How to Combat Sugar Cravings & Achieve Your Health Goals
Who knew that your cravings for ice cream and chocolate would stick around AFTER you gave birth? Cravings post-birth are extremely common. Often, mums find themselves wanting sugar more than ever.
The reason behind the desire for sweet foods can be hard to pinpoint as there are so many physical, hormonal and emotional changes happening all at once. However, we will give you the most common causes and solutions below.
But before we get started, why is too much sugar a problem? Consuming excessive sugar, which is prevalent in processed foods and sweet treats, creates significant health risks. High sugar intake is linked to weight gain, increasing the risk of obesity and associated health issues. Rapid spikes in blood sugar levels contribute to insulin resistance and elevate the risk of type 2 diabetes. Additionally, sugary foods often lack essential nutrients, worsening post-pregnancy nutrient deficiencies. Minimising sugar intake is crucial for new mothers seeking optimal health during their post-partum journey.
Why am I craving sugar?
Figuring out what's triggering your appetite for sweets can help you combat the cravings. Possible causes include:
1. Lack of sleep
Unfortunately, those hours of shut-eye that you're missing out on could contribute to your cravings for sweets. If you're not getting as much sleep as you need, or if your sleep is interrupted, a set of hormonal signals are triggered. For example, your levels of the stress hormone cortisol will increase after a bad night's sleep. And, when this happens, all our brains want is glucose (high-carb and high-sugar foods) because these are the foods that give us a quick hit of energy.
When you give in to your cravings, your brain gets that initial energy hit that it's after. Your brain therefore believes the sugar did an excellent job and it reinforces the craving. So, the more you give in to your cravings, the stronger they will become. If we're not careful, it can bring on a nasty cycle where giving into cravings results in us having more cravings.
If you can't get more sleep, the best way to deal with cravings caused by a lousy night's sleep is to change your wake up routine. Having a large glass of water, plus a healthy and wholesome breakfast soon after you wake up, will stabilise your blood sugar levels. When your blood sugar levels are stabilised, your brain receives a steady stream of glucose, reducing any sudden drops in glucose that might trigger cravings.
Let's face it, getting all the shut-eye you need will likely be impossible if you have a baby. So instead, we need to give our brain the carbohydrates it's craving. Instead of reaching for quick fixes like chocolate, fizzy drinks or sweet biscuits, we need to find a healthy replacement. Reach for healthy nutrient foods as replacements, such as:
- Sweet potato (or oven baked sweet potato chips)
- Oats with a bit of honey for sweetness
- Pineapple and yogurt
- Carrots with hummus
- A couple of medjool dates with a handful of nuts
- Wholemeal toast with peanut butter and honey
- Trail mix with nuts, seeds and dried fruit
- Frozen blueberries
- In Shape Mummy Health Shakes - Chocolate Brownie, Caramel Fudge or Vanilla flavours
- Chocolate Brownie Breastfeeding Boost Bars
Salted Caramel Peanut Fudge Protein Bites
2. You are not getting the nutrients you need
Many new mums have nutrient deficiences. Nutrient deficiencies are directly link to sugar cravings. If your body is deficient in nutrients, it may be triggering sugar cravings. So, before giving in to your sweet cravings, ensure you’re eating a healthy and balanced diet.
Before birth, a mother provides the baby with all their needs through the placenta. The baby has enormous requirements for energy, iron, zinc, magnesium and lots of other vitamins and minerals, often leading to the mum becoming depleted.
The mother's depletion doesn't miraculously restore when the baby is born. The deficiency that occurs postnatally can last for years.
The good news, it’s possible to fully recover from nutrient depletion. It just takes time, and effort.
Focus on your diet – increase your intake of good fats like salmon, avocado and nuts. And increase your protein too - foods like eggs, lean good quality meat, tofu and legumes. Also incorporate as many fresh fruits and vegetables as possible.
The In Shape Mummy Health Shake can help supplement nutrients that may be missing from your diet. It’s packed with protein to help you hit your daily protein target and enhanced with 25 vitamins and minerals to ensure you’re getting the nutrients you need throughout the day. The delicious chocolate brownie, caramel fudge and vanilla flavours satisfy sweet cravings, but they only contain less than 1 gram of sugar which is naturally derived from monk fruit.
3. Post-Partum Hormonal Changes and Sugar Cravings
Post-partum hormonal changes can trigger sugar cravings.
Let's take a little look at what's happening to your hormones after birth:
- Your progesterone and estrogen levels drop instantly after giving birth.
- Your oxytocin (happy hormone) surges initially.
- Your prolactin (milk producing hormone) rises and will remain raised until you stop breastfeeding.
That's a lot of changes going on all at once. It's no wonder you find yourself reaching for comforting sweet foods, much like when you have your monthly cycle.
Even though you can't control your hormones, you can stabilise your blood sugar levels which will help you feel a little steadier. Stabilising your blood sugar levels will help stave off sugar cravings. The easiest way to do this is to avoid skipping meals. When we get overly hungry, our blood sugar levels drop, which can bring on cravings.
4. You're not eating enough protein
Getting enough protein should be a post-partum mum's number one dietary priority. Not only does your little one need protein to grow and thrive, but as a new mums you also need it for your recovery.
If your diet is low in protein and high in simple carbohydrates, you are much more likely to crave sugar and have strong urges to comfort eat. So, if you notice you're craving something sweet after dinner, it might signify that you need more protein.
Some high protein foods you can add to any meal include eggs, lean red meat, chicken, tofu, beans, lentils, dark leafy greens, milk, cheese, and nuts. Here's an example day on a plate that you can follow to ramp up your protein intake.
In Shape Mummy Smoothie
- 1 cup almond milk
- 2 tbsp vanilla In Shape Mummy Health Shake
- 2 tbsp oats
- 1 frozen banana
- Optional: 1 handful of fresh spinach
- Chopped veggie sticks (e.g., carrot, cucumber, capsicum, celery, baby tomato) & hummus. Plus, a handul of mixed nuts
- Tuna Nicoise Salad: egg, canned tuna, tomato, cos/romaine lettuce, beans, potato and olive with olive oil and balsamic dressing.
- In Shape Mummy Health Shake
- Lean protein (meat or plant based) with roasted vegetables and brown rice
5. You're over-hungry
Being overly hungry wreaks havoc on our hormones and blood sugar levels. As we mentioned above, when we skip a meal, our brain sends signals to the rest of our bodies, letting us know we need energy. And what's the easiest way for us to get a shot of energy? Calorie-dense foods. That’s why we get sugar cravings when we’re over-hungry.
Research has proven that skipping meals can cause persistent and intrusive thoughts about food. And skipping meals can cause you to lose control at mealtimes resulting in overeating. So if you're skipping meals as a way to cut calories and speed up weight loss, you could be causing the total opposite effect.
Women who are breastfeeding should be eating three meals and two snacks per day. This will keep your blood glucose levels steady which will help stave off sweet cravings. Focus on the nutrients of your food rather than the calories. If you're filling your plate with lean protein, wholesome vegetables and fruits and whole grains, and avoiding highly processed foods, you're putting yourself on the right track stave off sugar cravings and to lose the kilos gained during pregnancy.
How to stop craving sugar
Being aware of why you are craving sugar is the number one way to keep your cravings at bay. So, if you find yourself reaching for the chocolate bar, ask yourself, am I overtired? Have I been eating enough healthy food lately? Did my last meal have enough protein?
And if the cravings won’t budge, try the distraction method. Before you give in, go for a walk around the block, have a large glass of water, or call a friend. Do something to distract yourself in the moment, and often, your craving will disappear.
And remember to go easy on yourself; a treat here and there is okay. Stick to the 90/10 rule: wholesome, healthy food 90% of the time and treats 10% of the time.
Is natural sugar from fruit okay?
Natural sugar from fruit and refined sugar are two very different things.
Refined sugar is not a friend of the digestive system, because it is a foreign substance, and our bodies don’t know what to do with it. So, we break it down super quickly, which causes our blood sugar levels to skyrocket. Such spikes in blood sugar levels are not good for our health and make it very difficult to manage our weight.
Refined sugar and processed foods are full of empty calories, so you don’t feel full or satiated after eating them.
Foods that contain natural sugar, like whole fruit, also contain fibre, vitamins and minerals. When we eat food high in fibre, as it’s digested, it combines with water in our digestive system and swells, slowing absorption into our blood stream and making us feel full. Natural fruit sugar does not cause the same spikes in blood sugar as refined sugar, and it makes us feel full for longer which staves off sugar cravings.
If you feel a craving for sugar, why not have a piece of sweet whole fruit?
A Quick & Easy Solution to Help
The In Shape Mummy Health Shake is a superfood meal replacement shake designed specifically for breastfeeding and busy mums. It helps to tackle some of the leading causes of post-partum sugar cravings.
It’s packed with protein to help you hit your daily target and enhanced with vitamins and minerals to ensure you’re getting the nutrients you need throughout the day. The delicious chocolate brownie, caramel fudge and vanilla flavours satisfy sweet cravings, but they only contain less than 1 gram of sugar which is naturally derived from monk fruit. If you find you’re still struggling with sweet cravings, why not give the In Shape Mummy Health Shake a try?
Shevi is a qualified nutritionist with a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and food sciences. As a new mum herself, she is passionate about postnatal-related nutrition. Shevi has worked alongside some of the most famous leaders and celebrities in the fitness industry throughout Australia and the UK.
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