With all the information available about cutting out sugar, it seems like a fairly straightforward thing to do. Things that sound simple, however, are not always easy. The question is not if you’ll reduce sugar, but how.
The following tips offer a range of strategies, so pick and choose the ones that will work best for you.
- Eat food that does not come with labels. If you have to read a label, it usually means that the food has been manufactured. This is often a source of hidden or obvious sugar.
- If you need to eat some food with labels, compare products and select the one with the lowest sugar. Yoghurt is a great example of this, as sugar content varies enormously.
- Read the ingredients list. You’ll be looking for things like sugar, syrup, ingredients ending with -ose, honey, molasses, juice, sweetener and fruit. Don’t be influenced when these ingredients are prefaced by ‘organic’ – they’re still sugar.
- Don’t drink your sugar. We all know that regular soft drinks contain sugar, but many people think that juices are healthy options – they’re still full of sugar. Energy drinks are likewise full of sugar; in fact, many have more sugar than soft drinks. Even flavoured water is usually a source of sugar.
- Avoid fat-free products. Fat makes the regular versions of these products taste good, so removing the fat means removing the taste. The manufacturers couldn’t sell these tasteless products, so they add the perfect amount of sugar to appeal to appeal to our sugar-desiring taste buds.
- Beware of milk. At around 12g sugar, or 3 teaspoons, per cup – which is about half that of soft drink – milk makes it easy to consume too much sugar. Adding flavourings or mixers to milk (Milo, anyone?) and the sugar goes through the roof. A splash in a coffee or tea won’t be a problem, but grabbing the cappuccino or café latte a couple of time each day can do some damage.
- Learn where to find the hidden sugars. Some of the foods you’d least expect can be the worst. Savoury food such as sauces, marinades, and salad dressings, peanut butter and other spreads, and even canned vegies can be traps for the unwary. Go back to Tip 1.
- Throw out the sugar in your pantry. Don’t buy more.
- Be aware that all carbohydrates are digested to sugar. Your body doesn’t know that the sugar in your blood came from bread or pasta or lollies or juices; all it can acknowledge is that there is sugar present and so it releases insulin to help carry the sugar to storage sites in the liver, the muscles, and the fat cells.
- Retrain your taste buds. When you first reduce sugar, food can seem bland. This is because your taste buds are so accustomed to a sugar overload that they’ve become desensitised.
It may take some time to wean yourself off sugar: some people go cold turkey and put up with bland food for a week while their taste buds adapt. This is the best approach, but be prepared for some withdrawal symptoms such as cravings, headaches, brain fog, or mood swings. These usually pass within a couple of days, so prepare the family ahead of time and they can help you get through it. Drinking plenty of water, and ensuring you get enough salt can prevent these symptoms.
Others take a slower approach and do it gradually.
What will you do?