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How can I Overcome Cravings for Sweets?

Michael Pollick
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A number of people find it nearly impossible to overcome their cravings for sweets, even if ordered to do so for medical or dietary reasons. The sheer pleasure of eating sugar-laden treats and desserts can be very difficult to ignore, especially for those who have a sweet tooth: a natural affinity for candies and other sweets. Fortunately, it is possible to reduce or even eliminate these cravings for sweets, but a great deal of personal denial and sacrifice may be required.

Cravings for sweets often start in the earliest days of childhood, when form many children, candy and other sugary treats were more regularly available. Pre-sweetened breakfast cereals, ice cream treats, birthday cakes, and puddings are often a memorable part of a young child's diet. Overcoming these innate cravings for sweets as an adult may require an emotional separation from those childhood memories of unregulated sugar intake. One way to overcome sugar cravings is to realize you are an adult and have an obligation to eat healthier now. Consider those sweets and candies to be a part of a treasured past, but not part of your current adult diet.

Another way to curb your cravings for sweets is to wean yourself off sugary products slowly. Instead of buying soft drinks sweetened with sugar or high fructose corn syrup, substitute diet versions when available. Modern sugar-free colas and other beverages do not have the chemistry set taste of saccharine or other older sugar substitutes. Once your taste buds have adjusted to the lower sweetness level of a diet beverage, it becomes much easier to ratchet down to completely sweetener-free juices and pure drinking water.

The same philosophy holds true for sweet treats such as brownies or cookies. Instead of using pure sugar in recipes, try using a blend of sugar substitutes and sugar, then switch to a sugar substitute designed for baking. As you become accustomed to the taste of the sugar substitute, you may find treats made with real sugar to be almost too sweet to enjoy. Once you start viewing certain sugary foods as too sweet, such as cake frosting or cotton candy, then you're on your way to overcoming your cravings.

Some people who have been forced to cut back on their sugar intake for medical reasons find that a "cold turkey" approach works well in the long run. Remove all sweet products from your kitchen pantry and refrigerator and make a solemn vow not to replace them with more sweets. The cravings for sweets may come back daily for a while, but eventually the lack of opportunity to indulge may help you readjust your thinking. Many people who give up sweets do go through an unnerving withdrawal period, but eventually lose most of their sweet tooth after finding other types of food to enjoy.

Avoiding foods which tend to trigger cravings for sweets may also be helpful. Many people's palates develop around a perceived balance of flavors and textures, meaning that eating something salty or fried could trigger a craving for something sweet or creamy to balance it out. Some people who eat a spicy meal feel the need for a sweet or cold dessert to reduce the heat. By introducing more sweet flavors into the main meal, some people may feel less of a craving for a sugary dessert. Eating a less sweet product with the same texture may also satisfy a craving, such as substituting yogurt for pudding or ice cream.

It would be unrealistic to suggest that any craving can be completely overcome through sheer willpower alone. If you do find yourself in the grip of a sugar craving, you may want to satisfy it with a much smaller portion of the treat. Sometimes eating slowly enough to savor all the flavors of a sweet treat can help you to eat less of it before feeling satisfied.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick , Writer
As a frequent contributor to The Health Board, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

Discussion Comments

By anon142061 — On Jan 12, 2011

I am so like you. I'd live on sweets if I could. I've found honey to be a healthy craving-squasher. Sometimes a teaspoon will do but other times three or four spoons full. It's healthy, unlike sorbitol, which gives me a stomach ache. Also once a week, have a small treat like a Milky Way or a Curly Wurly. Good luck!

By anon138631 — On Jan 01, 2011

This information is terrible! Diet soda, sugar substitutes -- his is crap! You would be healthier eating small amounts of the real deal.

When craving, a better idea is to drink some water, try some fruit, maybe chew some gum, try something salty to curb the appetite like a small amount of popcorn, etc. Bottom line: Disregard everything said in this poorly written article.

By anon102472 — On Aug 08, 2010

I'm super disappointed, Wise Geek! This is crap advice that might have first appeared as part of a crash diet in Women's Day circa 1982. This is not only misinformation, but it can cause sickness if people follow your advice!

With all of the more recent and credible human and animal studies over years of exposure to chemically treated, bleached, altered or 'sugar-derived' sweeteners (that's what sugar substitutes are: genetic/molecular mutations of what was once a natural plant substance) that have caused illness, cancers and sensitivities, this is what you give us? Sad.

Even diabetics are finding they are better able to control sugars with small amounts of real sugar. I agree completely with anon99600 and carpusdiem about actually giving us an answer including the physiology of sugar craving and chemical addiction, because that's what happens when your body gets used to fake foods instead of healthy real ones.

I've witnessed this with my own family members and they've died or suffered from preventable illnesses at young ages! Another who practically lives on diet soda is balding horribly, has insomnia, fatigue and serious skin conditions-and still is in denial about the severe effect of her canned addiction.

Any kind of fake sweetener, particularly Splenda, or MSG give me nearly instant headaches and that's proof enough for me that my body needs real food! God forbid children are exposed to these chemicals before they have the ability to choose healthful food and drink. The reader comments to this post are far more informative than the post itself-obviously you have many smart readers out there. Please do us justice with your posts!

By anon100105 — On Jul 28, 2010

Where is this site getting its outdated information? Are they on the payroll of the soda industry? Do not drink "diet" soda, you hear me? It is even worse for you than regular soda and doesn't make you lose weight or reduce the sweet cravings.

Artificial sweetener in anything is bad stuff, and as for sugar free chocolates and candies - be sure you're near a bathroom later!

By anon100028 — On Jul 28, 2010

I think there should be a disclaimer here, simply stating that none of this is a substitute for advice from a doctor or nutritionist.

I'm sorry Wise Geek, but this sounds very much like advice from a novice based on personal experience and opinion. Nutritional research doesn't even seem to be a factor, which it should be.

By anon99600 — On Jul 27, 2010

You made just one ginormous error, one of omission. The reason why we crave sweet things has not even been mentioned.

In many cases, me included, I too have had a lifelong craving for sugary things. The reason? It's in our physiology. Our brain chemistry, to be precise. When the brain triggers a craving for sweet things, it does so for a reason.

When sugary things are consumed, most amino acids floating around in our bloodstream are washed out, so to speak, with the exception of L-tryptophan, the precursor of serotonin. With a higher ratio of L-tryptophan to the other amino acids, more of it crosses the blood-brain barrier and converts to serotonin, a chemical related to pain, sleep, mood, and a feeling of being satisfied after a meal. Generally speaking, it's a feel-good chemical.

Don't you feel better after stuffing your face with a chocolate eclair or a block of chocolate than what you did before? One way of combating this is to consume more carbohydrates without sugar, like wholemeal rice and bread, and do not deprive yourself of a daily treat of sugar, just keep it small.

One problem of eliminating an addiction or craving for something by eliminating that something often just replaces it with another addiction or craving. So the secret in 80 percent of cases is to consume non-sugar-laden types of carbs instead of the sugary types.

By anon99474 — On Jul 26, 2010

Switching to diet sodas is not the answer. Did you know it is harder to get off diet soda than regular soda? Diet soda is addictive!

To eliminate cravings for sweets/carbs, I had to go off all carbs for ten days--works, but first seven days are hard (but doable).

By anon99413 — On Jul 26, 2010

Don't keep anything with sugar around the house because sure enough, when you get that craving, you're going to eat the whole thing.

By anon99365 — On Jul 26, 2010

Often times people consume sugar because it gives them an energy boost and helps for a wee bit of time with feeling 'down'. Taking a B Complex vitamin has been shown according to doctors to help with energy and depression issues.

A doctor friend who is wise when it comes to diet issues, also noted that drinking plenty of water for a few days, will flush the liver and kidneys out and thus give you a fresh start when removing sugar from your diet. Sugar as in any sweetener that is in beverages, canned goods, cookies or any manufactured food items. ~MotherLode Beth~

By anon99352 — On Jul 26, 2010

What works for me is going with chocolate that has a high cacao content. You can even enjoy a whole bar everyday if you buy one with a 86 percent cacao content. Also whey shakes with almond milk (instead of the usual cows milk). One last hint is try truvia instead of sugar. Add a couple of servings to the whey shakes too -- it's yummy. Cravings are quelled.

By anon99343 — On Jul 26, 2010

Are you kidding? Diet soda? Not healthy at all!

By anon99335 — On Jul 26, 2010

The best rule of thumb to follow when choosing foods is to eat foods as close to their natural source as possible; and completely eliminate all processed foods, fast foods, and white flour and sugar. Stevia is a wholesome substitute for sugar. It does have an after taste but depending on what it is mixed with, it may be undetectable.

By carpusdiem — On Jul 26, 2010

Have been off sugar for about two months, have lost a lot of pounds. Major withdrawal symptoms to get sugar out of the system.

Wise Geek, you say substitute sugar with substitute sugar products? That is bad news! any diet products containing Aspartame, or any other form thereof is very harmful to the body. People should do research before ingesting those poisons.

By sevenseas — On Nov 15, 2009

My theory is that people who crave sweets are lacking some substance, be it a vitamin, mineral or something else, that separately or in addition to habit, causes the craving.

It has been found that sufficient daily intake of vitamin D and calcium reduces cravings for fatty foods. Maybe there is an element, or combination of them that would do the same for sweets?

Michael Pollick

Michael Pollick


As a frequent contributor to The Health Board, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide...
Learn more
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