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Still on a sugar bender from holidays and king cake?  Try these four tips for a sugar detox that works.

After months of eating and drinking and living it up, Ash Wednesday officially kicks off the ‘New Orleans’ New Year Resolutions.  But even though holiday sweets and king cakes are officially behind us, you may still find yourself craving sugary sweets, and the cravings can be so strong that it feels like you’re actually addicted to the stuff.

And here’s the thing – it’s not all in your head.

Sugar actually lights up the same parts of our brain that are activated by drugs like cocaine, especially when that sugar is combined with fat.

So to help curb your cravings for the sweet stuff, try these four steps for a sugar detox that works:

Go cold turkey. Sugar causes a rapid spike then crash of blood sugar and energy, so we’re immediately looking for more sugar for a pick-me-up.   Nixing the sweet stuff altogether may seem extreme, but for many, that can be what it takes to get sugar cravings under control.

Watch out for sugar fake-outs.  Check labels closely, since even seemingly healthy foods can be loaded with sugar.  Whole grain breakfast cereals, low-fat yogurt, 100% fruit juice, and even ‘diet’ products like many weight loss shakes and nutrition bars can pack in the sugar equivalent of five, ten, or more spoonfuls of sugar.

Make an extra effort to incorporate protein – especially with breakfast and snacks.    Getting enough protein at lunch and dinner usually isn’t a problem, but many of us skimp on it at breakfast and snacks.  And protein can help to curb sugar cravings significantly.

Start your day with protein-rich, low-sugar foods like plain Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese, eggs, egg whites, or even leftover lean meat from last night’s dinner. Make a turkey wrap or blend a protein smoothie, or at the very least, grab a pre-made protein shake or bar as you head out the door.

Minimize artificial sweeteners.  There’s a lot of debate about whether or not artificial sweeteners help or hinder weight loss, but consuming large amounts of fake sweeteners can train our taste buds to expect intensely sweet food and drinks.

So limit or eliminate diet soft drinks.    Use fewer and fewer packets of fake sweeteners, ideally until you don’t need any.  The goal is to get to a point where things like coffee and yogurt actually taste like coffee and yogurt, not syrup and candy.