6 easy ways to eat less sugar
I know now is not a good time to start talking about cutting sugar out of your diet. Cookies, candy canes, hot chocolate and cocktails surround us this time of year – an almost inescapable part of holiday gatherings. It feels close to impossible to resist picking up a cookie or accepting a seasonal drink, and you shouldn’t drive yourself crazy over absolute sugar abstinence this season.
Enjoy and indulge in moderation, but begin to educate yourself on how sugar impacts your body and you will have the tools you need to make the transition away from a sugar-loaded diet starting January 1st. Instead of going cold turkey, these tips will help you ease your body away from sugar naturally. Plus, knowing how sugar impacts your body and why it’s important to decrease the amount you consume will help empower smart decisions and healthier choices.
Nothing… when it’s eaten in moderation, on special occasions and not in every meal. Unfortunately, sugar consumption is out of control and sugar is found in almost everything we eat! In the excess amounts sugar is consumed, it can be very detrimental to the body. It throws blood sugar levels out of control and triggers harsh periods of extreme energy followed by lethargy that the body struggles to regulate. In addition to the epidemic of diabetes and blood sugar related health issues, additional impacts of excess sugar on your body include:
- Poor concentration
- Slower metabolism
- Slow/difficult digestion
- Poor sleep cycles
- Lack of energy production
- Increased toxic buildup in your gut that can lead to immune and digestive disorders
- Liver problems
- Poor functioning of the adrenal glands, which play a major role in regulating your energy and mood
- Decreased immunity
- Symptoms of stress and fatigue
- Decreased health/integrity of bodily tissues such as the skin, nails and hair
- Cut it out gradually. Don’t try to start now and don’t go cold turkey, but make a plan to phase it out of your diet by decreasing one sugary food each day. If you have juice (with added sugar) or sugary cereal in the morning, swap it out for a food that has none, and try an apple or banana if you need a sweet fix. Gradually, your body will learn to crave other foods and you will be able to cut out all processed sugars. After about a week away from sugar, your body will start to feel better, crave healthier foods and the longing for sugar after every meal will decrease.
- Make other options readily available. If you don’t have something on hand for when the cravings hit, you are likely to grab the chocolate bar you hid from yourself. The best way to ensure you stick to the plan is to get rid of all foods with added sugar and make naturally sweet foods, like oranges, apples, dates, bananas and pears readily available.
- Reward yourself, and your kids, with healthy treats. Stop associating good things with sweet foods by treating yourself to something that actually rewards your body! If you usually indulge in ice cream after a long day, or give your kids cookies when they finish their homework, make baked apples with cinnamon instead or treat yourself to a walk, yoga class or any other activity that will reward your body and mind for the hard work.
- Make the treats you do give, healthy by using fruits in place of sugar and healthy fats in place of processed ones. It’s impractical to say “I will never eat a cookie ever again”, so learn how to make some of your favorite treats without processed sugars. Mashed bananas, ground dates or raisins and applesauce make good additions to baked goods and add natural sweetness without sugar.
- Spend time in the kitchen. Making time to prepare a healthier meal will help you avoid ordering out, going out to eat, or eating pre-made foods, all of which are often laced with sugar for added flavor. Time in the kitchen will not only ensure that you know exactly what goes into your meals, it will build your appreciation for good food and you will learn how to prepare healthier meals for yourself.
- Make sure you get certain nutrients that help ease the transition away from a sugar-loaded diet. B vitamins, vitamin C, Zinc, chromium and fiber decrease your body’s sugar cravings. Make sure you are getting adequate amounts of these nutrients through a balanced diet on ample vegetables, fruits and whole grains.