Sugar is in everything making it one of the hardest things to cut out; but fear not, this everyday guide will help tame your sweet tooth and help you ditch sugar for good
Words Hannah Brave
Our top tips to help you ditch sugar
Sugar…the delicious sweet stuff. In moderation and as part of a healthy balanced diet treating yourself to a chocolate biscuit now and then isn’t necessarily a problem. However, for many sugar can become addictive. High sugar diets also cause us to pile on the pounds and are linked to increased risk of a number of health conditions such as PCOS, type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Breaking our over-reliance on sugar is both a mental and physical challenge. However, many find that when they do, they are rewarded by improved concentration, increased energy, weight-loss, clearer skin and a better relationship with food. Whilst cutting sugar out of your diet is tough, you don’t have to be a health guru or an amazing cook to do it. Our everyday guide will help you ditch sugar for life and help you regain control of those cravings.
Just Eat Real Food
The simplest way to cut down on sugar is to eliminate processed foods from your diet and instead cook from scratch using whole food ingredients and lots of vegetables. This way, you know exactly what is going in your food and you can adapt recipes by reducing the sugar content. Simple salads and soups are quick and easy to make, or simply throw some ingredients into a slow cooker for a few hours, whilst you to get on with the rest of your day.
Always Read The Label
If you take a look at the ingredients list of some of the foods in your cupboard, you will be shocked by how often sugar appears. From condiments to breakfast cereals, pasta sauces, yoghurts, baked beans and seemingly healthy snacks, sugar is ubiquitous in the food manufacturing industry. In particular pay attention to the section which says “Carbohydrates (of which sugars)…”. If your brain doesn’t work in grams, the equation to remember is 4g = approximately 1tsp of sugar. When you visualise it like this, you’ll start to realise just how much sugar you’ve been consuming unknowingly.
Eat Whole Grains
Less obvious culprits are foods which get turned quickly into sugar by the body, such as refined or simple carbohydrates like white bread, white pasta, white rice and couscous. Simply switching to whole grain varieties is an easy and effective way to help control blood sugars and improve energy levels.
Identify Your Sugar Triggers
Many of us reach for sugary foods out of habit or for emotional comfort when we are stressed. To break habits you need to identify what your individual triggers are. Do you start the week off with the best intentions but crumble at elevenses? Are the cakes in the office your downfall? Or are you prone to late night snacking? Once, identified you can then start to put in place strategies to tackle these weak moments.
Clear Out Your Cupboards
Studies have shown that people are less likely to crave certain foods when they are not in close proximity to them. Walking to the corner shop late at night in the pouring rain is far less appealing than just grabbing a pack of biscuits out of the cupboard. Out of sight, really can help put sugar out of mind, so clear out any sugary treats that might tempt you. Donating them to a local food bank or taking them into the office to share is a good way to avoid waste.
Have Healthy Snacks On Hand
This is a really good strategy to avoid impulse snacking. Always make sure you have a healthy snack in your bag for on-the-go. Unsalted nuts, boiled eggs, veg sticks and hummus and chia puddings made in a jam-jar are all great options to help you ditch sugar for good.
Start Your Day Right
Eating a breakfast rich in protein and healthy fat has been shown to help reduce snacking on sugary foods later in the day. Ditch the breakfast cereals and toast and instead opt for protein rich alternatives such as eggs and avocado with lots of vegetables like spinach, kale, mushrooms and tomatoes.
Fill up on Fibre
Filling up on fibre from vegetables and whole grains is another great way to curb appetite and reduce sugar cravings. You could also consider taking a high fibre supplement such as Lepicol Lighter (£17.99) which contains seven strains of live bacteria, chromium – an essential mineral that helps the maintenance of normal blood glucose levels, glucomannan – a plant fibre which contributes to weight loss in the context of an energy restricted diet and psyllium husk, which contributes to maintaining normal bowel transit.
Cinnamon really is a secret weapon for those trying to cut sugar out of their diet. Not only is this warming spice a natural sweetener which is delicious sprinkled on porridge and desserts in place of sugar, it also has hypoglycaemic effects, helping us to regulate our blood sugar levels. Cinnamon tea is particularly good at curbing those mid-afternoon or after-dinner sugar cravings.
Use Sugar Substitutes
Other ingredients which can often be substituted for sugar, especially in baking, include sweet potatoes, beetroot, bananas, apple puree or a small amount of dates. The internet is full of inventive recipes. Whilst these do contain natural sugars, they are also packaged with lots of fibre and resistant starch, meaning they cause less of spike in our blood glucose levels. Be careful when simply replacing white sugar with unrefined alternatives such as maple syrup, coconut sugar, rice syrup and honey. Whilst these do have some nutritional benefits over processed white sugar, containing certain vitamins and minerals, they have the same effect on our blood glucose and can be just as addictive, so it’s best to steer clear for a while, until cravings are under control.
Reduce Alcohol Intake
Unfortunately alcohol is a big enemy in the battle against sugar, especially when mixed with fizzy drinks. Cutting down on alcohol will drastically reduce your sugar intake. If you are going to drink, white spirits mixed with soda water and fresh lime is the best option, and also helps you stay well-hydrated.
Balance is Key
Extreme diets and eating regimes rarely work and often going cold turkey isn’t the best strategy. Making long-term and meaningful changes to diet and lifestyle doesn’t happen over-night, and can be a gradual process. If you have that chocolate muffin when meeting a friend for coffee or succumb to the office biscuit stash, don’t beat yourself up about it or devour every sugary snack in sight in despair. The next time you eat you’ll have another opportunity to make healthier choices.