Have you heard that March is National Nutrition Month?! This year the theme is Put Your Best Fork Forward and that’s exactly what I’m doing right now…eating my way through Israel!!
But (sidenote) Israel does have that whole Mediterranean thing going for it and I’m all about the fresh food, sooooo I’m one happy camper right about now!
Anyyywhooo for the eighth week of my 52 Weeks to See Your Life Nutritionally series I’m sharing 5 ways to eat less sugar and what going on an added sugar detox was like in our home!
We eliminated ALL added sugar from our diets for 7 days.
What was going to happen when I couldn’t have my square of dark chocolate at night or my bae had to switch from his beloved vanilla Siggi’s to PLAIN?!
Sneak peak: We survived!
To be honest, neither of us eat a lot of added sugar on the reg. Sure I love ketchup, but I mostly eat True Made Foods with added veggies for sweetness and that has half the amount of sugar as traditional 57 ketchup ((if ya know what I meannn…)). We love 85% dark chocolate and have been eating bean to bar as much as possible since our trip to Seattle. Plus, healthy eating is important to both of us so we try to pack in as many veggies and nutritious foods as possible during the week.
So why did it feel so HARD to give up??
One word: DEPRIVATION!
I felt like I couldn’t eat what I wanted when I wanted to eat it, and that wasn’t a good feeling!
I strongly believe food is meant to be enjoyed…and crossing one more thing off the list of foods that I can eat was not fun. It’s not like I sit around eating jelly beans and pouring sugar into my coffee! But I get it — a tablespoon of ketchup here and a squeeze of honey in my tea and a tablespoon of sunflower seed butter and then a square of dark chocolate adds up. And these are all harmless habits and foods I enjoy!
All of a sudden my favorite 85% dark chocolate was looking at me with devil eyes and, no I did not like it!
But I’m a dietitian and I knowwww I can eat 85% dark chocolate every darn day if I wanted to, so why was I doing this??
Americans are eating more sugar than ever. It’s not that we’re even dumping it into our coffee or tea, but that everything from ketchup to tomato sauce to bread is loaded with the sweet stuff. Manufacturers have learned that consumers will keep coming back for more with sweeter, saltier and fattier products.
And it’s biological! Our neural circuits are wired to craaaaave sugar, salt and fat. And to their credit, manufacturers have done a great job at appealing to the masses. BUT this hasn’t helped our health, our waistlines or our taste preferences.
After getting rid of even my healthier sources of added sugar I really noticed how much sweeter these harmless foods with added sugar I do eat on the reg really are. And now, I need less to satisfy the same craving. I’ve barely even touched my chocolate… except for the 88 Acres Chocolate and Sea Salt Seenola they sent me because O-M-G SO GOOD!
In general, we should limit added sugar intake to less than 10% of our daily caloric intake or 25 grams daily (says the 2015 dietary guidelines for Americans). I personally think even more. Added sugar intake is related to the development of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity and more. Sugar is definitely not a nutrient our bodies need… even if they crave it!
So how did our experiment go? Overall, I think cutting our added sugar intake was a really good challenge for both myself and the babe to really see what our diets are like when we’re not being as extra, detective-level careful about added sugars in our diets….
- I made sure to eat a good source of protein and healthy fats at every meal… like my bean burgers with avocado (below) or lentil bolognese.
- I was prepared at all times with healthy, sugar-free snacks… dry roasted edamame, fresh cut veggies and hummus, guac on a sourdough cracker…
- I roasted TONS of veggies each week to bring out their natural sweetness. Butternut squash anyone?? Carrot ‘fries?’
- I made my own sunflower seed butter with absolutely no added sugar
- I cut out dried fruit (even if it wasn’t sweetened with added sugar) to eliminate concentrated sweets and instead quenched all of my sweet cravings with fresh or frozen fruit
- I swapped out ketchup and replaced it with no sugar added marinara sauce with my eggs
Aside from being a tad frustrated in the beginning I really didn’t feel all that different (which I attribute to the fact that I don’t eat all that much sugar in the first place!). My energy level was pretty much the same, my workouts didn’t feel any easier and my stomach was still as all over the place as ever… However, when I ate a few sweets after my ‘detox’ was over, I noticed that my skin wasn’t as clear as it was the few days prior… soooo food for thought!
So if you think that perhaps you eat a little too much sugar, I challenge you to try to cut it out —even for just 7 days — to take a good look at your diet, see what happens and see how you feel!
Here are 5 ways to eat less sugar …
- Eat as close to the earth as possible. Sit on the ground? No way! Unless you’re into that sort of thing! What I mean is that you should be eating mostly foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. Focus on fresh vegetables, fruit, lean meat, beans, legumes and whole grains.
- Check all food labels. Ingredient lists will become your new BFF! Check to see if there’s any sugar or any of the 20+ pseudonyms that sugar likes to disguise itself as… cane syrup, brown rice syrup, evaporated cane juice… the list goes on!
- Balance your plate. If your meals are a well-rounded combination of protein, healthy fats, veggies and whole grains then you’ll squash your cravings in no time. Make sure you’re eating enough whole foods so you’re not hungry ((which is a sure-fire way to get a sugar craving!!)).
- Compare your condiments! People are always shocked when I tell them that their favorite ketchup or tomato sauce (or BBQ sauce, salad dressing, etc…) is likely a huge source of added sugar in their diets. Know the label lingo and be certain to choose brands with no added sugar — they exist! I started using no added sugar tomato sauce with my scrambled eggs instead of ketchup and love it!
- Be prepared! There’s nothing like getting home from work HANGRY and only having a box of cereal that’s loaded with added sugar in your pantry. Stock your fridge with fresh veggies and fruit, lean protein and sugar-free snacks. My go-to? POPCORN! It’s a whole grain and when I pop it myself I get to control how much fat and salt I’m adding to it — win-win!
Oh and bonus #6 — stay HYDRATED!! Staying adequately hydrated helps cut cravings so you’ll want less of the sweet stuff. Try adding a squeeze of lemon too to help your taste buds adjust to less sugar (sour is a new flavor for your taste buds to look forward to!).
So what do you think? What are some ways to eat less sugar in your diet?
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