Ways to Decrease Sugar in the Food
At one point or another, we have all dealt with a sugar addiction. I recently gave up all sugar for 30 days and felt actual withdrawal symptoms. I was exhausted and couldn’t shake a nagging headache. I was also snapping at my family for no reason at all.
Giving up sugar cold turkey is one option for breaking the addiction, but fortunately for our relationships with friends and family, it is not the only option. I had the chance to speak with leading physicians, health coaches, and wellness providers on manageable steps to breaking your sugar addiction.
Make sure you’re eating enough fat
Do you remember the fat-free trend in the ’90s? Suddenly we were bombarded with fat-free cookies and crackers, and they seemed healthy. We avoided fats, because we assumed eating fat made us fat. However, food companies simply replaced the fat in their products with sugar.
Our bodies need fat to feel full and satisfied, so it is crucial to consume enough when giving up sugar. “When you’re cutting back on sugar, pay attention to your fat intake,” Registered Dietitian with Virta Health Catherine Metzgar told me. “Not only does fat keep you full longer and provide greater satiety than sugar and carbohydrates, fat can also help manage your hunger and cravings. Try a square of 86 percent dark chocolate with a bit of peanut butter or even some berries with some heavy cream.”
Eat sweet vegetables
Another way to support your body when giving up sugar is to look for better sources of sweetness. Rather than focusing on the sugar that you’re missing, look for natural sources to add into your diet.
“By adding in naturally-sweet vegetables and spices, more sleep, water, and regular fat foods, a person can crowd out their addiction to sugar,” Michele J. Szymborski, a holistic health coach, told me. “Eat sweet vegetables earlier in the day to diminish evening sugar cravings.”
Some examples of naturally sweet vegetable are sweet potatoes, red bell peppers, and carrots.
Manage your stress
Have you ever walked into your kitchen after a stressful day at work and gone directly to the pantry? You weren’t even thinking about what you were doing, you just naturally started raiding the shelves for sugar. Moments later there were candy wrappers everywhere, and you felt a little better. That’s because most of us crave sugar when we’re stressed.
According to a study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, eating sugar when you are stressed actually quiets those stress signals to the brain. That is why you literally feel better and more calm after inhaling that brownie.
To help your body fight this sugar urge, make sure you’re not sabotaging yourself with sweets in the house, especially during times of high stress. “Keeping a positive environment makes it harder to make an unhealthy choice and it also helps you to delay a response to the craving,” Cleveland Clinic Psychologist Julie Rish told Reuters. “Those cravings peak over 15 to 20 minutes, and if you can just delay them and distract yourself for that long the cravings start to come down on their own.”
Cut down on the sugar in your coffee
Many of us are consuming a lot more sugar than we realize. How much sugar is in your favorite pasta sauce, salad dressing, or boxed crackers? Another sneaky place for sugar to hide is in our coffee. Fortunately, we can retrain our palates, so cutting back on sugar in your morning coffee is a good place to start.
“It is tough to break the habit. What I have done with my patients is to ask them to study coffee and tea and learn to enjoy the genuine taste without the sugar. Then once they accomplish this, they generally reduce other sugar products,” Dr. Murray Grossan told me. “One important aid is to demonstrate how many pounds of sugar is used in a lifetime just dropping the tea and coffee! This could be a major means of avoiding diabetes. But I start with teaching them to study ‘great’ coffee and tea without and learn that.”
Have fun with this process and become a coffee snob. The better the coffee, the less sugar your taste buds will be calling for.
Try a supplement
Sometimes our sugar cravings are trying to tell us something. For example, craving specific sweet foods could mean we’re low in certain nutrients, so talk with your doctor about starting a supplement to help with those cravings.
The supplement L-glutamine may help stave off cravings. “This amino acid has been found to help reduce, and even eliminate, cravings by helping to steady blood sugar,” Certified Holistic Health Counselor Jacqueline Banks wrote for Fox News. “Add 500 milligrams three times a day with meals and an extra dose when a craving hits. Taking as little as a quarter teaspoon at the onset of a sugar craving should stop it in its tracks.”