If you always have something sweet to eat after a meal, then your body will start to expect something sweet.
Your body will nag you until it gets a sweet fix because you’ve trained your body to think that a meal isn’t finished until you eat something sweet.
Why do we crave something sweet (not savoury) after lunch and dinner?
Sugar cravings can be especially strong after dinner and lunch. That’s because we typically eat dessert after lunch or dinner – but not breakfast.
So what could be the reason behind these sugar cravings, this urge to end a meal with sweets?
Let’s find out.
After your meals, the main function of the body, which takes up a majority of energy, is digestion. And because digestion takes so much energy, the body craves an energy spike which it gets in the form of sugar. Sugar forms a source of quick energy
As the day goes on, your energy, motivation, and mood often drop.
When you eat sugar, your brain releases serotonin, “feel-good” chemicals into your brain. Sugary foods are also high in energy, giving you a boost in energy and mood (although the effects don’t last long)!
Other reason behind craving sweets can also be the age-old practice of ending meals by eating something sweet at the end. No matter what the reason is, excess of sugar is bad for your health.
The good news is you can retrain your brain to stop craving something sweet after main meals.
How to control your sweet cravings after finishing your meals
Here are my favourite strategies to help reduce sugar and sweet cravings.
Eat a natural sweet
Don’t cut down on sugar completely; craving sugar after a meal is natural. There is no need to go harsh on yourself. You can still enjoy your fill of desserts but in moderation. Have nutritious dessert to end your meal and substitute refined and chemical-based sugar with healthy substitutes like natural sugars found in fruits, dry fruits, jaggery or honey.
Eating a natural sweet instead of desserts made of processed sugar is always a good option. Add natural sweetness to meals with side dishes in the form of salads. You can also eat honey mixed yogurt, which is a fairly good sweet to have at the end of the meal.
Eat a balanced meal
Eating unbalanced meals, which primarily comprise of starchy foods can lead to a blood sugar spike. This spike ends right after eating, which makes you crave for sugar. Thus, it is better to have a balanced diet or combine starchy foods with other healthy alternatives to prevent this blood sugar rise.
Add more of complex carbohydrates and low GI foods to your meals to keep your blood sugar levels stable. Brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, legumes and most types of fruits are some of the best sources of low GI foods. Also, refrain from foods that are very high in salt content. If you aren’t feeling full even after your meals, add more fiber to your diet, which will give you the satiating feeling for long, preventing you from binging into sugary foods after meals.
Break the habit
Understand that cravings pass. Remove yourself from the situation for 30 minutes to see if your craving subsides. Go for a walk or do a short workout. Exercise improves mood, possibly by boosting serotonin levels.
Few handy techniques such as brushing your teeth immediately after eating may also dampen after-meal sweet cravings more chewing a piece of minty, sugar-free gum can help you cut down the instant desire to consume something sugary after a meal.
Sweeten your breakfast
Sweetening your breakfast can also go a long way in cutting down these cravings. Research suggests that adding a small serving of something sweet to breakfast – a square of chocolate, a candy, or even a cookie – prevents sweet cravings later in the day. This is because when you wake up in the morning, your serotonin levels are at their highest and cravings are supposedly the lowest.
That means eating a sweet with breakfast when serotonin levels are already high, won’t give your brain the same serotonin boost. Without the feel-good association, cravings later in the day will be reduced.
It is related to the general practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness in general is about practising awareness and being present at the moment without judgement. This can also be done concerning food and eating.
An experiment from Indiana State University tested the effect of mini-meditations before eating or when an urge to binge occurs. The results suggested a positive effect, as the hunger attacks decreased in frequency and severity for the meditation group.
Even though binge eating and cravings are not the same things, they may show up together. And other more recent studies have been exploring the potential meditation has to change these behaviours.
Still, reaching for the sweets?
If you’re genetically predisposed to craving sweets, that doesn’t mean you’re a lost cause. Many of these tips can still help.
Emotionally eating sweets? You’re not alone. Next time you crave a sweet, ask yourself, what are you looking for? Is it that comforting feeling of home? Is it to remember your grandparents? Is it to reward yourself for hard work or to celebrate an accomplishment?
We’ve all enjoyed a sweet treat after a meal, but when it feels like you are held captive to the cravings, it’s time to do something about it. Habit change takes a lot of upfront effort and may take a few days up to two weeks to become automatic, but practising these strategies can equip you to better handle the next time sugar cravings hit.
If you liked these tips, then you’ll love MetabolismReset diet, my online program to help you boost your metabolism to achieve weight loss
There are heaps more tricks and tips I’d love to teach you to help you skip the cravings and feel in control around food.