How to Stop Sugar Cravings On a Low-Carb Diet? Detailed Analysis

Stop Sugar Cravings On a Low-Carb Diet

The Irresistible Urge to eat a specific food or taste comes under food cravings. Carvings can be of any sort, but most commonly, foods high in sugars and carbohydrates cause cravings and are challenging to control. A person following a restrictive diet usually faces more cravings for sugary items, which can be controlled. But the question arises how to control and how to stop sugar cravings on a low-carb diet?

Sugar cravings on a low-carb diet can be controlled by consuming a moderate amount of foods that can fight sugar cravings, including berries, fatty fish, low-carb chocolate, raw vegetables. Moreover, consuming a high-protein breakfast also provides a feeling of fullness for a long time. Increasing the water intake daily and adjusting the macronutrient intake also helps in controlling the sugar cravings. 

Stop Sugar Cravings On a Low-Carb Diet

Body begging for sugar in the form of cravings indicates that the body’s blood glucose level has dropped. This results in intense sugar cravings, especially on a low-carb diet. Carbohydrates are responsible for providing the primary fuel, which is glucose, to the body to prepare energy sources in the form of ATP molecules.

Foods high in carbs, such as a bowl of macaroni with cheese or a white bread sandwich, spike the blood sugar levels. This sudden rise leads the pancreas to release insulin into the bloodstream to deal with the raised blood glucose levels. It can constantly increase insulin levels and blood sugar levels if such foods are consumed in larger quantities. 

As followed by a keto diet, a low-carb diet works on the principle to consume the previously available glucose from the body in a transition state to hit ketosis. During this process, the production of some intense and powerful cravings of sugar and carbohydrate-rich foods is a natural thing and faced by many people.

Symptoms of Carbohydrate Cravings:

  • Lack of energy
  • Headaches and irritability
  • Tiredness
  • Empty feeling in the stomach
  • Intense yearning for foods in the carb group

Sample Meal Plan with No Sugar:

DaysBreakfastSnackLunchSnackDinner
Day 1Eggs and spinach scramble-3 egg servingsBlueberries-1 cupArugula with tuna cooked in oil along with vinegar dressingRaw almonds-1 servingStir fry vegetables with chicken steak
Day 2  Green smoothieMacadamiasAvocado with shredded chickenBowl of fruits-1 servingsSalmon with greens
Day 3Vegetable omeletteBulletproof coffeeHummus and cucumbersA cup of berries with dark chocolateChicken lettuce wraps
Day 4Hardboiled eggs-2 servingApple with nut butterBig vegetable salad bowlApple with nut butterChicken steak with half baked potato
Day 5Green smoothieLarabarTuna with cucumbersTwo servings of fat bombsSpinach and quinoa cooked in chicken broth
Day 6Scrambled eggs in baconLaraBarAvocado and quinoa with tomatoesOne serving of fat bomb with a handful of nutsSteak lettuce wraps
Day 7Kombucha with raw almondsAvocado-half servingHummus with carrotsFruit salad bowlChicken with blueberry and arugula salad

Our body extracts up to 50% calories from carbohydrate-rich foods producing glucose for energy. But during a low-carb diet, the limit of calories from carbs reaches just 5-10%, due to which the body faces drastic changes to reach ketosis. This thing leads to the craving for sugar and involves various reasons.

Reasons for Carb Cravings:

1. Blood Sugar Imbalance:

During the high carbohydrate diet intake, the body is in the habit of producing the fuel for the body by utilizing the glucose from carbs. It results in the sudden rise of blood sugar, which lowers when the pancreas releases insulin. Sometimes insulin is released in such an excess amount that the blood sugar level drops to an unlimited amount which causes fatigue and subsequent sugar cravings.

But during a ketosis state, as the body is already low in carbohydrates, and is switching to it to produce fuel for the body by using fats, sugar cravings is a normal thing at that time. Switching from burning glucose to fatty acids for producing energy may require one or two weeks. This metabolic process results in sugary cravings in most cases.  

2. Sugar Addictions:

Sugary foods and snacks are addictive food items because people often consume these items as a reward. Sugar is known to light up the reward and pleasure centers of the brain and releases secretion to satisfy the body. Carbs and sugars stimulate the release of several sorts of secretions such as:

  • Dopamine is secreted to promote happiness and pleasure, and sugary foods play a role in it.
  • Eating carbs also results in the release of serotonin.
  • Endorphins that calm and relax the body also releases after consuming high sugary foods.
Stop Sugar Cravings On a Low-Carb Diet

3. Old Habits:

Sugar is a sort of addiction and is difficult to leave during a low-carb diet and requires hard effort to break the bad habits. Start cooking smartly at home by reading the labels and choosing food items with low sugafrs. Try to slowly switch to keto breakfast and keto coffee from the morning bagel and cream cheese breakfast.

If such carbohydrate intake is not managed, the ketosis process often results in keto flu, inflammation, and difficulty reaching ketosis. 

Causes of Sugar Cravings:

1. A Diet Lacking Enough Protein or Fat:

Sugar cravings increase when the body lacks enough protein in the diet, as seen in breakfast. When switching to a low-carb diet, the body’s fuel is produced by using fats and proteins. If still, protein intake will be low by following an intermittent fasting body will crave for sugar due to lower amount of calories. More food needs to be added during a low-carb diet. Breakfast must be load with enough proteins making a person feel fuller for a longer time.

2. Dehydration:

During a dehydration condition, the body’s hunger and satiety hormones are in an unbalanced state. These hormones eventually trigger hunger pangs, and the body craves sugar. With each glycogen store in the body, three grams of water also stores alongside the molecule.

When the body follows a low-carb or keto diet, all these water stores are consumed, resulting in dehydration and increasing the sugary cravings to ingest more liquid.

Stop Sugar Cravings On a Low-Carb Diet

3. Lack of Sleep:

Lack of sleep and tiredness also results in increased cravings for sugar and caffeine. Lack of sleep results in the increase of ghrelin hormone called a hunger hormone. Such hormone initiates the body to crave sugar.

On the other hand, the leptin hormone, which provides fullness, also decreases due to lack of sleep and eventually increases sugar cravings.

4. Stress, Loneliness, and Depression:

Sugar cravings are triggered when a person strives to attain a better mood. Such excess consumption of carbohydrates and sugary treats comes under the category of stress or binge eating. So, loneliness and depression increase sugar cravings to attain a better mood.

Give a Detailed Read on How to Gain Weight on a Low-Carb Diet? Optimal Nutrition and Quick Tips

Ways to Reduce Sugar Cravings:

1. Consume More Proteins:

Consuming more proteins in a diet is known to reduce hunger pangs and suppress sugar cravings. Protein is known to provide satiety to the body and makes a person feel fuller for a longer time. It results in lesser production of sugar cravings.

Consuming a high-protein breakfast is an excellent initiative to control and reduce the unnecessary cravings for carbohydrates and sugary foods. Consuming eggs, quinoa, fish, oatmeal with nuts, asparagus wrapped in turkey bacon, or consuming Greek yogurt with fruit are all high-protein breakfast options.

These solid breakfast options enriched in protein helps to reduce cravings and also reduces overeating.

Stop Sugar Cravings On a Low-Carb Diet

2. Adjust the Macro Intake:

During a restricted diet such as keto, make sure to adjust the macro intake in your diet. Consuming the wrong amount of macros in diet will result in headaches, tiredness, and even hunger with cravings. It is better to track the food intake and if constantly the sugar cravings are seen, try to adjust the macros instead of feeling lazy or hungry.

3. Drink Extra Water:

Try to consume plenty amount of water when following a carbohydrate-restricted diet. It is so because the body is already replenishing in which all the previous glycogen stores are repleting to switch to the ketosis state to burn fats for fuel. In such a situation, if water from external sources will also be in less amount, then dehydration and extreme thirst will take place, inducing the sugary cravings to ingest liquid.

Sometimes, a person is confused between food craving or thirst in a craving state, try to drink water and wait for few minutes. If hunger pang decrease, it was a sign of thirst. Try to drink at least one gallon of plain filtered water a day or eight cups.

4. Try Some Mindful Activities:

Whenever a sudden sugary craving hits the body, try to engage in some mindful activities. Engaging oneself in meditation along with simple breathing techniques can be used to control the sugary cravings.

Whenever you feel in a situation of craving, ask a simple question whether you’d like to eat a whole piece of fruit or not? If the answer is no, then it is craving, and if yes, then it is hunger. Such activities help a lot to differentiate between hunger and a craving.

Stop Sugar Cravings On a Low-Carb Diet

5. Reflecting Inward:

Reflecting inward involves mastering control over the mind along with mastering control over cravings. In simple words, it means to become aware of your appetite and its various types of hunger levels and cravings. These are linked around the thoughts, emotions, and what the body requires in actuality.

Sometimes a food addiction or carving tells that a body needs macro or micronutrients. Such as if a body is craving sweet and sugary food items like candy or gummy bears, it can be a sign of blood sugar irregularities, hormonal imbalances, or lack of sleep.

Similarly, if a body craves a bar of chocolate, then it’s time to restore magnesium levels in the body. Such levels drop in women because of the menstrual cycle as magnesium is lost through it.

This mineral is found high in cacao. In the same way, if the body craves salty foods like chips, it can be a sign of a lack of electrolytes such as sodium. It might be due to excessive exercise or residing in a hot climatic area.

6. Try the Emotional Freedom Technique:

The emotional freedom technique is an acupressure technique applied on the different median points and can be done anywhere and anytime to reduce the intensity of cravings. This technique is quite helpful in lessening the intensity of a sugary craving.

CravingWhat the body needsWhat to eat
ChocolateMagnesiumRaw cacao, nuts, seeds, veggies and fruits
Sugary foodsChromiumBroccoli, grapes, cheese, chicken
Sugary foodsCarbonFresh fruits
Sugary foodsPhosphorusChicken, beef, fatty fish, eggs, dairy, nuts and grains
Sugary foodsSulphurCranberries, cabbage, cauliflower

Foods that Help in Fighting Sugar Cravings:

Sugar cravings can be combated by snacking on some low-carb or zero-carb options. During the transition state of ketosis or a low-carb diet, replenishing the carbohydrate from the diet will make it difficult for the body to reach a ketosis state. Sudden cut-offing of the carbs is not a good option.

Rather than slow switching to low-carb foods and then to a high-fat and protein-rich diet is a better option, resulting in lesser cravings for sugary items.

1. Berries:

Berries are an excellent source of antioxidants and are effective for the body to fight against oxidative stress and inflammation. Oxidative stress often leads to an increase in sugar cravings. For this purpose, berries are a good option. They are a mix of sugar and fiber and, their small amount will banish all the sugary cravings without sabotaging the daily net carbohydrate intake. Consuming berries with nuts and cheese is also a good option.

Stop Sugar Cravings On a Low-Carb Diet

2. Milk Alternatives:

Milk is a product from the dairy products group and is necessary for the body. But, in the low-carb diet, milk is not a good option as it contains about 12 grams of carbohydrates in one cup and is a high-carb food.

Instead of eliminating it from the diet, try to swap it with milk alternatives such as almond milk, coconut milk, or pea milk. Nut milk options such as macadamia and cashew milk are also available in the market. They are used to prepare a healthy, low-carb snack by mixing it with some berries.

3. Low-Carb Dark Chocolate:

Dark chocolate is also an excellent option to consume during a keto diet as it is load with sugar, incredibly dark chocolate sweetened with keto-approved sugar alternatives. Dark chocolate made up of keto-approved sweeteners like stevia or monk helps trick the taste buds more healthily.

Dark chocolate chips can be combined with dry fruits or seeds such as chia, hemp, or flax seeds as snacks for munching.

Stop Sugar Cravings On a Low-Carb Diet

4. Seeds:

There are varieties of seeds available such as flaxseeds, hemp seeds, pumpkin, and chia seeds. They are known as zero-carbohydrates powerhouses for the human body.

These well-purposed seeds can satisfy sweet cravings, especially when combined with dark chocolate, as they are loaded with a lot of fiber content and healthy fats such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Stop Sugar Cravings On a Low-Carb Diet

5. Keto Nuts:

Nuts are an excellent source to satisfy sweet cravings but should be consumed in moderate amounts, not more than three net carbs. Keto-friendly nuts such as macadamias, hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans, and brazil nuts are available in the market can help to satisfy sweet cravings.

Avoid the flavored nuts as they are full of carbs and sugars.

Stop Sugar Cravings On a Low-Carb Diet

6. Raw Veggies:

Consuming raw vegetables during an intense sugary craving can help to satisfy the hunger pangs and is also a healthier option as vegetables are full of fiber and have zero fat content. Keto-friendly vegetables include a wide range of broccoli, bell peppers, cauliflower, radishes, cucumber, celery, and salad greens.

Raw vegetables can be consumed with low-carb keto salad dressings or cheese sauces. Examples include blue cheese, tangy garlic sesame dip, lemon vinaigrette sauce, creamy garlic with MCT, avocado dressing, and homemade ranch.

Stop Sugar Cravings On a Low-Carb Diet

7. High Protein Items:

As high protein breakfasts are the best option for a low-carb or keto diet, In the same way, high protein snacks are also good to reduce the intensity of sugary cravings. Best keto protein snacks include collagen protein, eggs, whey protein, seafood, beef, and organ meat. 

8. Fatty Fish:

Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines are healthy fat options containing omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. They help to regulate the blood sugar levels and never make the body feel low. Try to consume fatty fish every next day to combat the sugary cravings during a low-carb diet.

Stop Sugar Cravings On a Low-Carb Diet

9. Avocado:

Consuming half of the avocado each day helps to fight the sugary cravings more often and contains 21g of fat with over 9g of fiber and just 2.5g of carbohydrates. Avocado dips can also lower sugary cravings.

Stop Sugar Cravings On a Low-Carb Diet

10. Fat Bombs:

Fat bombs are a kind of energy bars, are made up of a high-fat base such as coconut oil, grass-fed butter with the middle and top layer of any other high-fat options such as cream cheese or nut butter.

These fat bombs are high in fats and low in carbohydrates. It helps to keep a person feel full for hours and erase the sugary cravings.

Shifting the Mindset Related to Sugar:

Instead of thisConsider this
Sugar is really bad for my healthAll foods can have a place in my family’s diet in a moderate amount
Kids shouldn’t eat sugarWe should learn to manage the sugar intake and should learn how to be an intuitive eater
I have no control over the consumption of sugar and my kids will also consume a lotWe should trust the child to learn about foods that make them feel about how much food their body needs
We cannot have sugary items in houseFood is just food. It depends on us to either choose it or not.
I am fat because I have consumed a lot of sugar. I don’t want my child to consume it.We should prevent disordered eating and food issues, especially in children.

Tips for Cutting Out Sugar to Reduce Craving Intensity:

1. Slow Process:

While starting a low-carb or keto diet, people suddenly reduce the sugar and carbohydrate from the diet. It puts the body in a shocking and alarming state and, it becomes difficult for the body to react and adjust in the ketosis state to produce energy from fats. As the body produces energy from glucose, this sudden restriction will lead to intense cravings for sugary treats.

Try to eliminate items from the diet at a slow pace. Start from cutting out cakes and muffins or reducing the sugary beverages and eventually reduce all others.

2. Product Labels:

When purchasing canned products in a supermarket, try to develop a habit of reading the labels to check the sugar and carbohydrate content. It helps a lot to identify different sorts of sugars and can help to avoid them.

Sugar is mentioned with various names, such as cane sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, cane juice, invert sugar, beet sugar, coconut sugar, maple syrup, rice syrup, or honey.

All these and others contain sugar in ample amounts. Moreover, ingredients ending in –’ose’ are the types of sugars such as sucrose, fructose, lactose, maltose, glucose, and dextrose. Avoid all such products by reading the labels carefully.

3. Artificial Sweeteners:

Avoid consuming artificial sweeteners and sugars and sweeteners such as spends, stevia, equal, NutraSweet, and sweet’N low as these are much sweeter than sugar.

Even the smallest amount from any of these sweeteners can trick the body that sugar is consumed. It will lead to a rise in sugary cravings.

Some chemical sweeteners are available in the market, including aspartame, Ace-K, saccharin, sucralose, and neotame. They are low sugar and low-calories items but are sugary and need to be avoided to reduce sugar cravings.

4. Simple Carbohydrates:

Simple and refined carbohydrates such as white flour, pasta, white rice, and all bakery items such as croissants, bagels, muffins, bread can raise the blood sugar level in minutes.

Simple carbohydrates are the foods that increase blood sugar leading to a rise in sweet cravings. Avoiding all such items will control and will not result in a spike in blood sugar.

Stop Sugar Cravings On a Low-Carb Diet

5. Whole Foods:

Try to consume whole foods and high fiber diets such as raw and keto-friendly vegetables and fruits with their skins. It helps the body to reduce hunger pangs and cravings and reduces the cravings too.

In the same way, whole and unprocessed grains and legumes with nuts and seeds are also good sources of fiber that can also provide satiety.

Also Read: Why does a Low-Carb Diet Cause Headaches? Expert Analysis

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

How to get rid of sugar cravings on a low-carb diet?

To get rid of sugar cravings on a low-carb diet, slowly change the diet and try to avoid artificial sugars and simple carbohydrates. Focus on whole fruits and avoid sugary drinks.

How long does it take to stop craving carbs?

Initially, it takes 48 to 72 hours to reduce and overcome the cravings.

Which vitamin deficiency causes sugar cravings?

Magnesium which is a micronutrient when is deficient in the human body causes intense sugar cravings.

Which items can be consumed when you crave sugar?

Fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts, and dark chocolate.

Instead of bread, what items are consumed in a low-carb diet?

Instead of white bread, choose from the options available such as lettuce and leafy greens, rye bread, corn tortillas, Ezekiel bread, oopsie bread.

What changes does the human body face when carbs intake is down?

The body faces headache, exhaustion, irritability, and dizziness when carbs intake is low.

Dr. Zainab Naeem

Hello! My name is Dr. Zainab Naeem, and I am a Nutritionist/Dietitian by profession. I am also impassioned to spread knowledge about ‘9Lifestyle medicine’, ‘Human Nutrition’, and ‘Dietetics’ so that people can stop believing the wrong concepts about food and habits they have adopted over the years, which hinders the real joy of their life. This site is an excellent platform for me to share some of my medical knowledge and experience extracts. The power of words helps me to spread up-to-date and current research studies.

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