The first food that comes to our mind when we feel moody or fatigued is usually something sweet. And while not all sugar is bad for our health (sugars we find in fruit and vegetables are perfectly fine for you), added sugar can cause great damage to our body. This sugar is the one we add to our meals when we cook or we put into our drinks. It can lead to 2-type diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart diseases, teeth decay, weight gain, and obesity. As we all want to be healthy and look good, we should try and cut added sugar out of our diet as much as possible. The World Health Organization recommends that we reduce our daily added sugar intake to 5 percent of our total energy intake, i.e. approximately 25 grams per day (6 teaspoons). Just imagine – a can of Coke has 39 grams of sugar which means that there is more sugar in one easily drinkable can than you need throughout the day.
Even though most people realize the danger of added sugar, we also know how difficult it can be to stop ourselves from snacking on something sweet. But don’t worry, it’s not impossible and it can be pretty easy if you follow a few simple steps and make them a habit. Here are 23 easy ways to reduce your added sugar intake and stop craving it once and for all.
1. Read Labels
Knowing where the ‘bad’ sugar hides is a great way to kick-start your plan of taking control of your sugar consumption. When you are shopping for food, don’t be lazy to take your time and actually read the labels to know whether the products you want to buy have any added sugar. Ingredients are listed in order from the largest amount to the smallest, so if you see sugar near the top of the list, it’s definitely a red flag. Also, don’t forget that sugar can be hidden by other names, such as glucose, sucrose, maltose, dextrose, fructose, lactose, molasses, high fructose corn syrup, glucose solids, honey, and maple syrup etc.
2. Avoid Low-Fat and Non-Fat Foods
If you have been on a diet at least once in your life, you might have noticed that some people recommend not eating fat or cutting on it as much as possible. But we should realize that not all fats are bad, especially if they are not consumed excessively, and buying low-fat and non-fat foods can actually boost our weight gain since manufacturers have to add a lot of sugar to such products to make them taste better. Don’t be afraid of fat!
3. Buy Unsweetened
Once in a supermarket, look for foods labeled ‘unsweetened’ or ‘no added sugar’. The list of these products includes almond and soy milk, nut butter (choose one with only nuts and salt), oatmeal, applesauce and canned fruit (not packed in syrup, of course!).
4. Eat More Often
If you let yourself get very hungry during the day, you will be more likely to reach for some low-quality, quick energy foods instead of eating a healthy, wisely chosen meal. Research shows that we get those food cravings when we don’t eat regularly, say when we are busy working, and then we are more likely to stuff ourselves with some empty calories at the end of the day. Try to divide your daily energy intake into 4-5 small meals or 3 meals with healthy snacks in between.
5. Drink More Water
We often tend to mistake thirst for hunger and therefore fill ourselves up with unnecessary calories including those from sweet snacks. The best way to avoid that is to keep yourself hydrated sipping on some fresh water throughout the day. Doing this will help your body to understand better when it actually needs fuel.
6. Avoid Alcohol Drinks and Soda
Did you know that a glass of wine could be as caloric as a piece of chocolate and your soda contains more sugar than you need in a day? Replace all or at least most of those drinks with fresh water with some lime or lemon, and if you still need some bubble, drink soda water, plain or with lemon.
7. Ease Yourself Off Sweet Tea
Tea is a low-calorie drink which can be good for our health lowering the risk of cancer, heart disease,
8. Eat More Fresh Foods and Stop Buying Processed Foods
Packaged food is known for containing a lot of added sugar. Try to cook at home as much as possible avoiding boxes, and reach for fresh fruit and plain yogurt as a snack instead. This will help you to control your sugar intake, staying satiated at the same time.
9. Make Your Own Spaghetti/Tomato Sauce
Of course, it’s difficult to stop buying ready-made products from supermarket. But you can at least try to replace some of them with homemade foods. For example, instead of using store-bought tomato sauce, which is usually high in added sugar, make your own – just simmer some fresh tomatoes with your favorite herbs. You can add a little bit of sugar – it will still be much less than in the store-bought sauce.
10. Make Your Own Salad Dressing
Another common hiding place for added sugar is your store-bought salad dressings. Make your own using three parts of your favorite oil (extra virgin olive oil, walnut oil, and avocado oil are the best) to one part vinegar, some lemon juice, a pinch of salt and pepper, some dried herbs and maybe even a bit of honey if you need some more sweetness. This is not just tasty and healthy, but it will also help you to control your sugar intake.
11. Choose Whole, Fresh Fruit
Fruit is good for our health but only whole and fresh ones can provide us with good sugars and vitamins. So avoid dried, dehydrated fruit and juice as it contains all the sugar from the fruit and is lacking fiber which is essential for our digestive system and overall body health.
12. Adjust Your Recipes
Sweet things are a hit with the family, of course, but most recipes can do well without excessive sugar. Try halving the amount of sugar you normally add to your dishes.
13. Spice Things Up
Adding vanilla extract, citrus zest or some spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and turmeric to your meals can give your food new flavor that can replace the sweetness you’re used to – and for zero calories! Some spices are known for naturally regulating blood sugar, which helps to control your appetite, too.
14. Never Go Fake
While trying to quit sugar, many people turn to different artificial sweeteners. But instead of helping it can actually mess your taste up as your body will expect calories and nutrition and you will not receive that using fake sugars. Using these in your diet can actually lead to a weight gain rather than los.
15. Think Protein and Fat and Eat Healthy Snacks
You know what you shouldn’t eat…but what can you? Fresh fruit and veggies should be your best friends, but when you feel like you need something more, just grab a hard-boiled egg, avocado, or some nuts and seeds. The key is to get plenty of protein, some healthy fats, and fiber. They will minimize the rapid rise and fall of blood sugar keeping you full for longer contrary to what simple carbs do. With time you will stop expecting sugar in every meal.
16. Avoid Flavored Yogurt
Fruit-flavored yogurt looks healthy but often contains up to 24 g of sugar. Instead of going for this treat, buy some plain yogurt and add some fruit, berries or/and nuts. It won’t be less tasty but will considerably decrease your sugar intake.
17. Get Enough Sleep
Eating simple carbs gives our body an almost immediate spike of blood sugar and, therefore, quick energy, that’s why we tend to reach for them when we are tired and are trying to fight that fatigue. But this feeling is short-lasted and after that, you feel crashed and even more fatigued craving more and more sugar. These ups and downs of blood sugar and insulin can play a bad joke with us over the years changing natural insulin production and eventually leading to 2-type diabetes and heart diseases. To avoid that just don’t forget to give your body a nice night rest!
18. Don’t Go Cold Turkey
Saying no to sugar totally and suddenly can be unrealistic for many people. That’s why once determined to cut added sugar out of your diet, you should try and do it slowly and gradually over a period of time. In that way, your body has more time to adapt to changes and stop relying on sweets as a clutch. Just put half as much sugar into your coffee every week so you can eventually cut it out completely without noticing the change.
19. Give Yourself Rules About Dessert
If you’re used to eating desserts every day, try to cut your sugar intake just to having them at first. After you get comfortable with that, limit the number of desserts you have. Give yourself certain days when you can allow yourself such a treat, like even days, weekends or some special occasion.
20. Try Dark Chocolate
If you crave sugar in the form of chocolate the most, try to switch to dark chocolate. It’s much better for you and has multiple health benefits and you will probably not want to go for an entire bar like you would with milk chocolate.
21. Track Your Sugar Intake
There are many apps that can help you to track what you eat and show how much sugar you’ve consumed. MyFitnessPal, for instance, allows you to use your phone camera to scan foods with their bar-codes to get a full nutritional breakdown.
22. Don’t Keep Treats In The House
It’s as simple as that – if you don’t have sugar in your house – you won’t eat it! If you have a huge bar of chocolate in your cupboard, you’re bound to eat it sooner or later. Don’t go shopping when you’re hungry and just try not to buy sweets and even if you crave them sometimes, just go and buy a single portion – there are high chances that you won’t want to go in the first place!
23. Stick With It
All in all, cutting down on sugar can seem an impossible task. But with time your taste buds will adjust and you will start craving sweet less. Ice cream and candy will start tasting too sweet and just a few bites of cake will be enough. You’ll taste the natural sweetness in veggies and fruit – and yep, you’ll love it! So even if you have a sweet tooth, it’s easy to beat your sugar obsession as soon as you set your mind to it. Make these steps part of your life and you can say hello to a healthier life!