Added sugars shouldn’t make up more than 5% of the energy (calorie intake) you get from food and drink each day. Yet most of us eat way too much of it. Are you ready to drastically curb your sweet tooth and get your sugar cravings under control? Here are some essential tips on where to start.
1. Eat regularly. Aim for 3 meals a day - if you're hungry. There's no need to eat a big breakfast at 7 am if you're not feeling like it. Sit down for your meals, take your time.
2. Drink water. Swap your sodas and fruit juices for water. This simple step removes a large amount of the sugar calories people consume. Also, make sure you drink plenty of it. Thirst can be easily misinterpreted as a food craving.
3. Choose real food. The closer a food is to its original form, the less processed sugar it contains. Whole foods, especially when eaten in variety, generally present no metabolic problems for a normal body.
4. Do a sugar detox. This helps your body re-adjust and your sugar cravings disappear. I was advised to completely remove sugar from my diet to combat my chronic bladder inflammation and have never looked back. It's a bit like giving up smoking - at first it's rough, but after a little while you wonder why you were so fussed about it in the first place.
5. Eat healthy proteins/fats with each meal. Instead of loading up on carbohydrates, eat veggies, white meat and fish, good fats like olive oil, avocado and nuts. This helps control blood sugar levels and you'll feel more energetic.
6. Add spices. Cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and cardamom naturally sweeten your foods.
7. Sleep enough. Then you won't need the sugar fix to counteract tiredness.
8. Get rid of all sugary snacks in the house. If there are no sweets at home, you'll have that carrot instead! Ok, maybe not the carrot. Try a spoonful of nut butter for a satisfying quick fix. And check the labels to make sure they do not contain sugar. All you need to make nut butter is NUTS!
9. Don’t just substitute artificial sweeteners for sugar. Artificial sweeteners can fuel your sugar cravings, so if you are working on cutting out your added sugar, they will just make your journey that much harder. Instead, eat desserts in moderation.
Once you have re-set your system by "detoxing" from sugar, one nice dessert a week is reasonable. Home-made is best!
I like to use natural sweeteners such as xylitol, erythritol or stevia in my desserts and use grain free flours such as almond or coconut flour. If you choose to sweeten your dessert with fruit such as apple sauce or banana, you will have a higher carb count, but you'll benefit from the fibre content in the fruit.
10. Read food labels. The more ingredients, the more likely it is that sugar will be included. Check your sugar grams (1 teaspoon is equivalent to 4 grams)! For more info read my article Processed Food - A Sugar Trap.
11. Don't buy low fat products. When food manufacturers remove fat from a product, they often replace it with sugar to compensate for the loss in taste. You are likely to eat less of a full fat yoghurt and it will keep you satisfied for longer.
12. Check your breakfast cereals. Most breakfast cereals are sugar bombs. You can make delicious porridge with almond or coconut flour and flaxseed. Try out this grain free Peanut Butter Granola. And start making more eggs for breakfast instead! Scrambled eggs really are whipped up lightning-fast. Throw in some spinach leaves, grate over a bit of cheese and you have a tasty meal that will keep you going until lunch.
13. Get sporty. Even if it's just going for a walk or taking the stairs. The endorphins released from exercising will make you feel good and reduce food cravings.
14. Re-think your snacks. Nuts, olives, cheese and cooked meats are great. Cereal bars need to go!
15. Prepare some tasty meals in advance. Keep them ready in the fridge or freezer so you won't be tempted when you get hungry.
16. Treat yourself and others! This has got to be my favourite tip. We are so used to treat ourselves with sweets. Indeed, that's what we call them - treats. But you are not really doing anyone any favours by offering your children celebratory sweets, cakes or biscuits.
What about all the other treats that make them happy? Make them a little gift. Play a family board game together. Read them a story, play football with them, have them explain why their favourite Pokemon is Piplup (this will take a while); whatever is most up their street.
The same counts for treating yourself. Is a tub of ice cream really as satisfying as some ME-time? Do the stuff you enjoy. A good film. A great book. A relaxing bath, a long chat with a good friend you've been meaning to call for weeks. And last but not least, there's always retail therapy.
Once you have a good think about it, there is so much to enjoy out there. Life is sweet.