10 Practical Tips for Ending Your Unhealthy Relationship with Sugar
"According to the study published in JAMA: Internal Medicine, those who got 17 to 21 percent of calories from added sugar had a 38 percent higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease compared to those who consumed 8 percent of their calories from added sugar. "--- American Heart Association
There is no better time to break up with sugar than now so let's talk about how to do it:
1. Eat REAL Food
This means purchasing and consuming food that is not packaged and processed. Almost all packaged foods sold at conventional grocery stores are processed and contain added sugars under several different names. When grocery shopping, minimize foods from the middle aisles and buy the bulk of your foods from the perimeter of the store where the fruits, vegetables and meats are. Even your seemingly healthy granola, protein bars and weight loss drinks probably have added sweeteners in them that are contributing to not feeling well.
2. Read Labels
Plan to spend extra time at the grocery store reading all labels for all the secret names sugar goes by. There are roughly 61 different names this evil culprit goes by so check out this page and print it out so you can do your detective work while you shop.
3. Stay Away From Temptation
When you are first trying to clear your body and diet from added sugar make it easier on yourself by staying away from places that might trigger your sweet cravings. For some this may be places like Starbucks where the pastry case displays beautiful little treats before your hungry eyes. This may mean for the time being to not eat at your favorite restaurant or cafe. If the grocery store is a place that causes you to crave sweets then consider having someone else pick fruits and vegetables up and deliver them to your home. Companies like Instacart deliver your groceries to your home for a small cost. You won't always need this service but at the beginning of changing your diet this might be helpful to keep you on track.
4. Stop using Sweets as a Reward
If you do something well or feel proud of an accomplishment then celebrate in a way that doesn't involve food or sugar. Treat yourself to a massage, movie or even a day at the spa. When you meet your health goals it is important you acknowledge your achievements while staying on the path to wellness. I personally love to be outdoors so when I want to reward myself I go for a long peaceful walk on town lake or the greenbelt and allow myself to just be happy. Do unto others the same and reward your friends or co-workers with small gifts instead of candies.
5. Stop using Sweets to Punish Yourself!
When you feel let down, upset, hurt or even angry do not turn to food to make yourself feel better or fill a void. I promise you will only feel worse afterwards. Instead call a friend, journal, pray, meditate, listen to music, go for a walk, cuddle a cat or dog or watch a good movie! It's okay to have a rough day, it happens to all of us. Just allows yourself to gather your thoughts, acknowledge your feelings and then channel it positively into a new task! A container of ice cream is no one's friend.
6. Never Use Artificial Sweeteners
White sugar is not the only health saboteur. Artificial sweeteners can also be contributing to your health issues. I recommend never consuming foods or beverages with artificial sweeteners like diet coke or the yellow and pink packets. Aspartame is an artificial sweetener with several unpleasant side effects such as abdominal pain, nausea, and headaches. In many animal research studies, artificial sweeteners have been linked to cancer. Many health professionals believe that diet sodas can actually make people paradoxically gain weight!
7. Sorry Honey
I know people like a little natural sugar in their diet like honey in their tea or maple syrup on their homemade waffles. In all honesty I do not advocate the use of these except for honey when used in medicinal teas and medicines. Please consider saying no to agave syrup, maple syrup, honey, raw sugar (aka turbinado) and coconut sugar. Although these sugars are not "bad" per say, they can still increase your blood sugar levels. When consumed too much or too often they can leave you with a desire for more sugar.
8. Drink to Hydrate Only
One of the biggest dietary issues I commonly see is that people are unknowingly drinking too much sugar and extra calories. Drinking plenty of clean, quality water should be your liquid priority. Be mindful that even "health" drinks have sugars in them so read labels carefully. Steer clear of sodas, sweetened teas, sweetened coffee drinks, artificial juices, energy drinks and alcoholic beverages. If water gets boring then add organic orange or lemon slices to your water with fresh herbs such as basil or mint.
9. Do NOT Skip Meals!
Skipping meals often is a huge mistake. Many people who skip meals experience low blood sugar and then in an attempt to not feel like they are crashing will quickly grab whatever food is nearby. Those foods are usually processed and high in sugar. Make sure you eat 3 adequate meals a day with protein, fiber, and healthy fats. If you get hungry in between meals snack on whole fruits such as organic berries, apples, or oranges. Unroasted and unsalted almonds as well as vegetable sticks like celery and carrots are also a good snack.
10. Move Forward and Keep Trying
Let's face it, mistakes happen. You might accidentally order your coffee the way you normally do with sugar in it. Perhaps you check all ingredients but miss the hidden sugars. Just acknowledge the mistake, and move on. Do not get discouraged. This journey is about learning and allowing yourself to get better each day. I promise that even if you make a mistake, you have an opportunity the next meal to make a better choice for your health.
Please share these 10 tips with your friends and family who are also trying to break up with sugar and get healthy! The struggle is real and we all need a supportive community.
Dr. Lauren Sanchez, ND