For many, 'Craving Control: Healthy Swaps and Strategies to Beat Sugar Temptation' is a pressing topic. We all get those sugar cravings, right? You're lounging on the couch, feeling like snacking on something.

You can't resist grabbing that bag of crisps or diving into a big bowl of nuts. Just thinking about those tasty treats makes your mouth water.

Then, when you're out and about, you pass by a street food stall or a pastry shop—it's irresistible. 

You justify it by telling yourself you've earned it or deserve a little extra treat.


But here's the thing: every extra bite, especially those evening snacks, can mess with your health. According to Dr Michael Mosley, a British doctor and nutrition health expert, having just two snacks a day could add 400 extra calories to your diet.

So those extra snacks and sweet drinks will take a toll on your body. You'll gain weight gradually and feel increasingly tired and sluggish throughout the day. Once you start snacking, it's hard to stop—it becomes a cycle.

You may experience more mood swings and notice dental issues when you visit the dentist. Your skin breaks out in spots, and you are feeling quite bloated.

The more you snack, the less likely you are to get all the necessary nutrients for your body to function properly, leading to potential deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals.

Obesity can be a consequence, and as most people know, obesity greatly increases health risks. Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, circulation problems, and other serious health issues can follow.

So there you are, determined to cut out those extra snacks. You've done well all day, resisting temptation, but now that you're home and feeling drained, it's tougher than expected. As you sit on the sofa with a Diet Pepsi, suddenly the sugar craving hits.

You feel compelled to give in. You try to resist momentarily, but it's no use. You reason that one extra snack won't hurt after a good day, right?

After indulging in that tempting treat, you realize you shouldn't have given in. Yet, now that you've had one, why not have another? And just like that, the food craving wins again—repeatedly.

ZOE, an innovative nutrition company leveraging advanced science and AI for personalized metabolic health, recommends limiting added sugar to no more than 12 teaspoons (about 50 grams) per day for a 2,000-calorie daily intake.

Considering that popular sodas like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Sprite, and Dr Pepper contain around 10 teaspoons of added sugar each, this guideline is crucial.

In the United Kingdom, health guidelines suggest that added sugars should make up less than 5% of an adult's daily calorie intake, equating to no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day.

So, how do we break this cycle of food cravings and beat sugar temptation? What are the healthy alternatives to satisfy our cravings?

First, let's uncover why we crave snacks, and then we'll dive into healthy swaps to ditch the bad stuff.


Snacking is something that goes beyond hunger; Snacks can provide a sense of pleasure and satisfaction by releasing ‘feel-good’ chemicals like endorphins.

While sugar certainly plays a role in this sensation, it's not the only thing which is responsible for our snack obsession. It has also to do with the flavours, the texture, and the context of the snacks.

The texture of a snack—whether it's crunchy, creamy, or chewy—can influence our eating experience and satisfaction. For example, people may crave crunchy snacks like chips or nuts because they enjoy the satisfying sensation of biting into something crisp.

Image of happy woman reaching for the cookie jar

Texture, Flavour, Childhood and History

The flavour of the snacks: salty, sweet and savoury can trigger pleasure centres in the brain and evoke positive emotions associated with enjoyment and comfort.

Moreover, the situations in which we eat snacks - like social gatherings, moments of boredom, or as a response to stress  - affect our cravings.

According to ZOE, men often crave savoury foods, whereas women tend to crave high-fat and sugary foods. So, ladies, it's particularly us who struggle with sugar cravings!

Childhood experiences further contribute to our relationship with snacks. Many of us were conditioned to associate sugary treats with emotional comfort or reward.

For instance, receiving a sweet treat after a fall or as a reward for good behaviour reinforces the idea that sugar brings comfort or pleasure. This conditioning can persist into adulthood and influences our snack choices and responses to stress.

Cravings for sweet foods are deeply rooted in our evolutionary history. In ancient times, our ancestors craved sweet foods like honey and fruits for their vital nutrients and energy content. Similarly, many animals seek out sweet foods due to their high-calorie density and nutritional value.


Advertising intensifies these influences by hyping up sugary snacks as instant mood lifters or energy rockets. The media's spin on low-calorie snacks as healthy substitutes can be deceptive, as these choices usually lack vital nutrients and might ramp up cravings due to blood sugar swings.

Understanding how our bodies, minds, and surroundings influence sugar cravings helps us make smarter choices about snacks. This knowledge lets us develop healthier eating habits that support our well-being.

Managing Sugar Spikes and Dips: How Your Body Handles Energy

When we eat, our bodies need a balanced combination of healthy fats, carbohydrates, and proteins to function effectively.

However, consuming certain foods, especially those high in refined sugars like cakes and soda, can disrupt this balance by causing rapid spikes and dips in blood sugar levels. Here's how it works:

Insulin Response: Eating carbohydrate-rich foods triggers the release of insulin, a hormone that helps transport glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream into cells for energy. However, when you consume refined sugars, your body experiences a quick spike in blood sugar levels, leading to a surge in insulin production.

Sugar Crash: After this rapid spike, blood sugar levels often plummet quickly, causing what's commonly known as a "sugar crash." This crash triggers feelings of fatigue and increased hunger as the body seeks to replenish its energy stores.

Cravings Cycle: The rapid rise and fall in blood sugar levels can set off a cycle of sugar cravings. As your body experiences a dip in energy, you may crave more sugary foods to quickly boost your energy levels again.

To break free from the cycle of sugar cravings and maintain steady energy levels, it's important to choose foods that release sugar slowly into your body. This gradual process helps prevent sudden drops in energy that trigger cravings.

Woman staring outside with a green smoothie in her hand

Opt for nutrient-rich carbohydrates that are absorbed slowly to keep your energy stable and reduce sugar cravings over time.

Foods that are packed with nutrients also help you feel full for longer and can stabilize your mood.

Incorporate more vegetables, whole grains, and fruits into your diet - they provide the essential nutrients your body needs. 

Choosing whole-grain options like brown pasta over white pasta can also contribute to stable energy levels and increase satisfaction, which can lessen cravings for sugary treats.

When consuming excessive refined sugar, it can negatively impact your gut health and lead to inflammation, disrupting the balance of beneficial bacteria in your digestive system.

This imbalance can heighten cravings and make it challenging to manage your energy levels effectively.

By prioritizing nutrient-rich foods and maintaining a balanced diet throughout the day, you can avoid sudden fluctuations in blood sugar, which will ultimately help combat cravings and support your overall health.


  1. 1
    More consistent energy throughout the day
  2. 2
    Easier weight management
  3. 3
    Better heart health, reducing the risk of heart disease
  4. 4
    Enhanced gut health, leading to reduced inflammation and digestive issues
  5. 5
    Healthier skin with a clearer complexion
  6. 6
    Reduced risk of tooth decay
  7. 7
    Lowered risk of type 2 diabetes
  8. 8
    Improved mood and emotional well-being
  9. 9
    Better sleep quality, aiding in falling asleep and staying asleep
  10. 10
    Reduced risk of hormonal imbalance
  11. 11
    Stronger immune system


When you feel the urge to indulge in something sugary - especially when you're not hungry - it often comes with a wave of guilt afterwards. You might find yourself frustrated with why you gave in.

Here are some simple ideas to help you swap your sugary snacks for healthier alternatives. These swaps offer healthier options for common snack foods that are high in calories, sugar, and unhealthy fats.

Note: Be mindful of any allergies when making your swaps; if in doubt, omit the food.


The Bad:

  • Coca-Cola, Pepsi
  • Energy drinks
  •  Fruit juice
  • Candy bars or high-sugar cereal bars
  • Crisps
  • Biscuits
  • Cake
  • Milk chocolate
  • High-sugar breakfast cereals
  • Toast with jam
  • Ice-cream
  • Sweets
  • Sugar in your dessert
  • Crackers with cheese and mayonnaise
  • Butter on toast
  • Deep-fried snacks
  • Store-bought desert

The Good:

  • Water or sparkling water with lemon, herbal iced tea (e.g. peppermint tea)
  • Smoothie made with Greek yoghurt, whole fruits, chia seeds, flaxseeds
  • Pumpkin seeds, apple with peanut butter
  • Home-made sweet potato crisps or Kale crisps
  • Handful of mixed nuts
  • Fruit mixture: grapes, strawberries, blackcurrants
  • Dark chocolate (70% + cocoa)
  • Porridge, with berries and cinnamon
  • Toast with avocado spread and sliced tomato
  • Yoghurt with berries
  • Air-popped popcorn
  • Vanilla extract in your desert
  • Cracker with cottage cheese and tomato
  • Peanut butter on toast
  • Air-fried or baked version as lower-fat alternative
  • Celery, cucumber, carrot sticks with a hummus dip


Making healthy snack swaps is totally doable and super easy! Start with simple changes and watch how they add up to big benefits for your health and well-being.

Nutritional Yeast Popcorn


I've provided some fantastic sugar swaps above, so let's start using them! You'll be surprised by how much they can help you kickstart your journey to beat those sugar cravings. So, let's dive into the top tips:

  1. Use the SMART SNACK SWAPS to find healthier alternatives.
  2. Download and print off the 'BEAT SUGAR CRAVINGS' PDF SHEET- and hang it up where you can see it - somewhere before you reach for your snack cupboard.
  3. Eat 3 times a day, a healthy balanced meal, to avoid sugar dips and to stay full for longer:

    Breakfast, e.g. porridge with berries, Greek yoghurt with flaxseeds and berries,  or omelette with veggies. These are nutrient-dense and keep you full for longer.
    Lunch: Salad sandwich on wholegrain bread, Greek salad with tomatoes, olives, cold turkey or a chicken sandwich.
    Dinner: have a hearty dinner and concentrate on eating lots of vegetables, lean meats or fish and carbohydrates, like quinoa, wild rice or lentils.
  4. Take back control and establish a rule for yourself: when you crave something sugary, opt for a sugar-free version or make a sugar-free alternative yourself.
  5. Clear your kitchen of all snacks high in sugar content, such as granola bars, fruit juices, white bread, ice cream, crisps, and sweets.
  6. Prepare your snacks. Snacking in moderation is perfectly fine. Opt for healthy snacks that provide nutrients and help stabilize your energy levels.

    Prepare your snacks in advance, such as sliced carrots with hummus, cherry tomatoes, or a handful of mixed nuts. Pack these snacks for work and keep some ready for the evening. 
  7. Portion control is key, especially in the evening when your body needs time to process food and prepare for the next day. Try limiting yourself to half of what you would typically eat to manage cravings without overindulging
  8. Meal planning and shopping: Don't buy junk food. When creating your shopping list, opt for the healthy snacks to replace the usual high-fat, high-sugar options. Being prepared is key.
  9. Don’t shop when you are hungry
  10. Get inspired by social media
    Instagram Healthy Hearty Wholesome
    Instagram  Nourish Naturally
    Facebook Nutritious Snacks
  11. Reduce your overall sugar intake throughout the day: Remember, it’s a vicious cycle—sugar can make you crave more sugar. Check the sugar content in your cereals, juices, alcohol, and snacks.
  12. Keep fruit on hand by buying frozen options for smoothies. Store them in your freezer for whenever you need them
  13. Stay hydrated and pay attention to hunger cues. If you notice changes in mood, light-headedness, or feeling lethargic, it could signal that you're tempted to snack.

    By recognizing these cues, you can make responsible decisions and choose nutrient-rich foods when needed.
  14. Manage stress through relaxation techniques. When you're stressed, your body often craves quick energy, which is found in sugary foods. This is because stress triggers the release of cortisol, a hormone that can make you crave sugar.

    By using relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or yoga, you can lower your stress levels. This reduction in stress helps keep cortisol in check, reducing those urgent sugar cravings.
  15. Stop eating 3 hours before you are going to bed.

to download your worksheet

Remember, change takes time, and as long as you're willing to try, you're on the right path. If you slip up and have a sugary treat, don't be too hard on yourself. It's just a small step off the path, not a total derailment.

Just refocus, keep these tips in mind, and get back on track.



In the first place, it is not advisable to eat snacks in the evening. Your body needs time to digest, rest and repair. Evening time is usually the most inactive time and you will burn fewer calories. Eating snacks in the evening can lead to fat storage over time..

But, if you are going to snack, choose healthy snack options. I have given samples in this article. Find more healthy snacking ideas in ‘Smart Snacking for Women over 50: Manage your Weight'.


Hidden sugars are essentially sugars with alternative names that may not be immediately recognizable. These sugars are different from the natural sugars found in fruits and vegetables.

Instead, they go by names like glucose, fructose, dextrose, and cane sugar, among others. It's important to be aware of these hidden sugars when reading food labels to ensure you make the right choices when buying snacks.


It's advisable to prepare snacks at home to avoid making hasty choices at the canteen or convenience store.

Consider preparing a few containers with options like a small amount of mixed nuts, mixed fruits or whole fruits such as apples, bananas, or tangerines.

You can also pack small containers with grapes, which are great for snacking despite containing natural sugars.

Additionally, whole-grain crackers with sliced carrots, cucumbers, and a side of hummus make for a nutritious and convenient snack option.


Here are some snack ideas that work well for different diets. It can be difficult to find the right snacks if you have certain dietary needs. Here are a few options:

Gluten-free: Opt for snacks like rice cakes with almond butter, Greek yogurt with mixed berries, or veggie sticks with hummus.

Dairy-Free: Choose snacks such as dairy-free yoghurt (coconut or almond-based), a trail mix with nuts and seeds, or avocado slices on gluten-free crackers.

Vegan: Try snacks like roasted chickpeas, fruit smoothies with plant-based protein powder, or avocado toast on whole-grain bread.

Nut-Free: Snack on rice cakes with sunflower seed butter, popcorn seasoned with nutritional yeast (which gives the popcorn a nutty flavour), or fresh fruit with dairy-free yoghurt.

Low-Carb/Keto: Consider snacks like cheese sticks, celery sticks with nut butter, or olives and sliced salami.


Before reaching for a snack, start by hydrating yourself with a refreshing glass of water infused with lemon juice or sparkling water with lemon or grapes. Take a moment to enjoy your drink before diving into your healthy snacks.

Besides choosing nutritious snacks, it's important to consider portion sizes, especially if you're aiming for weight loss. Remember, achieving a calorie deficit is often key.

Here are some healthy snack options that can support your weight loss goals:

Greek Yogurt with Berries: High in protein and low in sugar, Greek yoghurt paired with berries adds natural sweetness and fibre.
Vegetable Sticks with Hummus: Crunchy vegetables like carrots, celery, and bell peppers paired with hummus are satisfying and nutritious.
Hard-Boiled Eggs: Rich in protein and healthy fats, hard-boiled eggs can help curb cravings.
Apple Slices with Almond Butter: Apples provide fibre while almond butter adds healthy fats and protein.
Mixed Nuts: A small handful of mixed nuts (such as almonds, walnuts, and cashews) offers a satisfying crunch and healthy fats.
Cottage Cheese with Pineapple: High in protein, cottage cheese pairs well with sweet pineapple for a balanced snack.
Air-Popped Popcorn: Enjoy air-popped popcorn as a low-calorie snack; add a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutritional yeast for flavour.
Edamame: Steamed edamame pods provide plant-based protein and fibre.
Cherry Tomatoes with Mozzarella: Pair cherry tomatoes with small pieces of fresh mozzarella cheese for a tasty snack.
Protein Smoothie: Blend protein powder, spinach, berries, and almond milk for a nutritious and filling option.

These snacks provide a balance of macronutrients and can help keep you satisfied between meals, while supporting your weight loss journey.

Remember to enjoy them in moderation and prioritize nutritious meals as the foundation of your diet.

How can I control my portions while snacking to avoid eating too much?

That's a great question, especially when trying to snack healthily. Being mindful of what you eat is key.

Start by drinking a glass of water or sparkling water with lemon juice before you snack. This can help curb your appetite and prevent overeating by ensuring you're not mistaking thirst for hunger.

One of the most important ways to control your portions is by eating mindfully. Pay close attention to the taste and texture of your food, savouring each bite. Avoid distractions like TV and focus on your meal; this will help you recognize when you're full.

Using smaller plates or bowls for your snacks can also encourage portion control. And when you're grabbing a snack, avoid taking the whole bag or container with you - portion out a small amount instead.

Lastly, opt for nutrient-dense snacks like celery with peanut butter or fruits with yoghurt. These choices will keep you satisfied and support your health goals.


I'd be thrilled to hear from you if you've experienced challenges with overeating and have found effective strategies to overcome sugar cravings.

Your story could be part of my collection of helpful tips and strategies to manage cravings effectively. Feel free to share in the comments section at the bottom of this article! 

Let's work together to support each other on our wellness journeys!

Graphic: welcoming comments


Check out these recommended books if you're interested in understanding and managing sugar cravings, adopting healthier eating habits, and exploring mindful eating practices:

  • "The Sugar Detox: Lose Weight, Feel Great, and Look Years Younger" by Brooke Alpert and Patricia Farris.
    Discover a comprehensive plan designed to reduce sugar intake and break free from sugar addiction. This book offers practical tips, meal plans, and strategies to achieve long-lasting results.
  • "The Craving Mind: From Cigarettes to Smartphones to Love – Why We Get Hooked and How We Can Break Bad Habits" by Judson Brewer.
    While not specifically focused on sugar cravings, this insightful book explores the science of habits and cravings. Learn effective strategies to overcome addictive behaviours and cultivate healthier habits.
  • "The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet: Activate Your Body's Natural Ability to Burn Fat and Lose Weight Fast" by Mark Hyman.
    A 10-day detox program designed by Dr Mark Hyman to reset your metabolism, stabilize blood sugar levels, and reduce cravings for sugar and processed foods. This book provides actionable steps for rapid and sustainable weight loss.
  • "Breaking the Food Seduction: The Hidden Reasons Behind Food Cravings – And 7 Steps to End Them Naturally" by Neal D. Barnard.
    Psychological and physiological factors driving food cravings, by Dr Neal D. Barnard's book. Gain practical advice and a 7-step plan to naturally overcome food cravings and achieve healthier eating habits.
  • "Eat to Live: The Amazing Nutrient-Rich Program for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss" by Joel Fuhrman.
    Explore Dr Joel Fuhrman's approach to weight loss through a nutrient-dense, plant-based diet. Learn how to reduce cravings for unhealthy foods, including sugar, while promoting rapid and sustained weight loss.
  • "The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom" by Melissa Hartwig Urban and Dallas Hartwig.
    Follow a 30-day dietary reset with Melissa Hartwig Urban and Dallas Hartwig's guide.

    This book helps eliminate sugar and processed foods from your diet, providing a structured plan to identify and address food cravings while achieving total health and food freedom.


So, to wrap things up, sugar cravings are something we all deal with daily, impacting our weight, skin, and overall health.

We want to snack better, but it's not always easy to put that into action. This blog has provided you with practical tips and strategies to cut back on sugar and make smarter snack choices with our "Nutritious Snack Swaps."

If you've found a strategy that works for you, share it with us - we're all in this together!

Managing sugar cravings is an ongoing process, but with collective effort, we can make strides toward healthier habits. Let's tackle this challenge as a team!

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Birgit is a compassionate guide specializing in supporting senior women through life's transitions. Alongside her dedication to this cause, she finds joy in teaching piano, nurturing her garden, cherishing family moments, and enjoying walks. These activities fuel her creativity and bring depth and richness to her life.

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