Is your teen regularly experiencing sugar cravings? Can your teenager finish a meal without having something sweet as a treat? Do you consistently see your teen seeking out sugary snacks, desserts and drinks despite knowing that they’ve had a full proper meal? If the answers are “yes,” then your teenager may be suffering from an addiction to sugar.
Today, sugar isn’t just in desserts. But rather, it is in many of the foods that we eat throughout the day that you wouldn’t consider to be sweet. This may include bread, granola bars, yogurt, ketchup, sports drinks, and flavored coffee. The human body is not able to process all of these foods with lots of sugar. It causes a sugar high, then later a crash and a craving to consume more sugar, leading to a continuous cycle. This can have a significant effect on mental health around mood, anxiety, and exhaustion. It can also affect physical health through weight gain, increased blood pressure, and skin issues.
For teenagers, an addiction to sugar can be real, especially with the food companies targeting kids and teens with colorful products and packaging for sugary snacks. The teenage years are also a period when eating habits are established and follow teens into their adult years. Therefore, it is important to avoid sugar and focus on a balanced, healthy diet. However, this can be difficult since sugary diets, similar to drug abuse of cocaine or nicotine, trigger reward signals to the brain which can cause people to lose self-control. For parents of teens who are struggling overcoming sugar addiction, try to follow these six helpful tips.
1. Choose Natural Sugar vs. Refined Sugar
Natural sugars such as fructose, which is found in fruits, will help satisfy a sugar craving while giving the body an extra boost of nutrients. The body metabolizes and processes fructose differently than it processes refined sugar, so it will keep the body feeling satisfied for longer.
2. Stock the Pantry with Healthy Snack Choices
As the saying goes, “out of sight, out of mind.” If your teenager doesn’t have easy access to sweet treats, they’re less likely to eat them. It’s much easier to binge on sugar if you have candy and cookies on hand, so make your house a sugar-free zone. Rather, stock up on healthy snack choices that fill appetites but don’t contain addictive sugars.
3. Identify Triggers
Does your teen find themselves craving sugar at certain times rather than others? Does a lack of sleep or a hard day at school make your teen reach for foods with lots of sugar? Try finding out what triggers your teenager’s sugar cravings; by identifying the patterns, you can find other ways to help them cope with triggers that don’t involve eating, such as meditation or exercise.
4. Ditch the Artificial Sweeteners
While diet soda and sugar-free candy may seem like a good way to help your teen kick their sugar addiction to the curb, artificial sweeteners do you more harm than good. Stevia, Aspartame, and Sucralose are up to 200 times sweeter than sugar itself and they may cause further sweet cravings from unhealthy foods.
5. Eat Smaller, More Frequent Meals
Instead of eating three big meals a day, try encouraging your teen to eat six smaller, healthy meals every few hours. This will help keep blood sugar levels stable, which in turn will help reduce sugar cravings caused by low blood sugar.
6. Pack Healthy Snacks or Lunches
It’s easy to binge on sugar when your teen is hungry at school and the vending machine is calling their name. To help avoid temptation, encourage your teen to pack healthy lunches and snacks before heading off for the day. Not only will it help prevent a sugar binge, but it will save money as well.
Professional Support for Overcoming Sugar Addiction
Hopefully these tips have provided some guidance for proactively supporting a healthier, more nutritious lifestyle for your family and teenager. However, for those teens who are struggling with an addiction to sugar, and it is having a significant negative effect on their mental health, specifically around mood, anxiety, and exhaustion, it may be time to reach out for professional help. Support is available, and if you can’t find a program or counselor right for your family, reach out to us here at Teen Rehab and we can help you find one that suits your needs. Ultimately, sustaining healthy mental and physical health is key to long term fulfillment.
Feature Image: Sophia Valkova