Spending your afternoons battling the temptation to raid the vending machine? Kick your sugar cravings into touch with these 10 ways to tame your sweet tooth.

1. Eat more low-GI foods

Sugar cravings are often a sign that your blood sugar levels are unbalanced. To help maintain normal blood sugar levels, try to eat little and often – having smaller snacks throughout the day – and opt for low-GI ( glycemic index ) foods which will release energy slowly throughout the day and not result in energy peaks and crashes. Good low-GI foods include non-starchy vegetables, nuts, legumes and complex carbs such as oats and brown rice.

2. Stabilise blood sugar levels with chromium

The mineral chromium helps to stabilize blood sugar levels and can therefore be beneficial in helping to control sugar cravings. If you find yourself experiencing regular, intense cravings for sweet treats, it could be a sign that you have low levels of chromium in your diet. To address this, increase your intake of foods rich in chromium, such as apples, broccoli, mushrooms, asparagus, whole grains and grape juice.

3. Focus on the benefits

It can be difficult at times to maintain your resolve to cut back on sugar.

However, try to focus on the benefits you are gaining to help stay motivated. Not only can sugar pile on the pounds and lead to tooth decay, researchers at the University of California Los Angeles found that sugar could alter our ability to learn and remember information, while studies have found that sugar is as damaging and to your body as alcohol and cigarettes. Furthermore, high blood sugar levels can cause a process called glycation which damages the collagen in the skin, leading to saggy skin and wrinkles.

4. Sniff vanilla-scented products

If you’re struggling with persistent sugar cravings, try splashing on some vanilla-scented perfume, using a vanilla air freshener or lighting a vanilla-scented candle. A study at St George’s hospital, south London, found that putting vanilla-scented patches on the back of participants’ hands significantly reduced their appetite for sweet foods and drinks. It is believed that this is because the smell of vanilla can help to suppress cravings for sweet foods.

5. Make your afternoons more enjoyable

According to researchers for the Atkins Diet, mid-afternoon is the most dangerous time for cravings, with 62 per cent of people breaking their diets mid-afternoon, and 3.23pm being the time when you are most likely to give into your cravings. The researchers also discovered that stress and boredom were the most common reasons for breaking diets at this time. To help prevent mid-afternoon cravings, try to alleviate boredom and stress by getting tedious or difficult tasks out of the way first thing and leaving more interesting and enjoyable tasks for the afternoon.

6. Choose healthy, nutritious alternatives

Sugar cravings can be hard to resist at the best of times, but if you are surrounded by others who are indulging in sweet snacks or desserts it can be increasingly difficult not to give in. Rather than feeling deprived when others are snacking, try to choose some tasty, healthier swaps for your favourite sweet treat and snack on nutritious fruits to satisfy your sweet cravings. Make a colourful fruit salad, snack on whole grain crackers with pure fruit spread or try fruit compote with natural yogurt.

7. Boost your happiness levels

Eating carbohydrates triggers the release of happy hormone serotonin in the brain, which is why we often crave sweet treats when we are feeling down or in need of comfort. To boost your serotonin levels naturally, try using mood-boosting essential oils such as neroli and lemon or spending time in the sunshine. Alternatively, call a friend, give someone a cuddle or spend some time doing an activity that makes you happy.

8. Increase your energy levels with exercise

One reason we crave sugar is because we are lacking energy. While exercise may be the last thing you feel like doing when your energy levels are low, regular exercise can actually increase your energy levels naturally, as well as providing a welcome distraction from your cravings. Exercise will also help you to feel good about your body, which will encourage you to look after it by resisting those sugar cravings.

9. Identify your craving triggers

To help beat sugar cravings and avoid giving into temptation, try to identify patterns to your cravings and avoid those things that trigger them. For instance, if you normally buy a sugary coffee on your way into work, try to take a different route or walk on the other side of the road from your favourite coffee shop if you can, or if you crave sugar when you are stressed try to find a healthier way to deal with your emotions. If you can’t identify an obvious trigger, try keeping a journal identifying when you most feel tempted by sugar cravings and see if you can identify a pattern.

10. Ditch diet drinks

Diet drinks may seem like the ideal solution for those battling sugar cravings. However, while diet drinks may be low in calories, research by the Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio found that consuming diet drinks can actually increase your waist circumference and lead to weight gain, which is believed to be because artificial sweeteners trigger appetite and can actually exacerbate sugar cravings as your body craves the “real thing”.