Do you have a hidden candy stash? Do you think about dessert even when you’re not hungry? Do you struggle to get through the day without a soda or heavily sweetened coffee? Do you find yourself dozing off around 3 pm every day, looking for a sweet snack to pick you up? If you answered yes to these questions, you may have a sugar addiction, which can lead to serious health issues. So here’s the real question: Do you know how to stop eating sugar?
It’s no secret Americans have a longstanding love affair with the sweet stuff. According to the University of California, San Francisco, the average American consumes 19.5 teaspoons (82 grams) of sugar every day. That translates into about 66 pounds of added sugar consumed per person annually.
Registered dietitian Brooke Alpert, coauthor of The Sugar Detox and founder of B Nutritious counseling in New York City, has helped many clients break free of sugar addiction, shed pounds and adopt a healthier lifestyle. She says no good can come of Americans’ everyday reliance on and indulgence in sugar.
“We’re not talking about the cupcake on your birthday. We’re talking about sugar consumption all day long. It’s terrible for you. It leads to metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease, dementia. Nothing positive will come out of eating sugar the way people are eating it now. You have to cut the sugar to lose weight and lead a long, healthy life,” she says.
In a 1968 Sugar Research Foundation study, lab animals eating a high-sugar diet had increased triglyceride levels. As the NPR report explains, in people, high triglycerides can increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. The study also noted animals fed sugar had higher levels of an enzyme associated with bladder cancer in their urine. The study’s results weren’t disclosed to the public at the time and are just now coming to light.
Armed with the knowledge of sugar’s detrimental impact on health, there’s never been a better time to begin the painful process of kicking that sugar addiction for good. Alpert has some tried-and-true tips for reducing sugar consumption in the long run, helping you feel healthier and more energized all day long.
How to Stop Eating Sugar: The Shock Phase
Unfortunately, eliminating your body’s dependence on sugar isn’t devoid of withdrawal symptoms. Alpert says detoxing from a sugar addiction may cause hangover-like symptoms, fatigue, irritability, hunger and intense cravings.
To subdue your sweet tooth, The Sugar Detox advises starting with a three-day cold turkey period. For three days, you eliminate dairy (except for a little butter), fruit (except lemon and lime), wheat, starches and added sugars from your diet entirely. Alcohol and artificial sweeteners are off limits, too.
“Don’t go cold turkey during a stressful week. Set aside three quiet days for yourself to do it. Be smart and set yourself up for success,” Alpert says.
How to Stop Eating Sugar: The Reintroduction Phase
After the first three days, the plan introduces additional approved foods each week until you’ve completed 31 days. But if you don’t have time for a month-long detox, Alpert says you can take some simple steps to begin to wean yourself off sugar.
“The first step is to stop always adding sugar to foods. No more pouring sugar packets into your coffee, drowning your yogurt in honey or drenching your oatmeal with maple syrup,” she says, adding that it’s important to pay attention to how often you’re adding sugar to food. “Then buy plain and unflavored products. Don’t get flavored beverages that contain so much sugar they resemble a milkshake in calories.”
Watch for sneaky sugars.
While it’s obvious that cookies and cakes contain a lot of sugar, you may not realize many seemingly healthy foods contain added sugar. That’s why Alpert says it’s important to look at the ingredient lists on the foods you buy. Some of the worst added-sugar offenders include:
- Whole grain bread
- Grainy high-fiber cereals
- Tomato sauce
- Prepared salad dressings
“Nothing gets me more upset than seeing people trying to make a healthy choice and not realizing how unhealthy it is,” Alpert says. “No one picks up a bottle of salad dressing and thinks, ‘This is such an indulgence.’”
The next time you reach for a bottle of thousand island, stop yourself, and try making this salad dressing recipe from The Sugar Detox instead.
SUGAR DETOX VINAIGRETTE RECIPE
Directions: In a cup or small bowl, whisk together all ingredients until well combined. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.
How to Stop Eating Sugar: The Post-Sugar Phase
It turns out a life without a sugar addiction can be sweet. Following a successful detox, Alpert says her clients lose weight and have clearer skin and more energy throughout the day.
If a life without sugar doesn’t appeal to you, the good news is you don’t have to avoid sugar at all costs. Alpert takes a realistic approach to sugar consumption. The Sugar Detox features a maintenance plan anyone can follow that gives a little wiggle room to allow for special occasions and flexibility to fit your everyday lifestyle.
“There’s a time and place for a piece of cake or a slice of pizza. People come to me because of the sugar they’re consuming all day long from 7 am to 9 pm. Once they get a handle on it and break the sugar cycle, they can eat sweet foods appropriately, but it still shouldn’t include sweetened coffees and yogurts and other high-sugar everyday foods. Life’s too short to eat sugar all day long,” she says.