meals, drizzle a little olive oil over vegetables or salads or add some avocado to your breakfast smoothie.

Avoid evening snacking

What about the sofa snacking in the evening? Tryptophan is an amino acid, which helps to boost mood, promote sleep and has been shown to reduce carbohydrate cravings and sugar addictions. It’s found in protein-rich foods such as salmon, eggs, chicken, bananas and dairy products. Swap a pudding of apple pie and ice cream for a grilled fig and dollop of Greek yogurt or apple slices sprinkled with cinnamon and dipped in natural yogurt for a tryptophan-rich treat. Just as sweet, but so much healthier!

Sleep for success

Sleep deprivation or frequently curtailing sleep wreaks havoc on blood sugar, which leads to increased snacking. Laboratory studies of healthy volunteers have shown that experimental sleep restriction is associated with an adverse impact on glucose balance and impacts appetite control.

Remember, nothing in nutrition works in isolation. If your lifestyle includes a diet high in quick-fix refined carbohydrates, nutrient-depleted processed foods, poor sleep and lots of stress, then chances are you’ll be riding an energy rollercoaster every day, so a nutrient such as chromium isn’t – by itself – going to be enough to fix this.

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