6 Strategies to Kick Your Sugar Habit
By Carolyn Suerth Hudson, RDN, LD
January 5, 2016
Donuts, muffins, cakes and bars, pizza, breads and the list goes on. Is the sugar in your food causing you problems? Such as craving sweets or breads? Do you have difficulty losing weight or notice a drop in energy mid to late afternoon? Or perhaps you are insulin resistant, have metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease or nerve damage?
All of these have a common denominator, SUGAR. The problem is the massive amounts and types of carbohydrates we are consuming. The simplified explanation is that eating too many simple sugars and refined carbohydrates, like many of the items listed above, creates inflammation in our bodies and results in many of our current health problems.
Carbohydrates are the source of the sugar in food, but not all carbohydrates are created equal. Many vegetable carbohydrates are absorbed slowly (broccoli, green beans, spinach) and don’t raise blood sugar. On the other hand, sugary foods like candy and processed carbs (bagels, cereal, pasta, muffins) spike blood sugar and lead to inflammation.
So how do we stop eating sugar?
At Nutritional Weight & Wellness, we recommend eating real food and limiting or eliminating refined and man-made carbohydrates. These 6 strategies that have helped my clients kick their sugar habits:
1. Start with protein
Start the day with protein at breakfast and be sure to include a good fat and a few veggies. This will keep you satisfied and keep the sugar cravings away.
Try my favorite breakfast, two eggs scrambled with spinach or kale sautéed in butter or olive oil along with bacon and mushrooms.
2. Eat good fats
Instead of a cookie, grab a handful of almonds or mash up an avocado and serve with some fresh veggies. Cook with coconut oil, add butter to your vegetables and add olive oil to your salads. Healthy fats like these keep your blood sugar balanced and reduce sugar cravings.
3. Stay ahead of hunger
Eat regularly to keep your blood sugar balanced; don’t skip meals or snacks. Stay ahead of your hunger by keeping a protein bar in your purse or filling a small tin with almonds or other nuts to help stave off your hunger.
4. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
You've heard it before, but truly, drink water! Staying hydrated is often key to kicking a sugar habit. Sometimes we feel hunger pangs and reach for food, when what our body really craves is water. To add variety, flavor your water with cucumbers or lemon, or drink herbal tea or beverages without sugar.
5. Plan & celebrate
Make a plan, set an attainable weekly goal, and celebrate your success! Repeat the following week. Try sharing your goal with a close friend or spouse and help support one another as you kick the sugar habit.
Here's an example, plan to eat a healthy afternoon snack next week such as a beef stick and some celery sticks with peanut butter (any healthy protein, fat and carb will do). Put a reminder in your phone so you don’t forget to eat it! The following week, add a new goal and just focus on what is working, don't be hard on yourself for what didn't go well.
6. Be a detective
Read labels and be aware of hidden sugars in foods. Commit to not having highly processed, high carbohydrate foods in your house.
Avoid white foods, white flour, white sugar, white potatoes, white rice and white pasta. Start today by going through your cupboards and fill a garbage bag with all the items you don’t want and throw them away.
I bet you're thinking, what harm could there be in having one of the leftover Christmas cookies? But truthfully, will you eat one or will it be three or four cookies? One cookie has 2½ to 4½ teaspoons of sugar, depending on the variety ... and that's just one cookie! What if you have four? That could be nine to 17 teaspoons of sugar. A better strategy would be to get rid of the leftover cookies by bringing them to the office or a party to share with others (or anywhere to just get them out of the house!).
I hope these strategies will help you kick your sugar habit and improve your health. Do you have a strategy that works for you? If so, please share in the comments section below. For a more personal approach consider making an appointment with me or my fellow nutritionists, we can chat in-person or by phone.
For more help in quitting sugar, check out these resources: