The full force of the holiday season is upon us— a whirlwind of shopping, decorating, gift-giving, and celebrating that symbolizes a time of love and cheer. Amid the hectic holiday schedule there is a common theme: food, a lot of it, and most of it being sugar-laden junk that you typically wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole on your Paleo diet. Make no mistake, it can be challenging not to give into nostalgic cravings during the holidays and gorge on sugar.
While you may decide that indulging on a holiday fits into your Paleo template, perhaps it is not the Christmas dinner party that you need to be so concerned about successfully navigating. It’s the 4 weeks in-between Thanksgiving and Christmas that you should be paying attention to, the daily temptations that are brought into your office and home by well-intentioned co-workers, friends, and family members. Sugar can be an insidious addiction for many and it’s difficult to break the cycle once you succumb to the cravings. The following 7 tips to beat sugar cravings will help you to stay true to your health goals during the holidays by overcoming the temptation of sugary treats.
1.) Drink more water: Thirst is often mistaken for hunger and many people are chronically dehydrated, even those following a Paleo diet. A good guideline for adequate daily water intake for most individuals is to drink half of your body weight (in pounds) in ounces, with a maximum intake of 100 ounces. If you find yourself reaching for the cookies, try a glass of water with a bit of fresh-squeezed lemon juice instead.
2.) Eat a nutrient-dense Paleo diet: The Paleo diet is a template of which there are many variations. While it is possible to eat chicken breast and steamed broccoli 3 times per day and call it Paleo, or alternatively, devour a batch of grain-free, Paleo “brownies” every day, that doesn’t mean that these type of food choices represent the most nutrient-dense version of the Paleo diet. Eating a nutrient-dense Paleo diet means consuming a variety of whole, unprocessed foods, including meats (along with organ meats), fish, vegetables, and some fruits and nuts. Sugar cravings are sometimes a direct indication of nutrient deficiencies and a nutrient-dense version of Paleo can help to ensure that you are meeting your body’s nutrient needs to function optimally and modulate your blood sugar.
3.) Balance your carbohydrate intake: Unbalanced blood sugar can be a major cause of sugar cravings and this may result from a carbohydrate intake that is either too high or too low. Finding the ideal carbohydrate intake for your body does take a bit of experimentation. If you tend to include a lot of starchy vegetables, fruits, and natural sweeteners in your Paleo diet and you find yourself frequently craving treats, you may want to reduce your carbohydrate intake while increasing the amount of healthy fats you consume. On the other hand, if you follow a low-carb version of Paleo and you cannot tame the sugar cravings, it may be an indication that your body would function better with the addition of some starchy carbohydrates.
4.) Ditch the frequent Paleo treats: While there is certainly a place for Paleo reincarnations of traditional holiday treats, you may want to reevaluate what role these sweets play in your lifestyle if you find yourself consuming them on a regular basis. A Paleo “cookie” is still a cookie. Despite the perception that Paleo treats are harmless because they contain Paleo-friendly ingredients, they are often still packed with sugar (natural, unprocessed sugar is still sugar!). These treats can trigger ongoing sugar cravings and be a detriment to your health goals. Enjoy your treats, but save them for rare occasions.
5.) Eat more healthy fat and protein: Fat and protein help to slow the absorption of carbohydrates into the bloodstream. They also help to signal satiety and can reduce sugar cravings. Instead of reaching for a sugar-laden treat, try eating a snack with a good amount of fat and protein, such as nuts or grass-fed beef jerky.
6.) Heal the gut: Severe, uncontrolled sugar cravings may be a sign of gut dysbiosis or hidden gastrointestinal infections. Eating a nutrient-dense Paleo diet and focusing on gut healing can go a long way in helping to control symptoms, but you may require the assistance of a qualified health professional if you are dealing with gastrointestinal infections. Visit Primal Docs to find a Paleo-minded health practitioner near you.
7.) Focus on stress reduction: Stress can fuel underlying adrenal issues that lead to blood sugar imbalances and contribute to sugar cravings. The holidays represent a time of increased stress and anxiety for many and it’s important to continue to treat yourself well during this time. Get adequate sleep and rest, exercise moderately, and relax and spend time with people that you love.
What tips do you have for controlling sugar cravings around the holidays?