Feature Image by Brooke Lark

We all enjoy sugar-filled drinks and treats, but enjoy it a little too much, and it can lead to a number of health issues.

Rather than trying to completely cut out sugar cold-turkey, it’s more effective to gradually wean off of it by making small lifestyle changes. From getting more sleep to incorporating healthier alternatives, here are five dietician-recommended tips to reduce your sugar intake.

Cut down on beverages
Sodas (both diet and regular), juices, sweetened coffee, and alcoholic drinks are often sugar bombs in disguise. “Our brains don’t register calories from drinks the same way it registers calories from foods we eat and chew – it doesn’t promote the same fullness – which is why we can easily and mindlessly overload on sugar from beverages,” says Nour Zibdeh, a functional and integrative dietitian and nutritionist. Instead, opt for water, sparkling water, or tea to keep your sugar consumption at bay.

Get more sleep
It might not seem like sleep is connected to what you eat, but research shows that lack of sleep can affect brain regions that control decision making and make you more likely to crave junk food over healthier options. “When people are sleep deprived, they tend to reach for sugar for an instant energy spike,” says Sarah Mirkin, a registered dietician nutritionist. “This is followed by a crash, and the cycle continues.”

Avoid artificial sweeteners
While it’s tempting to switch to artificial or non-caloric sweeteners, Zibdeh suggests otherwise. “[Artificial sweeteners] may trick the reward and satiety centers in your brain, making you crave more sugar,” she says.

Swap in dark chocolate and fruit
If you crave sweets after dinner, try eating some fruit or dark chocolate instead of reaching for dessert. “Fresh fruit can satisfy a sweet craving and add more in terms of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants,” says Zibdeh. “[Additionally], dark chocolate contains polyphenolic antioxidants, which allow most people to feel satisfied with a small amount. Sweetened chocolate, on the other hand, tends to keep you coming back for more.”

Eat enough fiber and protein
Yes, eating a balanced diet can help curb sugar cravings! “Protein, fiber, and fats make you feel full and satiated,” says Zibdeh. “We often crave sugar because we’re simply physiologically hungry. Unfortunately, many people go about their day eating sugary snacks like cookies, crackers, candies, and pastries because they haven’t planned nutritious, balanced meals or haven’t carved out the time to sit down and eat. Instead of finding a quick fix to your sugar craving, consider looking at the bigger picture and your overall eating habits,” suggests Zibdeh.

xx, The FabFitFun Team

P.S. Sugar can be sneaky! Here are 20 seemingly “healthy” foods you should be wary of.