Too much sugar is now widely believed to be a major contributor of obesity and many chronic diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and tooth decay.
Perhaps we should be looking at sugar and comparing it to nicotine – they are both contributing to poor health outcomes. This may help us look at sugar differently.
Sugar as an ingredient is not the big problem, but whether or not the sugar comes in a food with enough protein and nutrients. All fruits contain sugar in varying amounts, but hardly any protein, so not an ideal snack for weight loss.
Your health should be a high priority and we have included 11 ways to wean yourself off sugar and improve your health, without feeling deprived.
- Don’t drink your sugar. Your body does not recognize calories from drinks in the same way it does from food. Drinks don’t make you feel as full, so we can consume far too many calories without even knowing it. Say goodbye to sugary drinks including fruit juice, energy drinks, flavoured mineral water, flavoured milks and soft drinks.
- Avoid most bought sauces. Most bought sauces are very high in sugar. More sugar-free options are becoming available but why not try some of these suggestions to add extra flavour to your food:
- Fresh or dried herbs and spices
- Chilli and garlic
- Pesto sauce made from basil, coriander or dill
- Balsamic vinegar
- Harissa or curry paste
- Avoid any products marked Low fat. From yoghurt to peanut butter, added sugar can be found in the most unexpected food products found on your local supermarket shelves. Many of these foods are claiming they are low-fat foods but may contain more sugar and calories than the full-fat versions. Stay clear of any product with claims of Low fat.
- Buy label-free foods. You ask, “Is there such a thing?” Of course, there are, and most of these foods are found in the meat and vegetable sections. If you eat mainly protein and vegetables as the basis of your diet, and if you prepare these foods yourself, then you will find that you are eating very little sugary foods. It’s not just take-away junk food that is full of additives, sugar, salt, preservatives and highly processed – it is many of the foods sitting on our supermarket shelves!!!
- Be careful of Healthy Snacks. It’s not just cookies and candy that contain a large portion of sugar, but most so-called protein, granola and muesli bars are very high in sugar, as well as dried fruits, and are also low in micronutrients. Only choose snacks where the protein provides at least 30% of the total calories.
- Example: Say a protein bar has 272 calories and 22 grams of protein. Each gram of protein has 4 calories. Multiply 22 x 4 = 88. Divide 88 by 272 = 32%.
- Most people would only require half this bar for a snack to get adequate protein. Some protein snack bars have on the label “Certified Meal Replacement”. To achieve this status, it must have additional micronutrients that are helpful in controlling satiety. Although we do not recommend you make a habit of replacing a real-food meal with a protein bar.
- Stay Away from Sugar-filled cereals. Uncle Toby’s and Kelloggs are working very hard to re-engineer their breakfast offerings after fuelling the entire Western world with high sugary breakfasts. Also, beware of many of the “healthy” granolas which can have more sugar and calories – even though they use the term healthy. Other high sugar breakfast meals could include pancakes, waffles and jams.
Try left-overs from dinner last night, eggs your favourite way, nut and seed-based muesli, Greek yoghurt with berries or you may choose to skip breakfast and have your first meal mid-morning with a low-carb protein and berry shake.
- Be Aware of the term “Healthy” used in foods. Healthy does not always mean low in sugar or fat. Many vegetarian or vegan foods carry the term Healthy but many of these are highly processed, high in calories and many use vegetable and seed oils which are highly processed and refined and high in omega-6 fatty acids. Another “Healthy” product is Agave, which is composed primarily of fructose and may be associated with fatty liver disease and insulin resistance and may also increase triglyceride levels.
- Learn to Read Labels. Sometimes sugar is hard to detect when reading labels so here are some common names that you should avoid:
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Cane sugar or juice
- Rice syrup
- Prioritise Protein and some Fat in each meal and snack. Protein reduces hunger and keeps you satiated between meals and snacks. Ensure your meals prioritise protein with some healthy fat and low-carb vegetables and that your snacks have adequate protein (at least 10 grams).
Sources of protein include meat, seafood, eggs and cheese and healthy fats include avocado, olive oil, butter, coconut oil, and nuts and seeds in moderation.
- Throw Out any Sugar or Sugar-filled Foods in Your Pantry. If you have sugar or any sugar-filled foods in the house, you will be tempted to reach for them in moments of weakness and when cravings strike. Do a pantry and fridge clean-out, throw anything out that shouldn’t be there, and don’t buy more – and especially not for the grandchildren!!!!
- It’s Time to Retrain Your Taste Buds. For some people sugar can be as addictive as drugs and has been found to affect the brain in a similar way to drugs. What’s the best way to get off the sugar treadmill without suffering from sugar withdrawals, which may include anxiety and depression?
For some people using a natural sweetener such as stevia, erythritol or xylitol may help. This still gives a sweet taste, which could still feed the addiction. The best approach is to go cold turkey which means taking all forms of sugar out of your diet. If you choose this approach, be prepared for some withdrawal symptoms which may include headaches, brain fog, cravings or mood swings. Staying hydrated with lots of water and adding some salt to each meal may prevent or reduce these symptoms.
Reducing a drug like sugar from your system is not easy. We have been led to believe over the years that fat was bad for us and made us fat. The tide is now turning, and we are waking up to the highly processed, highly addictive foods that have been marketed to us as Healthy, Low Fat, No Added Sugar, No Fat, Gluten free and are making better choices for our weight and our long-term health.
If you would like help in getting off the sugar treadmill then please reach out to your local Healthy Inspirations centre, we do face-to-face as well as online coaching.