I had (past tense) a major sweet tooth.
But after reading one research paper after another about the metabolic consequences of added sugars in our diet, its addictive qualities and impact on our hunger, I’ve been sugar-free (well…almost) for 30 days.
I feel like I’ve kicked my bad sugar habit once and for all.
Below are the five steps that I took to lick my sugar cravings. Try all five strategies for seven consecutive days to help readjust your taste buds. At the end of the week, you’ll be surprised at how great you’ll feel without the sweet stuff.
1. Nix all sources of liquid sugars in your diet. Since sodas and other sweetened beverages provide about half of all the added sugar in the typical American diet, they’re the first to jettison. They don’t contribute to fullness so you won’t miss them.
2. Avoid using sugar substitutes. This was really hard for me for the first two days, but then I didn’t miss it whatsoever. Because sugar substitutes are more intensely sweet than cane sugar, once you get accustomed to their level of sweetness, it takes more natural sweeteners to be sweet-satisfied. They may also affect the natural hunger hormones as well, making it harder to control your appetite.
3. Become a Sugar Sleuth. For one week, read the Nutrition Facts and ingredient list for everything you eat and drink. If “sugars” on the label are more than 8 grams, go directly to the ingredient list and skip it if you see a form of added sugars in the ingredient list. If there is no sugar in the ingredient list, it means that the food or beverage contains natural sugars; we don’t we don’t worry about them because they’re not “metabolically equivalent” to added sugars.
(Common cues that equal added sugar in ingredient lists include sucrose, dextrose, sorbitol, mannitol, honey, agave, dextrin, maltodextrin, high fructose corn syrup and any other syrup. For the most part, if there is an “-ose,” or “-ols” it means it’s a sugar. Although sucralose is a sugar substitute.)
4. Start Each Day Sugar-Free. Starting your day off right is one of the best ways to stay on track with any diet. For me, a sugar-free breakfast would be eggs & veggies or egg white omelets. Research shows that eating eggs for breakfast, compared to toast or bagels, eat fewer calories over a 24-hour period, most likely because eating eggs doesn’t cause the same blood sugar and insulin response as a carbohydrate-rich breakfast. I also opt for plain oatmeal with Greek yogurt or peanut butter; fresh fruit; dried fruit and nuts; baked potatoes with low-fat cottage cheese or low-fat cottage cheese with cherry tomatoes. I even find leftovers from dinners are a great way to keep any cravings for sweets tempered during the day.
5. Learn to Love Natural Sugars. Don’t think about what you can’t have; focus on what you can eat and drink. For sweets, try dried fruit, (dates are sugar like candy to me now), fresh fruit, roasted veggies, and caramelized onions. There are many foods that provide natural sweetness—they’ve just been pushed aside by the more intensely sweet crystal whites.
After a Sugar-Free Week
After seven days sugar-free, your desire for sweets should be vastly reduced. If you want to reintroduce small amounts of added sweeteners, start by incorporating them into meals, as sugars eaten with other foods are less harmful than when they’re eaten alone. Try to keep your sugar intake to the American Heart Association’s limits for added sugars: 100 calories (6 tsp) for women and 150 calories (9 tsp) for men.