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Cutting sugar out of your diet is one strategy to lose weight and feel healthier, but it can be a tough transition. Here are eight tips to go sugar-free without going crazy!
Note: this post is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your healthcare provider for recommendations related to your individual situation.
How to Go Sugar Free
Here’s some more motivation for you to keep going strong on your sugar-free journey. Sugar is highly addictive and can control you. Some studies have shown it to be more addictive than cocaine and nicotine. In fact, if you have a real problem with eating sugar, it might be time for a sugar detox.
Prolonged intake of sugar has been linked to mood disorders, obesity, diabetes, and other serious metabolic disorders. It may seem like a struggle to give up sugar at first, but I promise it gets easier. Experiment with these steps and you’re much more likely to beat the sugar blues without going crazy.
1. Increase Healthy Fat Intake to Improve Satiation
One gram of fat contains 9 calories while one gram of sugar contains 4 calories. Fat is more satiating, making you feel more full for a longer period of time. If you eat more fat, you’ll generally crave less sweet stuff and have fewer symptoms of sugar withdrawal.
Opt for healthy fats like:
- nuts and seeds,
- coconut oil,
- extra virgin olive oil
- fattier fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines
Adding more healthy fat sources to the diet should decrease after-meal or snack time cravings for sugary treats.
2. Get More Sleep to Balance Hunger Hormones
Studies have shown that shorter sleep duration is associated with an elevated body mass index. The reason for this is because your appetite regulating hormones (leptin and ghrelin) are negatively impacted by sleep debt, causing you to crave easy sources of energy that often come from sugar.
If you make sleep a priority and aim to get at least 7-9 hours per night your hunger hormones balance out and your cravings for the sweet stuff are reduced. Getting consistent solid sleep is one of my biggest challenges, but it’s gotten so much better using my healthy sleep hacks.
3. Practice Stress Management Techniques to Control Emotional Eating
I often hear women (and men too) say that they didn’t mean to eat whatever their sweet treat of choice may have been, but stress made them do it. I’ve been there, too. Emotional eating is common among those who are stressed out, but there are ways to control it.
Adopt a meditation practice, go for a walk outside, sip some calming tea, meet up with a friend for yoga, or try some breathing exercises. The 4-7-8 breathing exercise has been known to work well in times of stress. Finding something to take your mind off your sugar cravings is necessary when you’ve been involved in a stressful event and are prone to emotional eating.
If you think you have a true sugar addiction, then you might need professional help. See this post about how to beat sugar addiction.
4. Use Fruit to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth
Low glycemic fruits such as berries, green apples, and fruits from the citrus family are good natural options to help you satisfy a sweet craving. These fruits provide a hint of sweetness while also providing you with a fair amount of fiber and beneficial phytonutrients.
The fiber fills you up and the phytonutrients provide your body with vitamins and minerals that help you meet nutrient requirements so you don’t try to seek them out somewhere else. So, unless your doctor has advised you to avoid fruit due to blood sugar issues, then you can use fruit to help satisfy your sweet cravings. Fruit is nature’s dessert.
5. Drink More Water
Often times you may think you’re hungry when in fact your body is in need of some hydration. Drinking one to two glasses of water when you get a sugar craving can help quell that craving. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day also helps keep cravings at bay and help with any symptoms of sugar withdrawal.
If you aren’t a fan of plain water, try adding slices of fruits, cucumbers or mint to your water to make it more pleasing to your palate. I’m also a big fan of sparkling mineral water or naturally flavored carbonated water.
6. Boost Your Feel Good Hormones
Serotonin is also known as the happiness hormone. Serotonin levels can be raised through exercise, a nutritious diet and plenty of restorative sleep. People with higher serotonin levels are less likely to crave sweets.
7. Consider Sugar-Free Alternatives
There are plenty of sugar substitutes available on the market, but not all of them are created equally. Aspartame is the sugar substitute generally found in diet drinks. It also goes by the name of NutraSweet and is made in a lab from aspartic acid and phenylalanine dipeptides.
There have been concerns about aspartame as a potential carcinogen. Though its carcinogenic effects have not yet been proven, it’s still recommended that you avoid it. Another sugar-free alternative to stay away from is sucralose, also known as Splenda. A 2017 study found that zero-calorie sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose were actually found to increase, not decrease, weight.
Stevia and monk fruit extract are better alternative choices. Neither stevia nor monk fruit have been shown to be unsafe or have negative side effects, so right now they’re probably the safest options. See my list of acceptable sugar substitutes. I used monk fruit in my Keto Peanut Butter Chia Pudding recipe and it is delicious!
8. Know Your Limits
Some people report that even just a tiny hint of something sweet provokes intense sugar cravings. For these people, it is recommended that they quit all sweet stuff temporarily. This includes fruit and safe zero-calorie sugar alternatives. Read more about doing a sugar detox here.
If you fall into this category, as many people with insulin resistance often do, you can add back in sweet alternatives once your taste buds have been reset. This can be anywhere from two weeks to a full year. You’ll just have to know what works for you through intuition and trial and error. Join my 30-day Sugar Free Challenge for support during your sugar-free journey.
Not kidding, going sugar-free wasn’t an option for me most of my life. I used sugar and sweets as my comfort and way of staying sane, so cutting it out would have just added more stress to my life. A lot.
In fact, it wasn’t until I got serious about managing my stress and learning how to get in touch with my feelings that I was able to stop using sugar as my coping mechanism. Once this happened, I felt so. much. freedom. I can’t even tell you how freeing it is to eat dessert but because I want to, not because I have to.
I know not everyone eats sugar for emotional reasons, some people eat a lot of sugar simply because it tastes so darned good. Our brains and bodies have evolved for us to seek out pleasurable foods. But, the truth remains that many of us go overboard with sugars, especially refined sugars. That’s what it’s not a bad idea to think about going sugar-free or simply cutting back on sugars from your diet. That’s where this post comes in!
How do I know if sugar is in my food?
This can be tricky! Ideally, you are eating mostly real food which wouldn’t have a label. Foods that come in a package often have hidden added sugars. So, some of the ingredients on the package might not sound like sugar, but they are. Here’s a list I’ve put together in this infographic about hidden sugars.
Do I have to avoid fruit when going sugar-free?
I don’t recommend giving up fruit unless you have some health reason for avoiding it. As I mentioned above, fruit is nature’s candy and contains health-promoting micronutrients and fiber.
What if I cheat?
It’s not a contest and please don’t feel guilty if you have sugar when you don’t intend to. In this case, it might be good to review your reasons for going sugar-free and think about what other choices you could make in the future, especially in a similar situation.
What can you eat on a sugar free diet?
Just eat real foods! Seriously, you can eat so many foods on a sugar free diet, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, animal protein, eggs, dairy, nuts, seeds, avocados. Check out this article about a No Sugar Diet.
How do you cut sugar out of your diet?
It’s up to you whether to cut it out 100% or to take baby steps. Either way, you’ll likely see health benefits from cutting back on sugar.
How can I live sugar free?
Unless you have a health condition that means you really need to restrict even sugar from whole foods, then there are lots of ways to live sugar free and still not feel deprived.
From eating fruit to just adding more whole foods to your diet, it’s actually not that hard to live sugar free. However, if you’re feeling panicked about cutting sugar out of your diet, you might need to consult a therapist who can help you separate emotionally from sugar.
What can you eat on a sugar detox?
If you’re detoxing from sugar, then it’s probably best to avoid fruit just to help your tastebuds reset. So, focus on staying hydrated and eating lots of real, nourishing foods while your body adjusts. Read more about doing a sugar detox and see all my sugar-free recipes.
For more support on going sugar-free, you are invited to join my Sugar Free Challenge group on Facebook.