Sugar cravings

Lauren Booker | January 2024 | 8 minutes

Lots of us find ourselves craving sugar during a sober stint - here are some tips to stop yourself replacing one habit with another!

So you’re having a break from booze. Brilliant! But a few weeks in you find yourself knee-deep in Quality Street wrappers, only eating things covered in custard or popping into Greggs for a doughnut twice a day?

That's totally normal, and eating is never something to feel guilty about! You're doing something amazing so don't give yourself a hard time if a bit of sugar helps smooth the way. That said, it would be a shame to end up replacing one habit with another. This is something we get lots of messages about here at Alcohol Change UK, so here are a few top tips to help you through those sweet cravings.

Check out our blog on booze cravings, too – the tips for alcohol cravings also apply to sugar. The average craving lasts just six minutes so if you can distract yourself for that time, maybe by trying one of the ideas below, you should find that your craving abates.

1) Brush your teeth

An oldie but a goodie. There’s something very naughty about spoiling minty fresh breath with sweets. Oh, and the minty taste itself can help to inhibit the craving. While we’re on the subject, sugar free gum or mints can help with this too.

2) Know your weak spot

Do you find that you’re fine during the day but sitting at home in the evening triggers a desire for something sweet?

If you are getting a sugar craving at the same time you’d normally have a drink, it’s your habit trying to nudge its way back in. Not drinking can mean you’ve got more time to kill in the evenings, so you may be eating because you’re bored. If this is you, it’s time to break your routine. Try eating dinner at a different time, trying out a new hobby or just mixing things up a bit so you don’t have that evening slump that sends you reaching for a drink or a sugary snack.

3) Drink something!

No, not alcohol, but something that will quench your thirst and your need for sweet at the same time. Low sugar cordials, flavoured waters and herbal teas are all options. My favourite is peppermint and liquorice tea, it really takes the edge off when you’d otherwise reach for a biscuit.

4) Fill up on fruit

Sugary treats cause your blood sugars to soar and then crash, leaving you vulnerable to wanting a drink to fill the hole. When you get a craving for something sweet, go for something with natural sweetness such as fruit. Yes, I know – nobody ever had an unshakable craving for pears or binged uncontrollably on kiwi fruit but hey, it’s worth a try. Couple your fruit with a crispbread/cottage cheese/hummus and you’ve got a healthy, quick to prepare snack. One of my favourites is diced Cajun spiced cooked chicken with grapes – sweet, surprisingly filling and tasty.

Make sure you have a good breakfast too. Avoid sugary cereals in favour of oats, wholemeal toast, and other healthy options. These will help to keep your blood sugars stable until it’s time for lunch.

5) Go cold turkey

Ever tried giving up sugar? The withdrawal is horrible – headaches, cravings, fatigue – but three days later: wham! No more sugar cravings. It’s drastic, but cutting out all refined sugars for a few days will kill the cravings. Make sure you eat lots of complex carbs (think wholemeal pasta and brown rice) and lean protein (chicken, fish, halloumi, beans) to help reduce the withdrawal effects in the first few days.

One more thing…

Don’t forget, there’s nothing wrong with having a sweet treat, so don’t give yourself a hard time. But if you’re using sugar in the same way that you use alcohol – to give you a daily high, or because you’re bored or for comfort, don’t let it take control.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – it’s not sexy, but having a plan is your best defence against, well, anything that might derail your sober journey. Try some of the ideas above, check out the suggestions from other Dry January® participants on the Facebook page and experiment until you find what works for you.

If you’ve not had a look already, why not check out our book Try Dry®: the Official Guide to a Month Off Booze? It’s full of helpful tips and information about what to expect from a month without alcohol - and it's available on Kindle too!

Dry January®. Are you in? Download the free Try Dry® app to take part in Dry January® and double your chance of long-term benefits.

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