Sugar detox is not an uncommon phrase to hear these days, but knowing how to stop sugar cravings can be a really difficult thing to get the hang of.
Since refined sugars are filling 80% of the items on the shelves in our grocery stores, it’s literally unavoidable these days. Taking the time to get yourself well informed is the first start in successfully cutting back.
Everyone is different when it comes to healthy eating and setting goals. Cold turkey works for those special few people, but for the rest of us, it usually leads to a failure. It seems, the second you put the instant pressure of no sugar on yourself is one second before you crave all the sugar you can find.
From morning coffees to pasta sauces for dinner, sugar is in just about everything these days. So let’s talk through all the different ways you can start making changes toward a sugar balanced life. Finding a happy place when it comes to sugar can greatly benefit your brain, body and mood. There is no better time than the present to get yourself informed and start heading in the right direction.
Before we get started on a great sugar detox plan, let’s break down what it is about sugar we that’s got everyone running the other way in the first place?
Most people have heard by now that rats choose sugar over cocaine; 40 rats out of 43 to be exact. If that fact doesn’t creep you out enough, let’s talk about what it does to your bod.
Low calorie or low fat foods often suck in our attention at the grocery store. Especially for those of us wanting to get better health. Truth is, these products are usually chalked full of sugars or sugar substitutes. Well intentioned people are checking nutrition labels, seeing that the calories or fat content are low and considering it healthy. However, if the sugar content is high the fat content may as well be too. When your body gets too much sugar, more than it can use on energy, our bodies wind up storing it as fat. Nutrition label really get tough when they start using those sneaky names for sugars.
Instead of calling a spade a spade, there are nicely disguised sugars hiding on the shelves that you may not even realize are there. Things like corn sweetener, dextrose, fructose, glucose, fruit juice concentrates, sucrose, evaporated cane juice, and xylitol. Some of these may even sound like a healthy option, but ultimately they are all reacting in your body the same way as sugar. Food companies can get really tricky when it comes to marking sugar on their nutrition label. A lot of times, if foods don’t actually contain sugar they can work their way around having to list it. It’s true, actual sugar may not be in the product, but sugar “knock offs” definitely could be.
Honey and maple syrups are sweeteners you will find listed in your products as well. When it comes to these 2 ingredients I believe each person has to come to their own conclusions. I myself went through a lot of inner battles when trying to learn about sugars and eventually decided that things that were naturally made were ok by me. Let me edit that a little; naturally made and in their whole state. Besides basic processing, no tampering or changing of honey and maple syrup take place. They are both naturally nature made. If taking this route, make sure to buy organic and still check that ingredient list!
If you are trying to lose weight or get healthy, sugar should be considered your mortal enemy. Refined or processed sugars do three things really well: cause weight gain, make you tired and make you even hungrier. They will literally fool your brain into thinking you’re still hungry, when in reality, you’re not. Safe to say, these are all three things you definitely don’t want if you are trying to get yourself on the right health track.
Not only does sugar play jokes on your body as far as making you feel hungry and keeping you on the couch; it also could be sucking your happiness. Similar to the use of drugs like cocaine, sugar use will spike your serotonin levels when first eaten in large amounts. Serotonin being a chemical made by our bodies that increases happiness. If you continue this type of eating your brain will eventually adapt and stop producing serotonin.
The good news about this is that if you keep your body on a healthy, balanced and plant strong diet, these serotonin spikes won’t affect you. If you are one of those people who enjoys a small treat after an otherwise healthy day of eating, these are concerns you don’t have to worry about.
So how much do I mean when I say a small treat?
The healthy amount of sugar for children is 16g per day. While the average adult should stay between 26-34g per day. Let’s simplify this:
4 gram = 1 teaspoon
Trying to stay within healthy sugar range can be trickier than you may realize. For example; a healthy yogurt on-the-go option for kids has 8g of sugar and has sugar listed as the second ingredient. This means your child is already half way to their recommended sugar intake for the day. Don’t forget to take the time to consider the peanut butter sandwich that may have also been packed in their lunch. Both the bread and peanut butter could have sugar in them and 1 tablespoon of jelly alone contains 12g of sugar.
What about your lunch?
After starting to learn about sugars and what exactly is in my food I was shocked to find one of my healthy breakfast granola bars was loaded with 11g of sugar and again, sugar was the second ingredient. The packaging boasts made with whole grain oats and 190 calories. These marketing tricks are what suck customers like me in in the first place.
Even one cup of the average full fat vanilla yogurt there is another 17g. Just the bar and yogurt alone already have us teetering at our daily intake limit.
These are the potential sugar amounts in one meal alone. Throw in any coffee creamers, sodas or desserts you might have in your day and alarm bells start going off.
Facts are great, but what can we do to actually make some healthier changes?
*The post contains affiliate links. If you choose to make any purchases, I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you. Everything I recommend I do so because I personally love it and I know you would too.
Lets start with making healthier swaps for the foods we talked about above.
Greek yogurt is becoming more and more popular, but many still don’t think it tastes all that great; especially compared to sugared up vanilla yogurt. If you are wanting to try making the switch from regular yogurt to Greek, I highly recommend getting yourself some frozen berries too. Blending Greek yogurt together with berries and 2 tsp of honey will help naturally sweeten up this otherwise tart yogurt.
You can also take this opportunity to load up some other goodies on top. Like shredded almonds, a few dark chocolate chips, and some chia seeds. Talk about a nutrition packed breakfast.
*This post contains affiliate links. For more information see my disclosures.
When it comes to swapping our your breakfast bar, the new Larabar has a whopping 23g of sugar per bar. I still highly recommend pick up a pack of these. Let’s talk about why this sugar is far different from my original breakfast bar.
First of all, Larabars only have 3-4 ingredients and sugar is not one of them. Dates are the top ingredient in these bars.
Dates are a great way to get your sweet taste without all the refined sugar because your body can actually process them correctly. In one cup of dates, there is 93g of naturally occurring sugars and along with it, 12g of fiber.
These types of foods, like dates, fruits and berries that contain sugar also contain fiber. Because they contain fiber, the body processes them much differently than it does refined sugar products. The fiber allows the digestion process to slow down, so the sugar is slowly used. Not only will this help heal any leaky gut struggles you may be facing, it also prevents increases in blood sugars and fat.
Because of this, a Larabar is a far better choice than a sugar filled whole grain granola bar. Your body has a far better chance of getting lasting.
Thrive Market online has a full selection of Larabars. Click Here to get 25% off and FREE shipping on your first Thrive Market purchase!
Dates are also amazing beyond your morning breakfast bar. There are so many great desserts that can be built completely around dates. I will do my best to get some of my favorite ones up on the blog ASAP. For now, check these ones out: Fig Bars, ice cream, chocolate muffins. These are great desserts you can indulge in when you are trying to cut back on your sugar intake. If you are just beginning your transition, these are great because you have options to add a little sugar or avoid it completely. They are all also gluten free and dairy free for those struggling with allergies
Take 15 minutes out of your day to jot down what you eat and drink in an average day. Go through your cupboards and give nutrition labels a quick glance. Go online and browse your favorite hand crafted beverages. Most coffee places should have a list of their ingredients and nutrition facts. How are you doing when it comes to consuming the recommended amounts of sugar?
If you are finding yourself way above the recommended limits, now is your chance to make a change. It’s time to sit down and come up with sugar cutting ideas. Like I said earlier, I think cold turkey is the best way to lead to a “relapse.” Eating well has always worked best for me when I find ways to maintain balance. This helps me keep my sanity and prevent me from bingeing on junk food as soon as I’m within range.
Let’s start with a morning coffee. If you make it at home, that’s a great start! Specialty drinks usually contain enough sugar to last you for a week and are definitely to a good idea to start off your morning! That caffeine won’t do you any good if you ultimately wind up eating more and find yourself on the business end of a sugar crash come 2pm.
If you are a strait black coffee drinker, great. Then you have no need to cut back on your creamer or sugar scoops. However, if you are one of those who likes to sweeten up your morning beverage, try cutting back to just the serving size recommendation. If you are anything like my husband, half your morning coffee may be strait up creamer. Taking the initiative to stick with the serving size amount should not only help you dial down your intake, but it will be easier to keep track of how much sugar you are consuming.
Thrive Market also offers great cacao, turmeric and super food creamers. If you’re gonna sweeten, this is the way to go! Click Here to get 25% off and FREE shipping on your first Thrive Market purchase.
If you are working on creating healthy habits and have been starting your day with a fruit loaded smoothie, that is awesome. Just keep an eye on those ingredients. If you are using yogurt, try tossing in a banana instead. If you are using sweetened milk (this includes skim milk) swap out for unsweetened or even try using water and ice. My personal favorite smoothie to start the day is my kale smoothie.
If you are looking at cutting sugars in hopes to lose weight, check out what I had to say about weight loss shakes.
My top suggestion all around is drink more water! I read an article once about why French women can eat bread and cheese all day and still be thinner than most American women. The main reason was that they save their calories (and sugars) for their food. When it comes to drinks, they stick to the two W’s: water and wine. Not a bad idea, right?
Like your morning beverage, watch our for those sodas or juices you might be sipping alongside your afternoon eats. If it’s soda, and you just can’t go cold turkey, might I highly suggest, cracking it open, pouring half into a glass and immediately throwing the rest away. Yes, this is me asking you to throw away half of what you paid for, but really you’re saving yourself in the long run.
When I go out, I know I tend to indulge al little on those fruity drinks like strawberry lemonade. Truthfully, my favorite part of buying lemonade is to drink half, put the rest in the fridge and save it rest for the next day. I feel like I get spoiled two days in a row instead of one. Plus, I spread out those sugars instead of downing them all in one sitting.
What are you eating alongside your morning coffee? Do you usually opt for a muffin or pastry? If so, I’m sorry, that can be a hard habit to break. If that’s the case, I highly recommend one of these two recipes to get you started: 3 ingredient waffles, or protein pancakes. These are two of my favorite ways to start the day with a big carb load without added sugars. Topping these healthy recipes with fruit and a tablespoon of maple syrup is a great way to cut back on sugars if you prefer a grain filled breakfast in the morning.
If your lunches tend to be sandwich based, try swapping heavy bread for a light wrap.
If you are eating foods with sauces or dressings, keep an eye on those bad boys. Make a big effort to use less.
This leads us to my favorite time of day: dinner and dessert.
Just for fun, I’m going to take dessert first today. Most people save dessert for the very end of the day. Let’s talk about why this is all wrong. After dinner, the majority of us tend to park it. We catch up on bills, watch TV, play games or read a book. All of that sugar will just sit there going greatly unused. Making a habit of this will catch up to you after a while.
The best time for dessert is actually immediately following a workout. If you had a tough workout, your body has just burned through its resources and is looking to replenish. This is your best shot to have those sugars be put toward replenishing your energy. I’m not saying do a grueling hour long workout and immediately eat an entire DQ Blizzard. I’m saying, if you’re planning a small indulgence, after the gym is your best time to go for it. Any time you can make sure your body will make the most out of what it’s consuming, the better.
Now comes dinner. I am a big lover of comfort food dinners. Chicken, mashed taters, and steamed veggies. Yum. Cooking whole meals can make dinner one of the easiest in my opinion. However, if you find yourself doing a lot of running around in the evenings, more often than not, your quick fix is a frozen or prepackaged meal.
So, I’ll say it again, glance at those ingredients. Things like pasta sauces often have added sugars that you don’t need especially on top of pasta at the end of the night. Again, this is a great time to cut back on the amount of sauce you use. It might be a good time to reconsider what go-to sauces you buy. Before tossing a jar of spaghetti sauce into your cart, scan the ingredients. Don’t just check the sugar content, because tomatoes themselves have sugar. See also the ingredient list. If sugar is one of the first few ingredients, keep looking!
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There are so many natural sugars, like the ones we discussed before. While it’s not always easy to turn town a Twix bar for a handful of grapes, this will actually work!
Remember, fruit sugars are ones we don’t have to be afraid of. Especially if you’re making the swap from refined or artificial sugars. Here’s a list of the 10 best fruits to get you started:
These fruits are some of the best tasting and higher sugar fruits out there. My personal favorites being berries and grapes. When you have that pull to just pop things in your mouth, these ones are perfect to give you that constant eating feeling without the regrets.
I also highly recommend swapping regular berries for frozen berries on occasion. I love eat them this way. It’s a great way to trick your body into thinking it’s getting a popsicle or sherbet.
As you start to ween your body off sugar, especially if you are someone who could be a self diagnoses sugar addict, you may experience some withdrawal symptoms. Hang tight and know that this is just your body going through a detox process. This is a great time to turn to those natural sugar sources like fruit. This is also a great chance to distract yourself with a long walk.
Moderate outdoor exercise is a great way to help replenish low serotonin levels that may have been diminished due to sugar. Not only will your body appreciate the movement, it will also thank you for soaking up some sunlight.
Another great way to increase your serotonin levels are just by thinking happy thoughts. If Peter Pan can fly, so can you, right? Yeah, no. But our brains appreciate happy thoughts and memories. So take the time to give yourself a re-run of life’s finer moments.
Keeping yourself lifted up and feeling good is the easiest way to make any change in life. The first step is to want it and any steps after that are up to you.
As always, be gracious with yourself. Be forgiving. If you pick up something from that 80% of the grocery store isle, it’s ok. One set back doesn’t mean failure. It just means your human and you can try a little harder the next time
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