One Week to Beat Your Cravings for Sweets

Block of Sugar

Photo Credit: NY Times Magazine

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.Food Label Image

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.

Dried apricots, dates, raisins 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.

 

 

Comments

  1. Mary Andress says:

    I noticed when I got rid of sugar out of my diet, naturally sweet foods like fruit tasted so much sweeter to me than before. It was like my taste buds were awakened! And I don’t crave sugar like I used to. After the first few days, giving up sugar was ” a piece of cake”. Ha – Just kidding. You truly do feel better after the first few days.

  2. Great tips Julie! I have to agree. I use dried fruits more than ever and they really do satisfy my sweet tooth. And, fruit in general, such as berries and grapes taste much sweeter when you start to avoid sugar and add so much great nutrition to the diet.

  3. Dried fruits are like nature’s candy, but beware of the high calorie level. They can add up pretty quickly! right now I’m loving dried white peaches (Trader Joe’s) but find it hard to stop at just 2 halves. It’s so easy to do a “fly-by” and grab one throughout the day.

  4. Great blog!! I am really excited to try these tips! I just jumped off my chair to go figure out what I will do with my morning coffee so that I can start the days totally sugar free! :)
    And I also realized I had never read the ingredient list on my non-dairy vanilla coffee creamer…WHOA!! My husband might freak out a little, but that nastiness is already in the trash can…

  5. Danielle, I know from several people who have done this that the am coffee/ tea is the hardest habit to break. Some of the dietitians I know even went OFF coffee altogether because they could not drink it with sugar or Splenda….I drink tea so got used to unsweetened almond, soy or coconut milk in my tea in a couple days….

    Once you get over that am hump, it will be fairly easy…

    Julie

  6. In looking for a healthy, sweet ready to go snack I reach for a Kind bar. They are super good and all natural. Lots of flavors too!

  7. Julie this great! I know you and this strategy really helped me kick sugar back when I wanted to cut calories for bike racing!
    I just tossed out a frozen bag of left over birthday party treats( into the dumpster!) I was stealth snacking….

    So we’ll see how it goes! Lucky I don’t like sweetened coffee!

  8. Those are great tips! Just what I and most people needed, specially those with sweet tooth. THank you for sharing it.

  9. Pauline Longchamp says:

    great article. lots of surprise info

  10. Jenna Martin says:

    I so badly need to get off the sugar I have been consuming for months now.I know a week is needed to detoxify but I can’t imagine having my coffee without it. Even during periods where I’m sugar free, I have to have it in my a.m. coffee. Anyone with any ideas?

  11. I’m wondering where honey and maple syrup (the real stuff) fit in — do you consider those sugar substitutes?

  12. Camille,

    Honey, maple syrup, agave are all considered added sugars. Sugar substitutes generally is the term us (dietitians) use for calorie-free sugar subs like Splenda, Stevia, etc.

    Julie

  13. Hi Julie. Anise here from TCF.
    I’ve been off sugar since the New Year. You kind of stop counting how many days after a while. If I want something sweet – I go for fruit.

    The only difficulty has been social. Every party on the planet is LOADED with sugar!!! ugh. The bright side of that is opening discussion about sugar to those who might not really know about the addiction.

    Thanks for the informative posts.

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