HOW TO REDUCE YOUR SUGAR INTAKE
Many of us are addicted to sugar, and often we don’t even necessarily realise it. Sugar is added to so many foods these days, even if you’re not stuffing your face with chocolate all day you can still be taking in a heavy dose of sugar. In fact, a lot of the foods that are marketed as “health foods” are loaded with sugar.
Sugar serves no purpose in our lives; it has no nutritional value and can actually cause a raft of problems and diseases – including premature ageing, weight gain, acne and heart disease. Cutting back on it even slightly can only be a good thing – but how go to about it? Here are our top tips to get you started
Know what you’re dealing with
You might think that if the ingredients on a product label don’t include “sugar” you’re home and dry – but actually there are numerous other names for sugar that are used on packaging. As a general rule, anything that ends in “ose” is sugar, and to be avoided. Other words to look out for are: cane crystals; corn sweeteners; evaporated cane juice; barley malt; blackstrap molasses; ethyl maltol and lots more.
Many people will opt for maple syrup, agave nectar or honey in place of table sugar, believing this is the healthier option. The thing is, all of those are still sugar. They might be slightly less processed, but they are still sugar and can still cause just as much damage in your body.
Prepare to feel withdrawal symptoms
Depending on how much sugar you normally consume, you might be in for a couple of rough days. Take it easy on yourself, and be prepared to feel a bit rubbish – and obscenely tired – for a few days or more. The good news is that once you’ve gone through that withdrawal stage, you will discover a weird, boundless energy that allows you to wake up feeling refreshed and wide awake, and doesn’t slump mid afternoon. It sounds foreign, because your body has probably been on a sugar rollercoaster for a long time; but it’s how our bodies naturally function without sugar artificially influencing how they work.
Replace sugar with fat
Sarah Wilson from I Quit Sugar advises that once you’ve cut sugar out, fat will not make you fat. In fact, fat is a necessity for a healthy body and as long as you’re eating the right fats (think animal sources, non processed and non trans fats). If you like a lump or two of sugar in your coffee, try replacing that with a little more full fat milk. Milk contains lactose which is a natural sugar (and one that’s not bad for you when consumed in milk) so it can help to take the edge off. Eating more fat means you can really begin to enjoy your savoury meals more, as everything tastes better with butter on it!
Beware of fruit
You might think you’re being mighty clever by reaching for an orange any time you’re craving a Mars bar. While an orange is definitely more healthy than a Mars bar, there is still sugar in it. It’s fine to eat fruit, but don’t binge on it; try to limit it to a maximum of two portions per day; ideally just the one. Back when we were all cave men we rarely ate fruit at all, and having this much fruit freely available has only really happened since the end of the Second World War. Our grandparents’ generation were excited if they managed to get their hands on a banana; now we have all sorts of exotic fruits at our fingertips, twenty four hours a day.
Beware of booze
Okay, we know we’re starting to sound boring here but the thing is, there is sugar in most alcoholic drinks. We’re not saying you can never drink again, but while you’re in the process of giving up sugar, consider also being teetotal. Once you’re sugar free, you might want to check up on the sugar content of your tipple of choice. As a general rule, anything pre-mixed in a bottle is to be avoided. Check out this list from I Quit Sugar to see which is the best drink for you.
Clear out the kitchen
There is no point at all in deciding to give up sugar, and then having a kitchen filled with cake and biscuits. Don’t assume that you have enough self control to not touch them! And don’t assume that if you don’t have a kitchen filled with cake and biscuits, there is no sugar to be found there. Rummage through the cupboards and get rid of everything that contains sugar: processed sauces; crackers; bags of crisps; flavoured yoghurts. If it’s not there, you can’t be tempted by it.
Don’t wait until you’re in the middle of a busy, stressful day and starving hungry to think about what you want to eat; you’ll never choose wisely in that situation. Small bags of nuts are great to keep in your bag for a snack emergency, but it’s also worth bringing a packed lunch rather than relying on a supermarket salad which will have a dressing soaked in sugar. If you’re in a pinch, choose a salad with the sauce on the side – and ditch the sauce.
Enlist help and support
Tell people what you’re doing, and ask for their support. If people know you’re not eating sugar, they won’t be offended when you don’t eat the cake they bring into work, or the pudding they’ve made for a family meal. You might also come up against some resistance from people who don’t think you should be cutting out sugar, but if you stick to it eventually they’ll stop questioning you and will probably end up asking you for tips once they see how well you’re doing.
You could also join in with a Sugar Free September challenge. Even if you’re not planning to go the whole hog and give up sugar completely, doing a 30-day challenge like this can be a great way to get started. With the added support and feeling like you’re part of something, you’re more likely to succeed.
There’s no denying that cutting out sugar is tough, but it is entirely possible and once you’ve over the initial hurdle of withdrawal, it can feel pretty good. Even cutting back on it can help to improve your mood, your skin and your waistline as well as your internal health.