Let’s talk sugar for a minute… we all know sugar is bad. Excess sugar in the diet can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, tooth decay, constipation, suppression of the immune system and hormonal imbalances. Sugar can also cause headaches, migraines, candida, depression, anxiety and it is known to feed cancer cells.
With that being said, how many of you deal with intense sugar cravings or find it hard to give up your favorite sweets??
That used to be me. As a kid, I would come home from school and eat a bowl of Rocky Road ice cream every single day. I would eat cereals loaded with sugar (I even put extra brown sugar to make it sweeter!), donuts with sprinkles, frozen yogurt, fruit roll ups, candy… I loved it all! When I got my driver’s license, the issue only got worse.
To make up for all of the sweets I was eating, I spent hours in the gym and would run a couple miles a day. Even though I was always exercising, I felt bloated and could never lose those last ten pounds that I was trying for. I thought I was eating healthy because I incorporated vegetables and ate a relatively balanced diet.
About four years ago, I made the decision to give up all refined sugar. This meant no cane sugar, evaporated cane juice, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, fructose, sweeteners such as Splenda … the list goes on!! (Did you know there are over 60 names/types of sugar?!)
When I started reading labels, I found that almost everything processed I was eating, contained sugar. Everything from bread, pasta sauce, crackers, granola, Jamba Juice smoothies and even instant oatmeal was loaded with refined sugar.
Check out my top 10 tips for quitting sugar!
1. Educate yourself & start reading labels
There are over 60 different names/types of sugar. Become familiar with the most common types and be sure to thoroughly read the labels of all foods you are buying and consuming. There are so many apps that can help you dissect labels, my favorite is Fooducate! Beware of labels that claim “no added sugar”, often times those products use other forms of sugar you may not recognize.
2. Throw away all processed foods that contain sugar
Check all the food in your pantry/fridge. If it contains refined sugar, throw it out! Buy replacements that are unsweetened and do not contain any refined sugar. Leaving it in the house will only cause temptation!
3. Rethink your beverages
Avoid soda, energy drinks, sports drinks, specialty coffee drinks, fruit juices with added sugar, flavored waters and most alcoholic beverages. Stick to plain or sparkling water, water infused fruits, veggies and herbs and also organic tea.
4. Eat at home and meal prep in advance
Typically, restaurants don’t have your best interest in mind when it comes to health. They design their food to taste good and keep you wanting more. Often times, these foods are loaded with sugars, hydrogenated oils and lots of sodium. Instead of eating out, plan and prep your meals in advance so you won’t be tempted to eat out or grab fast food or a sugary snack on the go. Be sure to include a balance of protein, carbs and healthy fats in each of your meals!
5. Simplify your sauces and dressings
Avoid processed/packaged dressings and sauces because they are likely to contain high amounts of sugars, sodium and preservatives. Stick to lemon & lime juice, olive oil and balsamic (make sure it is sugar free!) for salads. Make your own pasta sauces and spreads using a food processor or blender.
6. Find new ways to manage stress
Many people, including myself, want to eat unhealthy foods when they are stressed or upset. It is important to be aware of this behavior and take time to figure out coping mechanisms that work for you. The next time you are feeling stressed, try meditating, going for a walk or taking a warm bath.
7. Avoid dairy & gluten
Many foods that contain dairy and gluten, also contain sugar. These foods are known to have a negative impact on your health and digestion. Look for foods that are natural gluten free like fruits, veggies, quinoa and brown rice. Swap out your coffee creamer for unsweetened almond or cashew milk (click here to learn how to make your own!) and avoid foods like flavored yogurt.
8. Eat more protein, healthy fats & fiber
Eating a balanced diet full of protein, healthy fats and fiber is essential to feeling your best. Protein helps boost energy and assist in the digestion process. Eating healthy fats such as nuts and avocados can help you to feel fuller and actually enhance your body’s ability to burn fat. Eating more fats will help you to consume fewer carbs and sugars. Fiber is essential to staying full, optimizing digestion and helping to control blood sugar.
9. Eat more fruit
Eating fruit can help curb your sugar cravings. Since the sugar in fruit is naturally occurring, it is a much better alternative to processed sweets! Look for fruits that are low on the glycemic index such as cherries, grapefruit, pears, apples, blueberries and strawberries.
10. Get more sleep
Have you ever noticed that when you’re tired, you don’t “feel” like eating healthy? When you are tired, your body is going to crave sweets for an energy boost. Instead of giving in to temptation, try drinking Matcha for a natural energy boost and schedule at least 8 hours of sleep per night.
Now you may be wondering… Ashley, is there any type of sweetener I can have?!
Yes! I recommend honey, dates, maple syrup and some stevia. Be sure to read the labels and make sure they aren’t adding any funny ingredients like natural flavors, dextrose, erythritol and maltodextrin.
Although these are great natural alternatives, it is still important to limit your intake of all sweeteners. Balance is key!