You’re not a lone if you struggle to cut down on sugar in your diet. Eating sugary foods might feel satisfying at first, but can do a lot of harm to the body over time. It’s the one food group that many of us crave due to its addictive nature. Did you know that sugar is actually considered a toxin? If you’re looking to cut down on sugar in your diet, start with these tips.
When we consume sugar, it releases dopamine in the body, also known as “the feel good” hormone. This explains why when we are feeling overwhelmed or stressed, a sweet treat temporarily makes us feel better. This also explains why sugar is addictive. Who wouldn’t want to feel pleasure all the time?
This is not to say that you shouldn’t eat sugar at all. Sugar in more natural forms and balanced amounts can be a part of a healthy diet.
But what happens when we consume too much sugar? Over time, it can lead to increased inflammation in the body, disrupt the gut microbiome which can cause digestive problems, promote acne, and accelerate the aging process. Sugar in excess can also increase the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even cancer.
What’s the difference between added sugar and natural sugar?
Simply put, added sugar is sugar that has been added during the processing or cooking of the food, or any time before consumption. Natural sugar is naturally occurring in its whole food form before processing, as found in fruits, vegetables and dairy.
You might notice that nutrition labels are now calling out the total grams of added sugar in foods. This is important because while being aware of the overall amount of sugar is good, knowing how much sugar was added during processing can be truly eye opening.
The 30-Day No Sugar Added Challenge
Even though I try to opt for more natural sweeteners (which we will discuss in a minute), my sweet tooth can still get out of control. I’ll find myself craving something sweet after meals and for snacks. And although the treat might be made with coconut sugar or maple syrup, added sugar is still added sugar.
Related recipe: No Sugar Added Granola Clusters
To challenge myself and reset my cravings, I’ve decided to commit to 30 days of no sugar added during the month of July. I’m not a big fan of restriction when it comes to foods, but sometimes, an intentional reset is good for the body and can increase awareness around the body and habits. I’m planning to do a recap at the end of the month to let you know how it went. Stay tuned!
In the spirit of cutting back on sugar, let’s discuss a few tips for doing so without feeling totally deprived of the sweet things.
7 Ways to Cut Down on Sugar in Your Diet
1. Opt for more natural sweeteners.
When moving towards a whole foods, nutrient-dense diet, there are some changes you can make before deciding to completely remove added sugars. Some of my favorite healthy swaps for natural sweeteners include: real maple syrup, raw local honey, and coconut sugar.
- Maple syrup and honey can replace corn syrup
- Coconut sugar can replace both white sugar and brown sugar
2. Become a food ingredient sleuth.
You wouldn’t believe the places that sugar can show up in your foods. When scoping out a food to see if it has added sugar, don’t just look at the nutrition label. Read the ingredients and keep an eye out for the following: words that end in “ose”, syrups, nectars, juices, and any mention of sugar or sweetener. All of those warning words translate to added sugar.
Condiments, sauces, beverages and breads are all foods that added sugar can sneak into that you might not otherwise realize.
3. Consume healthy fats.
Where there’s sugar, there’s usually cravings. Incorporating healthy fats into your day can help satisfy cravings in a healthier way by providing a decadent taste experience.
Related recipe: No Sugar Added Chocolate Avocado Pudding
4. Satisfy your sweet cravings in natural ways.
When you are cutting back on added sugars, look to satisfy your sweet tooth with natural foods. Increasing the fruits and vegetables (specifically sweet potatoes, winter squash, carrots and beets) in your diet will not only help satisfy cravings, but boost your health with additional vitamins and minerals.
Related recipe: No Bake Key Lime Pie Energy Bites
Cooking tip: Baking something and want to attempt the recipe with no added sugars? Swap the sweetener with fruit puree, like applesauce or mashed banana, and add in extra cinnamon and vanilla extract!
Swap sugary drinks for healthier ones.
This is a given, but too important to pass over. Instead of drinking your calories, opt for the whole food version instead (ahem, like fruit juice). Make it interesting and flavorful with naturally infused waters and herbal teas!
Use spices to your advantage.
There are certain spices that have a sweet effect on foods, such as cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg. When reducing overall sugars, add one or all of these spices to your morning coffee, oatmeal, smoothies and baked goods for a no sugar added, sweet treat.