If you’re thinking of reducing or eliminating sugar from your diet I have compiled some tips that could help you. One of my main aims when going sugar free was to stabilise my blood sugar levels as much as possible throughout the course of the day. You may want to reduce sugar for other reasons, possibly you’ve identified that you’re addicted, you think you may eat too much of it, you suffer from headaches or maybe like me you’re feeling unwell a lot of the time and you can’t work out why.
All of the following tips that I have written I have learnt the hard way, by slipping up and making mistakes on my own journey and through lots of reading and research. They have been taken from snippets that I regularly tweet on my @LondonHealthMum page, I have simply elaborated them for this blog. I really hope my tips can make things slightly easier for you.
Only take the Sugar Free step when you’re mentally ready. It’s not worth trying to reduce your sugar intake if you’re not ready or committed. The chances are that you’ll give into a craving that can make you feel as though you’ve failed in some way. Giving in to a craving isn’t failure – I did it all the time, and sometimes still do. Tomorrow’s another day.
Have substitute sugar free snacks to hand to avoid slipping up. On the days that I did eat a sweet snack and ended up regretting it was mainly when I didn’t have a suitable alternative to hand. However sometimes it was just an emotional response to something or even as simple as habit – who wouldn’t want a biscuit with a cup of tea? That was a really hard habit to break!
Decide whether to cut sugar out totally from day one, or gradually reduce the amount you eat or drink and stick to your decision. The reason for this is simple: have a plan. Only you know what works best for you. Do you have an addictive nature? If so it might be best to totally eliminate sugar from day one. Or maybe taking things one step at a time works for you.
The first, and in my opinion, the worst type of sugar to eliminate should be added sugar in drinks – tea, coffee, juice and especially fizzy drinks. Do not be fooled by ‘diet’ or ‘zero sugar’ drinks, none of them are any good for us and all should be avoided. Water is best if you’re thirsty.
Sweets and chocolates are the next source of sugar to cut out. They have no nutritional value and dramatically raise your blood sugars. Biscuits and cakes are not much better, higher in sugar than we think and low in nutrition they don’t offer much other than empty calories and a quick sugar fix.
When I started my sugar free journey I sometimes allowed myself some home baked cake as a treat – don’t be afraid to treat yourself but try not to binge as it increases cravings. After a while I didn’t feel the need to ‘treat’ myself with foods but it took quite a while for me to come to the realisation that sweet foods were not doing me much good.
Sugar cravings can be really strong. If trying to give up, strong flavoured foods can help to cut a craving, for example carrot and humous or French roule cheese on crackers. Even a packet of cheese and onion crisps can work! Because you will probably have intense sugar cravings, ensure you have sugar free snacks to hand such as citrus fruit, apples and nuts – read my Sugar Free Snacking blog for more ideas. After a while the cravings do subside and they will disappear.
Carrot and Philadelphia, Apple and Almond Butter
To begin with, the sweeter fruits such as bananas, grapes and pineapple can help with sugar cravings but as time goes on you can gradually change to citrus fruit or apples if you prefer, or even vegetables. However don’t feel you have to do this – a bunch of grapes is 100 times better than a pick and mix or a can of lemonade.
Once you get into sugar free living you can start to think about other areas where sugar creeps in to your diet without you realising. Ketchup, brown sauce, BBQ sauce and many marinades are all loaded with sugar. Even salad cream and, surprisingly, many mayonnaise brands have added sugars. Baked beans and pre-prepared pasta sauces also have a high sugar content. I always try to avoid these products where possible.
Alcohol also contains sugar. If you regularly have a glass of wine, a pint of beer or another alcoholic drink your daily sugar intake will be higher than you think.
As you become accustomed to lower levels of sugar in your diet you may want to think about the amount of bread, rice, pasta and potato you eat as these foods also raise your blood sugars. Where possible try to eat smaller amounts of complex carbohydrates instead such as wholemeal breads/wraps and sweet potato.
About a year into sugar free living I came across the ‘Low Carb High Fat’ (LCHF) way of eating – it’s a natural progression for many ‘sugar freers’ and I would say it’s the second best thing I have done with regard to my diet, the first being dramatically reducing my sugar intake. I hope to post some information about LCHF soon.
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