Sugar is one of the worst things we can put in our body, yet we continue to consume loads of it without a second thought.
Try this out. Go to your kitchen, get a spoon, and swallow 30 spoonsful of sugar. That sounds insane, right?
Here’s the truth. This experiment is no exercise in futility. Roughly 30 spoonsful of sugar is the average that Americans consume in a day on a regular basis. That’s way higher than the six to eight teaspoons recommended by the World Health Organization.
If you’re not horrified, you should be.
The bottom line is that people eat too much sugar. It’s no surprise that we’re suffering from a host of ailments that can be blamed on the sweet, toxic, stuff.
Sugar and Your Body—Why Do You Need to Avoid it?
Research has revealed that sugar is one of the nastiest things we can put in our body. Many experts argue that the sweet stuff is even worse than trans fats.
What are some of these dire effects?
Regular sugar consumption can lead to plenty of health issues, including diabetes, obesity, tooth decay, high cholesterol, and physical discomfort. I could go on, but you get the picture—and it’s an ugly one.
The truth is, there’s nothing sweet about sugar. That’s why in today’s post, I’m taking a deep dive into how you can reduce your sugar intake. It’s been my personal experience that the following dietary guidelines can help you crack down on your sugar intake without losing your mind in the process.
But before we do that, let me tell you a little about myself. Maybe you’ll relate.
My Sugar Addiction
For the longest time, sugar was my drug. As far back as I can remember, I was a comfort eater, and sweet stuff was my biggest weakness. Biscuits, donuts, chocolate bars, sugary breads, muffins. I could never get enough of it!
I knew sugar was bad for me. I was also well aware that I was consuming more than the daily recommended 25 grams.
Still, knowing something is bad for you and doing something about it are two completely different things, right?
If you’re reading this, you probably know that cutting sugar is more easily said than done—and for many reasons.
For starters, sugar is everywhere. The average diet is filled with so much of the stuff.
Not only that, some form of refined sugar is added to virtually every processed food out there. And don’t get me started on how delicious foods with added sugar are.
I thought I could get away with my sugar addiction since I was leading a very active lifestyle—running, weight lifting, yoga, you name it.
I know now that’s no excuse. Being a runner does not give us carte blanche to eat whatever we want. The fact is, you cannot outrun a crappy diet, no matter how fast you are.
Roughly 18 months ago I reached a turning point in my life.
After assessing the medical history of my family (metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease) and learning more about the harmful effects of sugar, I finally pulled myself up by my bootstraps and decided to clean up my diet.
It took 11 months of trying different things (and failing miserably most of the time,) but I finally became what most people would consider sugar-free. I’m proud of my achievement. I still have a cheat day every now and then, but I feel like as long as I’m doing it by choice, I have things under control—and with that feeling comes great power.
If you take anything from my story, take the realization that this whole process does not happen overnight. It takes a lot of patience and strength to make it happen, but long-term, it’s worth the trouble.
9 Simple Ways to Cut Sugar From Your Diet
What follows are some of the steps (not necessarily in chronological order) that I took to get rid of sugar without going bonkers or feeling deprived.
Eating the way I’m describing today will not only help you kick sugar to the curb, but also help you feel lighter, more energized, and much healthier. That’s a bunch of good things if you ask me.
1. Cut Back On Bread
Although it’s the bread and butter of the Western world diet (pun intended), there are many reasons why bread has to go.
Bread—even whole wheat varieties—is loaded with carbohydrates and refined sugar. It’s also mostly low in nutrients and fiber. This is especially true for white bread, which can have dire consequences for your weight and overall health.
Don’t take my word for it. Science also agrees. According to a study out of the University of Navarra in Spain, eating more than three or four slices of white bread a day was linked to a 40 percent higher risk of becoming obese.
For more on why you should ditch white bread, check the following studies:
I know it’s hard to give up on bread completely. Bread is universal. It smells and tastes delicious Who can resist it?
That being said, with just a little bit of motivation and discipline, kicking bread out of your daily menu is not an impossible feat. I’d recommend you start by saying no to sandwiches, avoiding the bread basket at restaurants, or simply limiting your bread intake to just one slice per meal.
If you can’t live without bread, try one of these awesome low-carb bread recipes that are convenient and easy to make. You can also swap out white bread with healthier whole grains options, such as barley, quinoa, brown rice or whole-wheat bread.
2. Go For Low-Carb Snacks
When you’re cutting down on sugar, it’s good to have a few healthy snacks on hand in case you get hungry between meals. This is especially true during the first few weeks of your new regime. Here’s the kicker. Most snacks are full of sugar and unhealthy additives. Chips, crackers, and pretzels are nothing but sugar bombs with little to no nutritional value.
This is why snacking the way we’re used to can actually do more harm than good.
Here’s what I recommend: swap junk snacks for healthy ones. The right snacks are high in healthy fats, lean protein, and fiber but very low in sugar, grains, and carbs. They leave you feeling full, which helps you consume less of your upcoming meal and throughout the day.
Here are a few of my favorites
- Non-starchy veggies
No Sugary Drinks
If you want to eat less sugar, boycotting sugar-sweetened drinks is one of the first things you should do. It was my first step, and it had a big impact on the rest of my diet.
Sugary drinks are bad for you for a slew of reasons. They pack lots of added sugar, which (I hate to sound like a broken record, but here I go again) increases your risk for type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and weight gain when consumed in excess.
Not convinced? Check out this research. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health found a strong link between soda consumption and an increased risk for diabetes, heart diseases, obesity, and other health ailments.
Here are more studies:
Just like sugar in general, we’re guzzling too much of it. According to the National Institute of Health, soda is the third largest source of calorie intake in the typical American diet. And the Center For Science in the Public Interest has revealed that sweet beverages make up almost half of the added sugar in the average American’s diet.
You can’t get away with limiting yourself to a can a day. A 12-ounce can (355ml) can packs in between 30 and 50 grams of sugar, which is more than a day’s worth.
Want even more perspective? One can of soda is the equivalent of:
- One cup of ice cream
- Four Tim Tams
- Three English muffins
- Four large peaches
This is why you need to remove carbonated drinks from your life. Instead, keep your taste buds happy with water with fresh fruit, black coffee, or unsweetened tea.
4. Stop Drinking Fruit Juice
One of the biggest diet myths is that fruit juices are healthy. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Although they do pack in some nutrients and minerals, fruit juices are nothing but glorified junk food.
I’d go as far as to say they have no redeeming qualities. You’re simply extracting the sugar and the water from the fruit and tossing away the healthy fiber. The truth is that fruit juices aren’t much different from regular Coke.
One cup of apple juice contains roughly 29 grams of sugar, and a cup of grape juice has 35 grams. That’s not far from what you’ll find in a 12-ounce can of Coke, which racks up 39 grams of sugar. You might as well be guzzling Coca Cola!
Go for water instead. It’s calorie-free and good for you!
You can also add flavor to your water by tossing in a slice of lemon or orange. Or better yet, enjoy a piece of whole fruit that still has its nutrient and fiber intact.
5. Use Sweeteners Instead of Sugar
Get this: One tablespoon of white sugar packs in 12 grams of carbs in the form of sucrose, which is 50 percent glucose and 50 percent fructose. That’s a lot of sugar.
Here’s the good news. There are a few sugar-free sweeteners on the market that may even boast a few health benefits. Some of these options are calorie free while others that are not likely to boost your sugar intake contain only a few calories.
Some of the highly recommended brands include:
Stevia. This is a very popular low-calorie sweetener. Extracted from the leaves of the Stevia Rebaudiana plant, Stevia has almost no calories. It has also been found to help regulate blood sugar and blood pressure in people with diabetes.
Xylitol. This one is a sugar alcohol derived from birch bark that also occurs naturally in many fruits and vegetables. Xylitol has 2.4 calories per gram, or roughly two thirds of the caloric value of table sugar, but packs in 100 percent of the sweetness.
Erythritol. Another sugar alcohol found in some fruits, erythritol has 0.24 calories per gram, or roughly 6 percent of the caloric value of table sugar, with 70 percent of the sweetness.
These sugar alternatives are not for everyone, but if you’re willing to give them a chance—like I did—they will help on your sugar-free journey.
6. Focus on Non-Starchy Vegetables
I love vegetables—and for all the right reasons.
Vegetables are an ideal source of nutrients and fiber. They’re also rich in phytochemicals (plant compounds), many of which stimulate the immune system, slow the growth rate of cancer cells, reduce inflammation, etc.
That said, when I got serious about getting rid of sugar—especially once I started doing the keto diet—I realized that some veggies contain more sugar than others.
When choosing veggies, avoid starchy ones like carrots, peas, beets, sweet potatoes, corn, lima beans. These have drastically higher sugar content, which means that eating them can quickly take you to your maximum daily sugar intake—and you don’t want that.
Instead, opt for low-carb, non-starchy vegetables. The following are among the best:
- Brussel sprouts
- Baby corn
- Bamboo shoots
- Salad greens
- Swiss chard
You have plenty of options. Who says eating low carb is a hassle?
7. Eat Low Carb Dairy
As someone who’s been on the keto diet for quite a while, I’m very familiar with the benefits that eating low carb dairy has on both fitness and health.
Dairy products are filling and can be very healthy. Good sources help reduce appetite, promote satiety, cut the risks of heart disease, and more.
Not only that, most dairy products are rich in magnesium, calcium, and other vital minerals.
Dairy is also a good source of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a type of naturally occurring fatty acids that several studies have shown to promote health.
But not all dairy is created equal. Some products, such as frozen yogurt, fruit-flavored yogurt, and puddings are bad options on a low carb diet. They’re typically laden with carbs, sugar, and a slew of other additives. But that’s no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater. You have to choose dairy foods that have less sugar added in.
Make sure you’re eating full-fat foods. Low-fat products such as yogurt, shakes, and smoothies contain more sugar than their full-fat counterparts.
8. Eat Your Protein
The major dietary change that helped me the most while cracking down on sugar (as well as with the cravings) was simply adding more protein to my diet. By doing so I was able to feel satisfied longer and keep temptation at bay.
Protein is good for you for many reasons. It triggers the releases of the fullness hormone PYY, which helps you reduce hunger and keep you sated longer. Protein also hinders the releases of the hunger hormone ghrelin and boosts your metabolic rate.
I could go on and on about the importance of protein, but you can check my full post here.
I encourage you to add more protein to your meals and snacks—especially your breakfast. With a protein-rich breakfast—think omelet or bacon—you’ll be less likely to reach for your favorite junk food between your main meals.
Here are some of the best high-quality protein sources:
- Greek yogurt
8. Read The Labels
Once I got serious about cutting down on sugar, I did a lot of research.
I taught myself how to properly read and interpret ingredient labels, and learned about the technical jargon that just means sugar. It was an eye-opening experience.
I did my best to crack down on products that had too much sugar in them (think juice, soda, candy, sauce, crackers, desserts, condiments).
The whole process didn’t happen overnight, but it was surely worth the headache, and it will be for you too.
Here’s my promise. Once you learn this simple skill, you’ll quickly realize just how much sugar is in just about everything.
Here’s what you need to know: sugar goes by many names. Here are just a few:
- Fructose corn syrup
- Dried cane syrup
- Brown rice syrup
- Maple syrup
- Organic cane sugar
- Fruit juice concentrate
- And other words ending in “ose”
If more than a few forms of sugar appear on an ingredient list, ditch that food on the spot—it’s far less healthy than you want it to be.
9. Go Keto
I’ve always shied away from extreme diets or eating regimens. Nonetheless, the simplicity and the effectiveness of the ketogenic diet appealed to me, so roughly nine months ago I decided to give it a try.
I avoided carbs and started consuming all sorts of healthy fats—cheese, avocados, nuts, salmon, you name it. After surviving the hellish keto flu and within two months, I lost 10 pounds of pure fat, increased my energy level, and my whole approach to eating had changed. What’s not to like?
What’s keto eating all about?
The ketogenic diet is a carb-limiting, moderate-protein, high-fat eating style. By shunning carbs and getting 70 to 80 percent of your daily calories from healthy fats, this type of eating forces your body into ketosis. This is a metabolic state in which the body switches to burning fat cells as its main source of energy instead of glycogen.
For the full guide on the keto diet, check my post here.
If making small changes to your diet doesn’t help you crack down on sugar, I recommend that you try the keto diet for a couple of weeks. Yes, it’s going to be something entirely new, but give it a try and see for yourself.
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Consuming less sugar can be relatively easy if you have the right tools and enough motivation.
To get started, please take action on the guidelines shared here. Otherwise sugar will remain a constant in your life, and you don’t want that.
In the meantime, thank you for dropping by.
Keep eating healthy and running strong.