Cutting Out Sugar? Where to Start?
By Teresa Wagner, RD, LD
September 19, 2023
Many of our clients tell us that sugar is a problem for them. Once they start eating sugar they can’t stop. Then their joints swell up, or it makes them feel depressed. They get frustrated with how it feels to be out of control around sugary sweets and treats. Does that sound like you? If so, how do you cut the sugar from your diet?
Sugar is hidden everywhere and you practically have to be a detective to find it. The graph below shows how much sugar the average American is eating compared to the amount of sugar recommended by the American Heart Association.
That’s a ton of sugar! For comparison, 30 years ago the average American ate 30-50 pounds less sugar per year than we eat today. What a difference. So where is it all coming from?
Where Is Sugar Hiding?
One of the culprits (but not the only one!) are added sugars. This is the sugar that is added to foods or beverages to make them sweet or even sweeter. We’re talking about candy, cakes, donuts, pastries, ice cream or beverages like sodas and fancy coffee drinks, ketchup (yes, most ketchups contain sugar), energy and sports drinks, and the list goes on. Research has found that approximately 75% of all packaged and prepared U.S. foods and beverages contain added sugars.
Those are pretty obvious places you’ll find sugar, but where else is it hiding? You’ll find sugar in less obvious places, such as processed foods like pizza, cereal, low-fat yogurts, granola bars, crackers and chocolate milk. Even if the food item seems like a savory food, the way the body digests it, turns those carbohydrates into high levels of sugar.
Your Two-Step Action Plan For Kicking Your Sugar Habit
Trying to curb the sugar cravings can feel overwhelming at first, especially when sugar urges can feel super strong! Break it down into simple, doable action steps that give you the focus and tools you need to kick that sugar habit and it will get easier over time:
- Heal your gut: Take bifidobacteria and L-glutamine to strengthen and heal your gut, as well as rev up your metabolism. When your gut health is strong, your cravings for sugar decrease which makes it easier to make other food choices.
- Make sure you’re eating enough protein: For women, we recommend 4 to 5 ounces of protein at meals and 1-2 ounces at snacks; most men need 6 ounces of protein at meals and 2-3 ounces at snacks. Eating this way will create serotonin and other neurotransmitters plus balance your blood sugar, helping you stay calm and satisfied.
The best way to cut sugar is simply to eat real food. Here’s a menu to get you started, and you’ll find many more recipes on our website.
A Menu To Cut Out Sugar, Not Taste
Coffee with 1-2 Tbsp organic heavy cream
3 egg omelet
1 c. spinach, ½ c mushrooms, ¼ c. onion, (or vegetables of your choice) sautéed in 2 tsp butter
½ c. strawberries
4 oz chicken breast
2 c. mixed greens, ½ c. cucumber, ¼ c. red onion, ½ c. tomato, ½ c. red bell pepper
½ c. chickpeas
6-10 Kalamata olives
Feta cheese crumbles
2 tsp olive oil
Balsamic vinegar to taste
½ c. full-fat Greek yogurt, plain
½ c. blueberries
2 Tbsp slivered almonds
4 oz grass-fed flank steak
1 c. broccoli, ¼ c. carrots, ½ c. red bell pepper, ½ c. peapods, ¼ c. water chestnuts sautéed in 1 Tbsp. coconut oil
1 clove garlic
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
½ c. cooked rice or quinoa
Bragg liquid aminos or coconut aminos to taste (MSG- free soy sauce alternatives)
2 Tbsp natural peanut butter
Get Help Cutting Out Sugar
Decreasing or eliminating sugar from your diet can feel like a daunting task. Start with the obvious sugary items, like candy, breakfast cereals, and sodas. Once you get practice, then you can start looking at those hidden added sugars in your condiments and other pantry items. When in doubt, choose real foods! And remember, we are here to help demystify and encourage you through this process. Do you need help cutting sugar out of your diet? Schedule a nutrition consultation by video, phone, or in-person to receive personal support.
If you want to learn more about sugar, check out these resources:
- Listen: All About Sugar – Ask A Nutritionist
- Read: Is Sugar Making You Stressed?
- Take: Breaking The Sugar Habit class for $25!
- Join: 28 Day Break Up with Sugar Challenge