"Sugar is everywhere, and it makes sense, because it tastes great! Food flies off shelves when there is even a little sugar added, and a few sugary pecans can make a bland salad go down that much easier.
A little sugar here and there will not hurt anyone. A small sweet morsel at the end of a meal, even with a meal, will not spike blood sugar as much as a box of candy or large piece of cake all by itself. A small amount can even tell the body and brain that the stomach is full and help signal the end of a meal. For athletes, sugar can be a useful tool in regulating blood sugar in and around competition and grueling practices, travel, and unpredictable meals.
But for many of us, sugar can quickly become addictive, activating many of the similar pathways in the brain. If we eat it every meal, we ‘train’ ourselves to be less sensitive to sugar. It gets easier and easier to consume more and more, and then cravings set in. Then the guilt.
But if you are struggling with this, there are a few simple solutions you can try RIGHT now to start kicking the habit today. Avoiding sugar will have positive effects on your health, and help you look and feel better and younger! Read on for more tips to avoid sneaky additives and stave off the cravings.
Eat at home more
This is a simple solution we can all use to avoid sugar and many other additives. If we are putting others in control what we are putting into our bodies, it becomes much more difficult to know exactly what is causing us to feel bad or gain weight.
There are challenges to this, and adding in more time for grocery trips and cooking may take an adjustment. But the long list of benefits to your health should motivate you, including lower salt consumption, risk of heart disease and stroke, diabetes, hypertension, and more!
Buy Whole Foods
Since you are already going to the grocery store more often, while you are there, choose the whole foods rather than packaged versions whenever possible. Just buying them at the grocery store is easy, but sticking to this can be much easier said than done.
Whole foods go bad more often, so it takes more effort and time to prepare them when you get home. You have to have a plan and know what to cook ahead of time, and you may be busy or stressed or not like to cook or know how.
As with anything, the key is to start slow, and start with foods you know and like and are easy for you to prepare. Gradually start to expand your horizons by trying one or two new recipes per month and then freezing them if you liked what you prepared.
Another good way to keep up foods fresh is to always buy some frozen, some fresh, and prepare some of each type of food every month (i.e. protein source, veggies and fruit, and sauces, oils, and good fats). Whatever you choose, you will get better at it with practice and develop your own healthy eating system.
Avoid Packaged Food
While you are at the grocery store, avoiding packaged food becomes essential to a healthy lifestyle. Not only is it a billion dollar marketing industry designed specifically to pray on your addictions and cravings, but there is actually very little regulation and many work-arounds for additives to food.
In 1994, the The Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act was passed, which allows any claim to be made on a food or supplement package regardless if it is actually true. For example, it can say ‘low fat’ on the package, but when you look at the food label they are allowed to claim ‘0g trans fat’ as long as the amount is less than 0.5 grams. So there are still trans fats in that food you cannot avoid consuming.
For supplements, there is no FDA regulation on what is actually in the bottle, and the only way to know if a supplement has been tested is by using consumer websites like USP.
The safest thing to do is to control what goes in your body by choosing whole foods like fruits and veggies, meat and fish, and whole food sources of good fats like olives, nuts, and avacados, and consulting a doctor or pharmacist when deciding whether certain supplements are right for you.
Avoid ‘Skim’ or ‘Low Fat’ Dairy Products
Many of these products have been processed so the nutrients and good fat have been removed, leaving only the lactose (carbohydrate that causes fat storage) and protein (whey and casein). The process continues by adding sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup to make it takes good again. This applies to many yogart and milk products, as well as cottage cheese, sour cream, and imitation butter products.
As a surprise to many of us, the fat in dairy is the healthy part. So you want the higher fat, lower sugar versions of dairy to get the nutrients and not the blood sugar spikes. Spikes in blood sugar lead to more cravings, weight gain, and less nutritional value in the food.
Gradually Decrease Consumption at Home
The body will not notice more than 20% decrease in something. So, you can apply this rule to sugar in your diet however it makes sense for you. For example, if you are eating sugar 5 times per day, cut it down to 4 times per day. Or, if you are eating 2 tablespoons of sugar with your coffee, cut it down to ~1.5 tablespoons.
Try this for 1-2 weeks, and you will be amazed at how much less you are using on a daily basis.
Good luck with kicking that sugar habit, and you’ll start feeling better right away!"