Having a tough time giving up sugar? You’re not alone! Many folks find it difficult—if not downright impossible—to resist the sweet allure of the popular additive.
Notice that we used the term “additive.” That’s because all carbohydrates, including fruits, veggies, dairy and grains, contain natural sugars. But it’s the added sugars that “can lead to health problems such as weight gain and obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
1. Rethink your drink
Consuming sugary beverages is actually worse than eating foods with added sugars because liquid sugar immediately floods the bloodstream. Even so-called “healthy” beverages, like sports drinks, typically cause a spike in blood glucose. And don’t even get us started on soda and those fancy coffee drinks… Instead, switch to hot or cold water (add lemon for flavor!), unsweetened iced or hot tea and/or black coffee. Also try to steer clear of diet drinks, which purportedly trigger cravings for their regular counterparts!
2. Focus on whole foods
Say goodbye to the drive-through and rid your environment (e.g., home, office, car) of all canned, packaged and prepared foods as these generally contain added sugars. Stock up on fresh, whole foods, like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, eggs, lean meats, poultry and seafood, instead. After some time passes, your desire for unhealthy processed foods will, too!
3. Eat a protein-packed breakfast
Gone are the days of toaster tarts, sugary cereals and donuts. Instead, combat your craving for a sweet morning treat—and regulate your insulin levels—with a nutritious, protein-rich breakfast, like eggs with spinach, turkey sausage or a low-sugar protein shake. Now is also a good time to get in your first cup of water, which can help stave off any headaches that may accompany the beginning of your sugar detox.
4. Choose the right carbs
Despite what you may have heard, not all carbs are evil. In fact, your body needs carbs to function. Just be sure to fuel yourself with the healthy variety—low-sugar fruits, such as apples, berries, plums and pears and low-sugar, non-starchy veggies (sorry, corn and potatoes don’t make the cut!).
5. Stop fearing fat
Contrary to popular belief, eating fat won’t cause you to become fat. In fact, consuming fat helps regulate blood glucose and promotes satiety (that feeling of fullness). The flour and sugar common in many low-fat foods, on the other hand, can trigger weight gain. So, feel free to indulge in healthy fats, such as whole milk, avocados, nut butters and oils at every meal while kicking added sugars to the curb.
6. Keep snacks handy
If you fail to plan ahead, you might find yourself reverting to old habits when hunger strikes. Keeping healthy snacks like apples, almonds, cheese, jerky and carrot sticks on hand (e.g., at home, at work, in your car) can help you master your next snack attack. It will feel great to finally show that vending machine who’s boss!
7. Fuel your body
If you don’t consume sufficient calories, you’ll likely crave foods with added sugars, which could cause you to abandon your efforts. To help ensure you don’t fall off—and get run over by—the wagon, eat large, filling meals (e.g., grilled chicken or salmon with veggies and a side salad) and several small snacks throughout the day.
8. Practice self-care
Caring for yourself properly is key when eliminating added sugars from your diet. This means making an effort to:
- Exercise regularly. Strength training is especially beneficial because it helps regulate blood sugar, which may result in reduced sugar cravings.
- Catch some z’s. Aim for seven to nine hours a night. This can help keep your hunger-controlling hormones (leptin and ghrelin) from acting out.
- Seek support. If you’re struggling, reach out to a trusted friend or family member. Or, find support in an online forum or blog that focuses on sugar elimination.
- Remind yourself why. You are eliminating added sugars from your diet because you care about your health. Use this as motivation until your cravings subside.