First off, figure out how sugar makes you feel. Challenge yourself to a sugar detox for one month. Eliminate all added sugars in your diet by reading labels, not adding sugar to foods or beverages, and even skipping natural sugars (maple syrup, agave, honey).
Just a warning – this may be difficult if you’re used to constant sugar stimulation in processed foods or in your coffee.
Get ready for it by taking a week to identify the sources of sugar in your life. Try different foods for meals and snacks rather than just looking for a sugar-free version. Stimulate your taste buds with savory foods instead of trying to satisfy your sweet tooth with a sugar-free version.
If you add sugar to your coffee or tea, try it with cinnamon and cream instead.
If you usually eat cereal or toast for breakfast, try eggs.
Try snacks, such as berries and yogurt or kefir, a sweet potato with almond butter, or a piece of fruit for natural sweetness.
When you cut back on processed foods, it will be much easier to identify the sugar in your life because you control it! Fruit, vegetables, meats, and other 1-ingredient whole foods are not hiding secret sugar. Foods in boxes, cans, bags, etc. typically are.
Be aware of how sugar is labeled. You can’t just read the “sugars” amount on the nutrition facts label because certain foods, such as plain yogurt or baby carrots, will have naturally have a few grams of sugar. That’s okay!
You have to read the ingredients label for added sugars. Look for items ending in -ose (sucrose, dextrose, fructose, etc.), any syrups (high-fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, maple syrup, etc.), or just plain sugar. In general, look for short ingredient labels that you can easily read and understand. You’ll be surprised how often sugar shows up as the first, second, or third ingredient on labels and how companies manage to throw 10 different types of sugar in their products.
Committing to a sugar detox will require some planning, so you don’t automatically reach for the 100 calorie package of cookies in the middle of an afternoon hunger attack.
Plan out balanced meals with a good amount of protein, lots of vegetables, and a small portion of nutrient-dense carbohydrate (sweet potato, squash, etc.). Don’t skimp on meals – they should fill you up.
If you’re used to snacking in between meals, prepare and carry snacks with you. Convenient snacks include a piece of fruit, yogurt or kefir (plain flavor), or nuts (almonds, macadamia nuts, etc.). If you’re at home, try a sweet potato with almond butter and cinnamon.
Notice how you feel during the sugar-free month. Afterwards, it’s up to you if you want to introduce sugar back into your life. You may find that you no longer need sugar in your coffee, or that you’ve found alternative meals and snacks that naturally do not use sugar.
When you do have sugar again, notice how it makes you feel. Hopefully, your sugar cravings will have lessened – the less you have, the less you typically crave it. You’ll begin to learn how your body and brain react around sugar.
You don’t have to eliminate sugar from your life forever, but try to figure out what works for you – such as a nightly piece of dark chocolate or a weekly treat. You may also find that fruit satisfies your sweet tooth. Again – it’s the dose that makes the poison. Aim for less than 25 g or less per day of fructose, which easily allows for a few servings of fruit per day (depending on the fruit). Here’s a handy chart of the fructose amounts in fruit.
In terms of natural sweeteners, I do recommend honey or maple syrup over white or brown sugar (again, in small doses). Raw, local honey has been used all over the world for various ailments, including to soothe sore throats, lessen allergies, and for cuts and scrapes due to its antimicrobial properties. Maple syrup comes from America’s healthiest state, so it must be healthy, right? It contains antioxidants and minerals, including manganese and zinc. I do not recommend agave syrup, as it is very high in fructose – sometimes, even higher than high-fructose corn syrup.
I’m not 100% sugar free – I absolutely love my daily dose of dark chocolate and holiday treats. However, after holidays or special occasions when my sweet tooth gets a little overstimulated, I do tend to take a few weeks away from all sugar to reset.
Who’s up for the sugar detox challenge? You can do anything for a ONE month!