By Wyatt Myers | Medically reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
Are unbearable starch and sugar cravings hampering your efforts at type 2 diabetes management? Try these strategies to beat your sweet tooth.
When you have diabetes, you know that one of the most important components of a type 2 diabetes management plan is eating a healthy diet. Granted, this is important for everyone, but with diabetes you have more on the line, day in and day out.
For many people with and without diabetes, sugar cravings stand in the way of health goals. Beating a sugar addiction may be the first step you need to take to achieve success.
“Studies have shown that people who eat a lot of sugar tend to crave more of it — it actually changes the brain chemistry to make us desire more,” says Amber Taylor, MD, director of the Diabetes Center at Mercy Hospital in Baltimore. “Most people who change their diets to avoid starch and sugar have a hard time for the first few weeks.”
Easier said than done, though, right? To beat sugar addiction and overcome sugar cravings, there are a number of strategies that can help you make healthier food choices and steer your glucose levels and overall health in the right direction. Here’s how.
Breaking Off Your Love Affair With Sugar
The first good decision you can make, says Ann Fittante, RD, a certified diabetes educator with the Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, is to eat smaller meals and snacks at regular intervals throughout the day. “Spacing out meals and snacks throughout the day can satisfy physiological hunger, which can decrease cravings and bingeing on unhealthy foods,” she says.
What you choose to eat during those meals and snacks also makes a big difference in fighting off those sugar cravings. Fittante recommends consuming healthy fats, proteins, whole grains, beans, and other high-fiber carbohydrates, including fruits and vegetables and avoiding unhealthy refined carbohydrates. “Adding a good source of protein or a healthy fat with carbohydrates can decrease hunger and increase satiety — fruit and nuts or cheese and crackers,” she suggests.
In essence, these food choices leave you more satisfied for longer and better able to win the tug of war between diabetes and sugar. “Healthier, whole-food choices, over time, will help quench sugar and starch cravings as your blood sugar and insulin levels stabilize,” says Samantha Heller, RD, the clinical nutrition coordinator at the Cancer Care Center at Griffin Hospital in Derby, Conn. “Healthy carbohydrates like whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes help keep blood sugars from jumping on the roller coaster of highs and lows that refined carbs do. White flour, sodas, sweets, junk, and fast foods wreak havoc with blood sugar, insulin, weight, and energy levels.”
Sweat Out Your Sugar Addiction
Another way to make type 2 diabetes management easier and fight off sugar cravings is to focus on exercise. And it doesn’t have to be full-on, hard-core workouts, either. A recent study published in the journal Appetite found that, among regular chocolate eaters, those who went on a brisk, 15-minute walk before they were offered chocolate ate about half as much as those who simply rested for 15 minutes before indulging.
“Exercise is one of the key elements to staying healthy with diabetes, no matter what type you have,” says Sarah Yandall, RD, CDE, a dietitian and diabetes educator with the Detroit Medical Center's Children's Hospital of Michigan. “It helps your body to use insulin more efficiently, helps lower blood glucose levels, and helps to keep your heart healthy. Exercise also helps you to maintain a healthy weight, which helps with insulin resistance.”
Eating right and getting regular exercise — a winning combination for diabetes and overall good health.