Vegetables are likely the furthest thing from your mind when you think about satisfying and reducing your sugar cravings. However, you might be surprised to learn that adding more veggies into your diet, especially sweet root vegetables, can impact the foods you later crave.
One unconventional method of dealing with sugar cravings that I learned about in nutrition school is encouraging people who crave sweets to begin eating a large amount of sweet veggies with their meals. Here is why this method works and which foods to give it a try with.
Why It Works
All vegetables are made primarily of carbohydrates, but some have more in the form of starches and sugar than others do. Carbs from vegetables are broken down by the body to give you energy in the form of sugars. The body’s preferred source of fuel is good quality carbs, since it requires less work to digest carbs than other nutrients like proteins for example.
Vegetables are high in “complex” carbohydrates, meaning that they break down into sugar in your body steadily over a period of time, instead of causing quick sugar spikes followed by intense sugar drops. “Simple” carbs, as opposed to the complex kind just described, raise your blood sugar very rapidly. Examples of simple carbs are things like candy, cookies, and soda. Whatever goes up, must come down, so your sugar is bound to drop shortly after spiking, which leaves you feeling tired, moody, and craving more sugar. Overall, managing your blood sugar is the key to beating sugar cravings
Which Vegetables to Try
The vegetables I recommend adding into your diet most to reduce sugar cravings are carrots, parsnips, beets, butternut squash, acorn squash, sweet potatoes, and onions. Most of these are classified as “root” vegetables because they grow underground, which allows them to absorb a high level of nutrients from the soil. At the same time, their leaves absorb more nutrients above-ground from the sun.
Root vegetables are usually high in Vitamin C, Beta-carotene (which gives many of them their orange tint), fiber, and essential minerals such as potassium, phosphorous, and magnesium. Their bright and deep colors – whether orange, red, or yellow – are a sign that they contain important antioxidants.
Other vegetables that are low in sugar, such as leafy greens, are of course a great addition to any diet as well. I find that sweet vegetables help with sugar cravings most, but in general the more nutrients you consume in the form of healthy foods (including a variety of vegetables) the less cravings you will have overall because your body will not be signaling you to eat more due to a lack of vitamins & minerals.
How to Prepare The Vegetables
When vegetables are roasted, the high heat brings out the sugars in the vegetables and they become “caramelized.” This enhances their flavor a lot – especially when you add a little bit of olive oil and some salt to them while roasting. The brown sugary edges that form on the vegetables make them the perfect thing to add to your lunch or dinner if you are the type of person who craves something sweet with or after a meal.
What to Do With The Vegetables Once Prepared
You can use root veggies in tons of different types of dishes – salads, casseroles, smoothies, pastas, soups, or just roasted simply in the oven as I described earlier. I like to include things like maple roasted butternut squash or parsnips (similar to carrots) marinated in apple cider vinegar into my meals, instead of using other sweet ingredients like cranberries & raisins.
A little bit of dried fruit can be a healthy addition to dishes, but they lack volume which is important when it comes to filling you up. Root veggies give the same sweetness to dishes and pair really nicely with things like nuts, grains and strong cheeses. They, of course, have a lot of nutritional value too, but also volume and fiber that makes your meal feel satisfying
Root vegetables can also make a great snack. One of my favorite snacks is a baked sweet potato with a bit of peanut butter and sprinkled cinnamon. I like to have one of these in between meals sometimes when I am feeling hungry because it's a super filling snack that is loaded with nutrients.
Some other great bonuses of frequently eating sweet vegetables is that they are usually some of the most inexpensive vegetables you will find (especially potatoes and carrots), they are available almost all throughout the year, and they tend to last for a good amount of time in your fridge so you aren't scrambling to use them.
I've noticed in myself that when I start including lots of different root veggies in my meals and as snacks, my sugar cravings are definitely reduced. A lot of people also report being able to begin eating less refined carbs (like white bread and pasta) more easily when they substitute in hearty veggies like roasted potatoes and squash instead.