Figuring out how to stop eating sugar is no easy task—without help. There is sugar in seemingly everything these days and achieving a low sugar diet can sometimes feel impossible when doing the weekly shop.
Everything from bread to beer contains sugar, and the trick is learning which foods contain more, and which you can comfortably cut out of your diet.
In this article we’ll run through various schools of thought on how to cut sugar out of your diet, to find what will work best for you.
The effects of sugar on your body
Sugar plays havoc with your body. As well as causing obesity, it’s a leading cause of diabetes, cancer, tooth decay and heart disease.
It’s important to note, however, that we’re talking about added sugars here. The sugar you’ll find in, say, an orange, is fine, as fruits are packed with nutrients.
Most of us, whether we’re aware of it or not, eat far too much sugar on a daily basis. The average US citizen, for example, consumes 68 grams per day—that’s a whopping 17 teaspoons. This is way over the recommended maximum: 25 grams for females and 37 grams for males – Dear god!
How to cut out sugar
Dodge the desserts
Tasty though they may be, desserts offer little in the way of actual nutrition. They’re crammed full of sugar, which can cause your blood sugar levels to spike and then crash, leading to tiredness, hunger, and a desire to consume even more sugar.
Almost a fifth of the sugar in the US diet comes from desserts.
Instead of going for something that oozes cream and chocolate, opt for a healthier dessert: fresh fruit, yoghurt, or dark chocolate. Tasty, yet you won’t feel sluggish and see your waistline expand.
Ditch the sugary drinks
Almost half the sugar found in the average American’s diet comes from soda, sport drinks and energy drinks. 44%, in fact!
Fruit drinks are included in this too—though they’re marketed as ‘healthy’, they’re still packed with sugar.
Drinking is a poor way of maxing out your daily calorie allowances because drinks don’t satisfy hunger, meaning you may well have reached your calorie limit for the day before you’ve even had lunch, simply through drinking sugary drinks.
Leave them on the shelf, and drink water, tea or (a little) coffee!
Choose whole foods
By this, we mean foodstuffs that are unprocessed and haven’t been pumped full of additives. Cooking from scratch at home is a great way to ensure your food isn’t processed.
Highly processed foods, such as certain kinds of desserts, soda, and junk food in general, are not only high in sugar, but also in salt and fat.
Cooking simple dishes with meat and vegetables marinated in homemade sauces and herbs will cut out a huge amount of sugar from your diet.
Choose low-sugar cereals
Breakfast cereals are notorious for being loaded with high amounts of sugar—even ones which claim to be healthy. In fact, some of the most popular American cereal brands contain almost half their weight in added sugar—a fact which should be shocking to anybody looking to cut the white stuff from their diet.
In addition to cereal, many breakfast foods such as waffles, pancakes and muffins are full of sugar. In fact, it’s very easy to have exceeded your recommended daily allowance for sugar before you’ve even left the breakfast table.
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If you want to avoid this, instead opt for oatmeal with fruit, avocado, eggs, and Greek yoghurt.
All of these are good for your body and low in sugar—not to mention damn tasty.
Double check labels
Frustratingly, it’s not enough to trust branding that says food is ‘healthy’. Always read the label! Many foods touted as being low-fat compensate for this by being very high in sugar, for example.
Always take a look at the ingredients on the back of your food, and look out for any of these sneaky alternative names for sugar: caramel, molasses, rice syrup, maltose, dextrose, high-fructose corn syrup, cane sugar/juice, invert sugar.
Also, be aware that the higher any of these names are to the top of the ingredients list, the higher percentage of the foodstuff is composed of them.
Eat plenty of protein rich foods and natural fats
Protein keeps you feeling full for longer than sugar does, as many protein-rich foods are slowly broken down and digested. Conversely, sugar actually serves to increase your appetite by slowly the signals from your brain that let you know your stomach is full.
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This is why it’s so easy to overeat and binge on sweet, sugary foods such as candy and rich desserts (guilty as charged!).
Protein can help with this by keeping your feeling fuller for longer, while fat is high in energy (healthy fats, such as those found in nuts, avocado and salmon) and can work to reduce hunger.
Use natural sweeteners
Sugar is incredibly addictive, whether we notice it or not in our daily lives. In addition, as with certain drugs and alcohol, over time we can gain a tolerance to it, requiring us to up our intake of sugar to feel satisfied. It’s even possible to experience withdrawal symptoms from lack of sugar if you quit from a high-sugar diet to one low in sugar.
If giving up sugar in your food is proving difficult, you can try natural sugar alternatives such as stevia, erythritol and xylitol. These are all every bit as sweet as sugar, but come with far fewer calories and won’t cause spikes in your blood sugar.
Learning how to cut sugar from your diet is tricky and not a rapid process, however over time, you should be able to reduce your daily intake to well below the level of the average American.
This will lead to a whole host of benefits, including reduced cancer risk, less chance of heart problems, less body fat, and more energy in your day to day life.
What’s not to love! Go smash it guys, you’ve got this.