Halloween. Thanksgiving. Winter holidays. All of these have a (deliciously) common them of gathering, cooking, indulging, and often overheating the things we crave most. Many people have a love/hate relationship with this time of year, and sometimes try to put extreme restrictions in place to avoid savory, sweet or “bad” foods all together, however almost every time they can’t sustain this, and they feel like a “failure” for not living up to their remarkably high expectations of themselves. I’ll let you in on a secret – most people think eliminating or restricting sugar will be easy before they actually do it. When they don’t succeed in eliminating the sweets, they somehow feel like they’ve failed at an easy task. The truth is, sugar can feel more addictive than heroin, and just cutting this out of your diet is one of the hardest things, physically and mentally, to do – especially during a time of year when it’s everywhere.
Breaking the cycle of craving and feeding our addiction is difficult, but not impossible. Sugar in particular is especially tricky because the more you eat, the more you want. It’s truly an addictive substance. It’s also mind blowing how many foods and beverages tuck sugar away that we don’t even think should have it. Awareness is the first step to decreasing your daily sugar consumption. Reading labels and understanding the many forms of sugar in packaged foods is important. Pay attention for the following: Sucrose, fructose, dextrose, “processed” honey, malt syrup, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners like aspartame, acesulfame potassium, neotame, saccharin, sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, sucralose, cane sugar, cane syrup. Do your best to avoid these ingredients in the foods that you buy.
Here are some of my tips for slowly reducing processed sugars in your diet:
- Take 1 full week just to read your labels. Take note of your go-to foods, and just notice where sugar is continually getting int your diet.
- Choose 2 of your common go-to foods that have processed sugars and try to eliminate these for at least 2 weeks.
- Purchase a food based sweetener such as honey, maple syrup, coconut palm sugar or dates, and try cooking with these in place of sugar for 4 weeks. This gradual substitution will slowly and effectively shift your tastebuds to appreciate subtle sweetness over highly sweet processed sugars for a more sustainable replacement of sugar.
- Around the holiday time – don’t try to eliminate sugar completely. Allow yourself one (appropriately portioned) sweet treat daily for at least a week, then maybe every other day after that. Limit yourself, but don’t overly restrict yourself unless you know you have an uncommonly high willpower.
Top Tips For Overcoming A Sweet Tooth:
- Sugar is a drug, take your consumption of it seriously and be mindful as you gently ease off of it.
- Only eat when hungry, journal and observe cravings when they arise before indulging in them.
- Swap cane sugar or refined corn syrup products for natural sweeteners like raw honey, grade B maple syrup, coconut sugar/syrup, or pure stevia.
- Drink 8 glasses of water and herbal tea throughout the day to stay hydrated.
- Eat a mainly plant-based diet filled with natural fiber to keep your body feeling satisfied and your aid in lightness of digestion.
- Support your body with helpful nutrients – B vitamins, vitamin C, chromium, calcium, magnesium, and the amino acid L-glutamine all help to curb sugar cravings. These are abundant in whole grains, legumes / beans and nuts and seeds.
Lindsay Kluge M.Sc, CNS, LDN | HealthCoach@EllwoodThompsons.com