Can You Really Slash Sugar From Your Diet?
Trying to tame your sweet tooth? You may have heard, "sugar is in everything." So how can you cut out sugar -- and why is it a good idea?
First, narrow your target to "added sugars" versus natural sugars found in fruit and dairy foods. Starting in July 2018, "added sugars" will be clearly marked on food nutrition labels. Until then, look for these words on ingredient lists: syrup, honey, cane, agave, fruit juice concentrates and words ending in 'ose.' These are simple sugars. "Simple sugars can lead to rapid spikes in blood sugar. This, in turn, triggers a swift increase in insulin, which signals your body to store more fat - especially belly fat," explains registered dietitian nutritionist Kristina LaRue, author of the Flat Belly Cookbook for Dummies.
That spike in blood sugar can wreak havoc on your emotions too. And your hunger cues: when your blood sugar goes way up, it tends to come crashing way, way down, so you may feel hungrier than you would have, had you not consumed that sweet tea.
Crushing your sugar habit is about re-wiring your taste buds. You want to try to get to a point where some really sweet foods and drinks actually taste too saccharin. Surprisingly, this can happen in about a month.
Here's our plan on how to strip some of the sugar from your day:
If it's not in your house, you can't eat it when you're stressed or tired, which is when we tend to crave sugary hits. On the contrary, if your pantry is stocked with foods that provide energy and satisfaction, you'll be less likely to stop for a caramel-drenched latte on the way to work.
Purge your house of sodas, fruit drinks, sweet teas, even sweetened "healthy" drinks like fizzy probiotic beverages. Instead, purchase flavored seltzer waters with zero sugar or artificial sweeteners or drink plain water.
Dump condiments like barbecue sauce or low-fat salad dressings with high fructose corn syrup or sugar.
Dial down the sweetness in yogurts and milk alternatives; sweetened soy milk can have 15 grams of added sugar per serving. Get your taste buds used to plain yogurt sweetened with fruit. (Yes, really!)
Always keep frozen fruit on hand to cure sweet cravings. Frozen raspberries are one of the fruits lowest in natural sugar content and have more fiber than any other berry (9 grams per cup). And, with only 80 antioxidant-rich calories per 1 whole cup, they will likely make your sweet tooth smile.
Start your day with something savory. When the first thing you eat is a white chocolate covered granola bar, it tends to set you up for a day of sweet treats. Instead, grab a cheese sandwich, or a couple hardboiled eggs with a few shakes of curry powder.
To state the obvious, ditch the donuts. Then focus on ways to stay satisfied throughout the work day to avoid sweet splurges.
Don't forget about fats. Make sure your lunch contains some satisfying fat to ward off afternoon cravings. Omega-3 fats are especially satisfying and have even been found to decrease belly fat, says LaRue. Pack flax seed or chia seed topped yogurt for desktop dining. Order omega-3 rich fish for lunch. (See: 9 Ways to Get More Omega-3's in Your Diet)
Type this into your calendar: "Snack on 23 almonds at 3:00 pm," for good monounsaturated fats and 6 grams of satisfying protein. If it's in your calendar it will probably get done.
Plan for sweets. Stress triggers sweet cravings. Keep individually wrapped squares of dark chocolate in your desk. Compared to candy or milk chocolate, dark chocolate keeps your palate focused on less-sweet tastes.
Steer clear of soda. Non-diet soda is an obvious no-go, but even diet soda has crazy-sweet flavor. Remember, you're trying to titrating down your taste buds' love of sweet. Ask to stock the soda machine with some seltzer.
There will be birthday parties, celebrations, and dinners out with friends. No need to make a scene about sugar avoidance. Instead:
Eat before you go. The best way to keep your metabolism functioning at its peak is to eat every three to four hours. So don't go starved, and sugar avoidance will be easier.
Enjoy it! No #foodguilt here. Don't let staying away from sugar become an obsession.
Practice success. "People who are successful at making healthy eating part of their everyday lifestyle are the ones who occasionally treat themselves while also transforming some of their favorite sweet foods into healthier options," explains LaRue. Practice getting back on track.
Serena Ball, MS, RD is a food writer and registered dietitian nutritionist. She blogs at TeaspoonOfSpice.com sharing tips and tricks to help families find healthy living shortcuts. Follow her @TspCurry on Twitter and Snapchat.
*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.