Craving sugar is common for lots of people. Like, lots of people! It usually happens when the blood glucose levels in our bodies drop. Most people eat a high-carb, high-sugar diet and this leads to repeated sugar cravings and sugar addictions.
Even if you're on a keto diet, it’s still possible for you to have such cravings and this is especially true for people who are still in the early stages of the diet. The drastic changes from bulking up on carbs and giving in to sugar cravings, to suddenly limiting carbs and sugar intake may cause a temporary upset in your system leading to increased urges to eat something sweet.
So why do you get those cravings and what can you do about it? Below, I'll outline the reasons for getting sugar cravings along with my top seven 'go to' snacks to beat the urges and keep you on track to your keto goals.
Sugar and the keto diet
With a keto diet, you limit your intake of carbs to just a small percentage of your daily calories. This means that you only take a few grams of carbs per day depending on your body type, your goals, and the level of your activity.
Your sugar intake should be less than a few grams each day and if you want to get into ketosis, then these drastic changes are very important. But sugar has an addictive effect and if you quickly remove it from your diet, it can give you withdrawal symptoms which include depression, fatigue, muscle aches, and headaches - I have written a blog post here about sugar withdrawal, along with a video you can watch below.
So although it’s not easy to quit sugar, it’s also not impossible, and like anything in life, you rarely get the rewards without putting in a little effort!
So Why Do You Crave Sugar?
There are many reasons why you might be craving sugar and here are some of them.
Working out at the gym is good because it helps you to lose weight, build your muscles and give you a better mood. However, overtraining and not fuelling correctly before and after the session can lead to sugar cravings. When there is stress, the body produces the hormone cortisol which floods your body and causes glucose to be released from your liver which raises your blood sugar.
These fluctuations in blood sugar can cause cravings, so constant stress due to hard workouts can lead to sugar cravings.
Craving sweet foods can be a bad habit that has been programmed in your thinking over many years. Sugar is addictive because it releases dopamine which promotes happiness and the feeling of euphoria. It also releases serotonin that puts you in a better mood and endorphins which relaxes your body for a natural high’. And when your mood is enhanced, it can be very difficult to say no to it, resulting in habitual eating in order to get the same ‘high’ whilst at the same time satisfying the craving.
Blood Sugar Imbalance
Your blood sugar rises when you eat a high-carb, high-sugar meal. When insulin is released from your pancreas, your blood sugar then falls. Sugar cravings kick in when there is too much insulin released that your blood sugar dips too low.
The ups and downs of your blood sugar cause fatigue and make your body look for more sugar. Even on a keto diet, your body will keep on searching for sugar from carbs until you are fat-adapted. So remember that switching from burning glucose to burning fatty acids is a complex process and may take weeks or months.
Lack of Protein or Fat and Nutrient Deficiency
If you are on a keto diet, it is not enough to simply eat fewer carbs and avoid sugar. It is important to replace the carbs with the right amount of protein and fat. If you don’t do this, you will soon have sugar cravings. Nutrient deficiency is also a cause of sugar cravings. Protein helps you feel satisfied, it gives slow release energy which reduces hunger and cravings.
You also need other nutrients to help yourself get weaned from sugar. These includes fibre, which helps slow down digestion and stabilises blood sugar; vitamin B which gets depleted with the consumption of sugar; and iron which can cause low energy and cravings when depleted.
When you are thirsty, sugar cravings may strike. When you are dehydrated, there will be an imbalance with your body’s hunger and satiety hormones. And these hormones trigger sugar cravings in order to get more liquid into your system.
If you don’t sleep well, then your body will crave sugar and caffeine the following day. Poor sleep also makes your body seek energy to fight fatigue which can trigger excess eating and sugar consumption. If you want to cut back on sugar, then it’s important to get enough sleep.
Loneliness and Depression
When you are worried and sad, eating sweets can help produce feel-good hormones. It can be a form of self-mediation. So, you might crave for sweets when you are unhappy or anxious. However, you don’t have to give in to your sugar cravings to feel good and eating a balanced, healthy diet will make you happier in the long run.
7 Best Keto Snacks to Stop Sugar Cravings
Berries are sweet and have natural sugar and fiber and contain little carbohydrates. If you eat a small serving of berries, it will help diminish your cravings. You can mix your berries with different types of nuts and cheese.
A great snack or dessert is raspberry frozen yogurt which you can make with your raspberries, double cream, Greek yogurt, cinnamon, and vanilla extract. Another great snack is blueberry ice cream which you can make with blueberries, whole milk, and whipping cream. You can also serve your berries fresh or frozen.
Because of the high fat, protein, and fibre content of some nuts, they can help fight sugar cravings. Keto nuts include hazelnuts, macadamia, pecans, walnuts, and brazil nuts. These nuts contain natural sugar. You can also make your own nut butter from any of these nuts to use as a handy ‘go to’ snack.
Flavoured nuts with added carbs and sugar should be avoided and you should also stay away from roasted nuts that are processed in oil.
3. Raw Vegetables
Raw vegetables have a small amount of natural sugar and give you enough fiber. When you’re anxious, stressed, or having sugar withdrawals, raw veggies taste great. You can take raw keto veggies including cauliflower, broccoli, radish, bell peppers, salad greens, and celery and dip them in salad dressings or pair then with a serving of cheese and protein.
High fiber veggies make you feel full longer. Vegetables like squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, and beets are also great keto snacks that can help curb sugar cravings.
4. Clean Protein and Fatty Fish
A high protein snack will go a long way to silence your sugar cravings and your hunger pangs. Meat such as beef, pork, poultry, lamb, game meat, goat, and organ meat, fish and seafood, collagen protein, whey protein, and eggs are the best keto protein sources. If you eat a high protein breakfast, then your sugar cravings will be reduced.
Omega fatty acids are contained in fatty fish which also help get rid of sugar cravings. Fatty fish that help stop sugar craving include salmon, tuna, sardines, and mackerel.
Avocado contains filling fat, fibre, and very little carbohydrate. You can get rid of your sugar cravings even by simply eating half an avocado each day. You can easily make an avocado pudding for dessert. To make, you need to combine a ripe avocado with a small amount of coconut or walnut oil, cocoa powder, vanilla flavoring, and a handful of shredded coconut. Mix all ingredients in a blender.
6. Keto Coffee, Keto Smoothies, Tea, and Flavoured Drinking Water
When you make a hot or cold-brewed coffee, simply add MCT oil, coconut oil or grass-fed butter to make keto coffee. This beverage is fat-filled. It can help combat your sugar cravings and give you long-lasting energy as well. Your sugar cravings are also satisfied with keto smoothies.
Put sweet foods with plenty of fibres in your smoothie and it will satisfy you without causing a surge in your blood sugar. You can also drink flavoured water by adding lemon, berries, or other fruit to your water. If you drink tea, go for a sweet herbal tea. Choose a naturally sweet tea like vanilla or apple spice tea as these have no calories and nothing artificial in them.
A keto pancake does not use traditional flour, eggs, and milk. Rather, you need to use protein powder, eggs or egg whites, almond milk, and a little baking powder to make the batter. With this keto mixture, you can add chopped nuts, low-carb fruits, or a frosting made using cream cheese, protein powder, and more.
Sugar cravings are common amongst millions of people around the world and if you frequently crave sugary stuff, don’t think of yourself as weak. Sugar addiction is the most common addiction on the planet and can make things extra difficult if you are trying out a keto diet.
If you experience one even when you’re starting on your keto diet, it doesn’t mean that this type of diet is wrong for you and your sugar cravings should disappear once you get in ketosis, when your body will stop fighting you band begin to work on fat and ketones for energy.
However, if you feel you might have an issue with sugar addiction, you might want to break this addiction cycle before you attempt a keto diet. There are plenty of blogs and advice on cutting down on your sugar intake on this website, and if you would like more help in quitting sugar you can sign up for my 21 Day Sugar Detox Program here.