5 Ways to Reprogram Your Brain So You Will Stop Craving Sugar

Stop Craving sugar


It’s empty calories with no nutritional value but something people crave. Sugar is in almost every packaged food you pick up at the supermarket. Although it tastes sweet to the tongue, a high-sugar diet is linked with health issues such as obesity, insulin resistance, fatigue, and anxiety.

Why is sugar harmful? When you eat something sweet, your blood glucose level surges and drops just as quickly. This sudden change triggers fatigue, hunger, and anxiety in some people. Plus, you aren’t getting nutrients when you consume sugar, just calories. The calories, in turn, lead to weight gain.

Another problem with sugar is the immediate reward it offers. When you eat something sweet, your brain releases more dopamine, and you feel rewarded. Alcohol and drugs do the same thing. You seek this reward again, and by eating more sugar. Over time, eating sugar becomes a habit that’s tough to give up.

Here’s the good news. It takes time, but you can reprogram your brain to crave less sugar. Let’s look at a proven strategy for doing this.

Slowly Cut Back on Sugar

If you’re accustomed to eating sugar, it’s hard to go cold turkey and give up all sweet foods and added sugar at once. Doing so creates stress and stress causes you to crave sugar more. It’s a vicious cycle that’s hard to break. No wonder so many people have problems giving it up!

The solution? Take smaller steps to cut back on sugar. Start by putting a little less sugar in your coffee and tea and continue scaling back each week as your taste buds adapt. Your taste buds and brain will perceive sweet items you find satisfying now as overly sweet as you scale back.

Substitute the dessert items you eat now with fruit. Let your taste buds enjoy natural sweetness and become acclimated to that, rather than the manmade kind. This method works if you give it time. For some people, it may take a few weeks, while for others it may take months. Be patient. Stick with it and you will see a decline in sugar cravings over time.

Add More Protein to Your Diet

Protein not only curbs your appetite, it helps reign in sugar cravings. There’s also evidence that a diet higher in protein is better for weight loss and weight control. What do you eat for breakfast? Hopefully, it wasn’t a high-carb muffin or croissant. Your body breaks down foods rich in carbohydrates and low in fiber quickly into sugar, and it has the same effects on your metabolic health as the sugar you put in your coffee.

What can you do to mitigate the harmful effects of sugar? Replace that muffin or croissant for a hard-boiled egg or other higher protein, lower carbohydrate food. Consciously switch some of the high-carbohydrate foods you’re eating with protein. The exception would be healthy, fiber-rich carbohydrates you get from whole foods.

Find Better Ways to Manage Stress

Stress is a trigger for sugar cravings and unless you find better ways to manage stress, you’ll be confronted with sugar cravings. According to Harvard Health, sugar scales back the body’s stress response, so it’s no wonder people crave it so much. In a high-stress world, sugar gives temporary solace. However, sugar does longer-term damage to your health. It’s not a good trade-off!

Find healthier ways to relieve the stress response. Get your sugar fix by taking a brisk walk or soaking in a hot shower or bath instead. Explore stress relief techniques like meditation and yoga. Even slow, controlled breathing helps subdue the stress response. Anything you can do to reduce stress and bring tranquility into your life will help curb sugar cravings.

Change How You Shop

Most people don’t get their sugar from the sugar bowl, but packaged products at the supermarket. Put on your glasses next time you shop and get a reality check. You’ll be surprised at what those tiny numbers say!  Read the labels on foods, and you’ll see items such as soup, condiments, yogurt, and other items that don’t taste sweet are shockingly high in sugar. Is there a lower sugar alternative you could buy? Also, stick to whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible since they’re naturally low in sugar. As you cut back, you’ll lose your taste for processed items.

Change Your Sleep Habits

Researchers at King’s College in London found subjects who slept more consumed less sugar. In the study, the heaviest sleepers cut their daily sugar intake by a whopping 10 grams. Here’s the strange part. Consuming too much sugar also makes it harder to sleep. So, reprogramming your brain to crave less sugar may help you get a better night’s sleep too. Strange how that works!

One theory for how sugar interferes with sleep is blood glucose swings. When you consume sugar, especially close to bedtime, it triggers a rise in blood glucose followed by a rapid drop. The steep decline in blood sugar causes you to wake up. If you can’t sleep at night, take a closer look at how much sugar you’re consuming and try slowly cutting back. Monitor your sleep by keeping a sleep dairy too.

The Bottom Line

Put these tips into action and be patient. Each person is different, but if you follow these tips consistently, you will see results. You’ll be rewarded with fewer sugar cravings and better health. Who can argue with that?


  • Ortinau LC, Hoertel HA, Douglas SM, Leidy HJ. The impact of a protein-rich breakfast on food cravings and reward in overweight/obese ‘breakfast skipping’ adolescent girls. The FASEB Journal. 2013;27(1_supplement):1075.9-.9.
  • ScientificAmerican.com. “How Sugar and Fat Trick the Brain into Wanting More Food”
  • USDA Economic Research. “Sugar and Sweeteners Yearbook Tables”
  • Ortinau LC, Hoertel HA, Douglas SM, Leidy HJ. The impact of a protein-rich breakfast on food cravings and reward in overweight/obese ‘breakfast skipping’ adolescent girls. The FASEB Journal. 2013;27(1_supplement):1075.9-.9.
  • HealthLine.com. “What Is a Sugar Detox? Effects and How to Avoid Sugar”
  • “Sugar cravings worsened by lack of sleep – Medical News.” 11 Jan. 2018, .news-medical.net/news/20180111/Sugar-cravings-worsened-by-lack-of-sleep.aspx.
  • The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Volume 107Issue 1
  • January 2018.
  • Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews. Volume 32, Issue 1, 2008, Pages 20-39.
  • Nutrients 2018, 10(4), 477; doi.org/10.3390/nu10040477.

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