Just about all of us have heard the nightmare stories of what sugar is doing to our diets and how added sugars are a primary cause of obesity. Yet sugar is perhaps the most difficult thing to wean out of our diets. Are you looking to consume less sugar on an everyday basis, in hopes of losing weight or simply feeling healthier overall? When I tried it myself, I ran into a lot of roadblocks. But hopefully, some of my experiences can help. Here are some simple tips for cutting sugar out of your diet.
- Be realistic.
First, this blog post makes a good point—you have to be realistic as your approach cutting sugar out of your diet. A variety of healthy foods, including fruits, vegetables, and dairy products, all contain natural sugars, so it would be unrealistic to attempt to cut sugar out of your diet completely. You’d be left eating only meat and fat! Instead, focus on gradually weaning added sugars out of your diet. You’ll find added sugars in just about every processed food, including fruit juice, soda, chocolate, desserts, and even savory snacks.
- Prepare food from fresh ingredients.
This tip might require a major change in lifestyle, of course, but it is truly the most effective way you can reduce sugar intake and adopt a more healthy diet. Instead of purchasing ready-made and processed foods, make it a goal to prepare foods from fresh ingredients. That way, you’ll have more control of your sugar intake and will gain a firmer grasp on how much sugar you’re actually consuming. Instead of buying oatmeal packets and fruit-flavored yogurt, for example, buy oats and plain yogurt instead—and then flavor them with different toppings. Instead of buying bottled salad dressing, find a simple recipe online for making salad dressing in your blender. In short, any time you find yourself eating something that was packaged, ask yourself, “Is this something I could be making myself at home?”
- Stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables.
We tend to struggle the most with sugar cravings in between meals. For this reason, it’s a great idea to stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables that you can enjoy whenever you need a quick snack. Baby carrots, celery, sweet mini peppers, apples, bananas, and clementines are my favorite. Find fruits and vegetables you love and make sure you always have some of them around.
- Make fruit your new go-to topping.
Love to pour syrup on pancakes, add sugar to your oatmeal, or eat yogurt that contains added sugars? These are all foods that can be part of a healthy diet, so instead of adding sugar to them, use fresh or frozen fruit instead. You might, for example, find a healthy recipe for protein pancakes and top your pancakes with fresh blueberries and banana slices. Or, you might make homemade oatmeal and top it with fresh strawberries. And instead of eating processed yogurt, opt for plain yogurt with berries or sliced grapes on top.
Want to mix things up? Cinnamon, extracts, almonds, and other nuts make for great topping options as well!
- Replace juice and soft drinks with infused water.
It can be hard to let go of fruit juice and soft drinks, but they are a definitely major source of added sugar. Cutting out juice and soda alone could put you miles ahead toward reaching your dietary goals. Instead of drinking juice and soda, make it a goal to drink water instead. I like to try infusing it with berries, cucumbers, citrus, or mint leaves for added flavor to ease the transition. If you’re a fan of carbonation, you could even try infusing mineral water or plain seltzer water.
- Beware of artificial sweeteners.
Tempted to swap out foods with added sugar for foods that contain artificial sweeteners? Or to add artificial sweeteners to your morning coffee or tea? Don’t! Studies have shown that artificial sweeteners actually interfere with gut bacteria, and they could even increase your risk of developing diabetes or obesity. If you want to add some sweetness to your foods, opt for honey or maple syrup as a natural sweetener instead.
- Have a plan for fighting sugar cravings.
Sometimes no matter what we do, we’re still going to want that something sweet. For this reason, it’s important to find ways to conquer sugar cravings as they hit. This article mentions a few techniques, such as:
- Going on a walk
- Taking a bath
- Getting a massage
- Eating a healthy snack instead
Some healthy snacks that can help curb your sweet tooth include fresh fruit, frozen grapes, banana “ice cream,” trail mix, and natural dark chocolate.
- Exercise first thing in the morning.
This might seem like kind of a random tip, but think about it—exercise makes you feel great. And what’s more, your body naturally craves healthier foods when it’s active. So, if you want to crave sugar less throughout the day, make sure to get at least a short workout in during the morning. You’ll be surprised at the difference it makes!
Maurine Anderson originally hails from Washington, DC, but is now enjoying life out west in Salt Lake City. She is a professional writer and blogger who in her free time loves to create new cake recipes, travel, and practice her hand at photography. She tends to geek out over linguistics, cats, and all things Scandinavia.