When you rely on sugary treats for a hit of energy during a dull or jam-packed day, you’ll be guaranteed a bout of irritability when the “high” fades. While sugar is a genuine addiction—eat too much and your brain gets hooked on its own chemical surges, as it would with any drug—it is possible to learn new habits, says Kathleen DesMaisons, Ph.D., a specialist in addictive nutrition and author of Potatoes Not Prozac (Simon & Schuster, 2008).
Try these steps to end a sugar habit and regain control of your moods. But go slowly, says DesMaisons, and remember that this is a cumulative process. You’ll have better long-term success if you give yourself at least two weeks to one month to adapt to each change.
GETTING SUGAR OUT OF YOUR DIET
1 Eat breakfast with protein. Within 30 minutes of waking, have a meal with at least ten grams of protein to stabilize your blood sugar. Scrambled eggs or tofu, nut butters, and veggie sausage patties are all good options.
2 Keep a journal. Note everything you eat to help you become aware of how much sugar you’re eating and when cravings occur. You’ll be less likely to slip into unconscious sugar consumption.
3 Stop snacking. Eat three meals a day, on schedule and with protein. You can still have small amounts of sugar of all types (even desserts), but only with your meals. Eating a full meal helps slow sugar delivery.
4 Take these supplements. To optimize your body’s ability to metabolize carbohydrates, take vitamin B complex (50 mg), vitamin C (500 mg), and zinc (15 mg).
5 Eat a potato every night. Although fairly high on the glycemic index, potatoes can combat mood swings and sugar cravings, says DesMaisons. Eating a whole one at night creates an insulin response that delivers the amino acid tryptophan (a precursor to serotonin) to the brain.
6 Switch to brown foods. Sneak high-fiber whole grains into your diet—eat whole wheat instead of white bread, brown rice not white—to help stabilize blood sugar.
7 Cut down on sugar. Avoid all refined and sweetened foods such as cereals, candy, packaged cookies, and presweetened beverages. Cut out sweet fruits (bananas, kiwi, apples) and eat less-sweet fruits like berries, instead.