If you want to overcome sugar addiction, you’ll have to take it seriously. Addiction to alcohol and drugs is seen as a serious problem, but many people dismiss sugar addition as simply having a “sweet tooth”. An excessive intake of sugar can have a severe impact on your health and quality of life. Consuming too much sugar can increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and kidney problems. Studies have even linked excessive sugar consumption with certain cancers. The average American consumes almost 80 grams of sugar a day (which is far more than the recommended limit of 25 grams of sugar daily). The good news is that you can follow a few simple steps to overcome sugar addiction:

Steps to overcome sugar addiction

  1. Identify and understand your craving triggers

The first step to overcoming any addiction is to understand what triggers your cravings. Maintain a food and mood journal for 1-2 weeks as this will help you identify poor food choices. Look for the connection between your moods and your sugar consumption. For instance, you might notice that when you’re stressed at work, you have an urge to eat more sugar or drink more sodas. Similarly, look for a connection between your sugar cravings and the time of day. Studies show that most people experience sugar cravings towards the evening — which is probably why you demolished an entire tub of ice-cream after dinner!

  1. Modify your grocery list

Once you have understood your cravings, you can take the next step towards overcoming sugar addiction:  Don’t try to quit sugar cold-turkey. Cut back gradually instead. Eliminate high-sugar foods such as processed breakfast cereals, cookies, and candy from your grocery list. Instead, look for low-sugar substitutes such as old-fashioned oatmeal and (unsweetened) natural peanut butter. Snacks like corn chips can also be high in sugar, so substitute these with healthy snacks such as chips made from sugar-free almond flour.

TIP: Also, make sure that you have something to eat before you go grocery shopping so that you are less tempted to fill your cart with snacks and sweet treats!

  1. Satisfy your sweet tooth with healthier substitutes

It’s not easy to ignore your sweet cravings. Many people who try to quit sugar cold-turkey experience symptoms similar to drug withdrawal. This means that if you try to suddenly eliminate all sugars in your diet, the chances that you will be able to stick to your plan are quite low.

Instead of eliminating all sugars from your diet, you can simply swap unhealthy sweet treats with fruit. Have an apple or pear for dessert instead of cake — this will help satisfy your sugar cravings, but still provide you with fiber and other nutrients.

  1. Be sure to eat often enough

Regular food timing helps you stick to a healthy diet and decreases the likelihood of bingeing. If you go for long periods without food, your blood sugar levels dip — which triggers sugar cravings. A recent study on the effects of irregular meal patterns on appetite regulation and metabolism found that meal regularity had a positive impact on glucose response and appetite. That means your blood sugar levels stay more stable, and you don’t get cravings! The researchers found that regular meal timings may also aid weight management.

In addition to your lunch and dinner, you should aim for 1 or 2 healthy snacks throughout the day. This will help you stay satisfied throughout the day and reduce your sugar cravings.

  1. Lower your stress levels

Elevated stress levels trigger a craving for “comfort foods” which are high in sugar and fats. This is why you often crave ice cream, donuts, chocolates, and cookies after a particularly stressful work day. If you notice frequent sugar cravings or any other stress symptoms, you will probably need to take immediate steps to lower your stress levels. Allocate time for rest and relaxation on a daily basis to keep your stress levels in check and reduce the temptation of comfort foods. If you’re a stress eater, pick up the How To Stop Stress Eating guidebook for some much-needed tips!

In addition to these steps to overcome sugar addiction, you should also eliminate sodas from your daily diet. Sweetened soda has a very high sugar content – a 12-ounce can of coke contains about 10 teaspoons of sugar! (This is more than the maximum amount of sugar you should consume in a day, which is 9 teaspoons for men and 6 teaspoons for women.)

Diet sodas are sweetened with a chemical that has been proven to disrupt the hunger/full hormones and actually increase appetite! Plus aspartame is bad for your brain. Better zero-sugar drinks? Water with citrus, or unsweetened tea.

Furthermore, sodas also increase your risk of kidney stones and other health issues. Drink an adequate amount of water and exercise on a daily basis as this will help you overcome your sugar addiction.