Lots of people today eat too much added sugar, which can have lots of negative health benefits. For example, eating too much sugar means you have a greater risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer, and it can also lead to high cholesterol.
However, sugar is an important part of our diet, but not all sugar is created equally. Natural sugars such as fructose are considered healthy, and they have metabolic benefits – but added sugar doesn’t have any benefits. However, there are lots of benefits to cutting added sugar out of your diet; you will feel more awake and alert, and you will have a lower chance of contracting heart disease or diabetes.
Here is how to cut added sugar out of your diet in three weeks.
For most people, the first week is the hardest. As you cut down your sugar intake, you may notice that you are experiencing some withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches and tiredness.
- Get rid of the sugar in your house. If you open your cupboards and fridge and keep seeing sugary tweets, you are more likely to crave them. Throw away any unhealthy snacks with added sugar so that you don’t have to think about it. If you are in doubt about the item, check the ingredient list rather than the grams of sugar; nutrition labels rarely specify what sugar is natural and what sugar is added.
- Have dessert once or twice. Cutting out added sugar completely can be really tough, and lots of people struggle to stick with their low sugar diet. Treat yourself to dessert a couple of times during the first week so that you reduce your sugar slowly, which should lessen headaches and tiredness. Make sure you don’t eat dessert every night, though – this will just mean you end up with headaches and tiredness next week!
- Eat foods that will give you lots of energy. Stock up on food that is filled with energy, such as wholemeal pasta. This will make you feel full and awake, so you are less likely to be tempted by sugary snacks.
- Use your willpower. The first week is the hardest, but after that you will find that it is much easier to stick to cutting sugar out. Keep going – don’t give up!
Congratulations – you have successfully reduced your added sugar intake! This week is focused on cutting out all added sugar, and finding healthier replacements.
- Drink only water. This week, replace soda, diet soda and fruit juices with water. Water helps your body to flush out toxins, so you will feel healthier and more alert. Enjoy a coffee or tea in the morning if you want, but stick to water in the afternoons and evenings.
- Replace sugar with other healthier snacks. If you want to stick to this diet for a long time, you will need to replace snacks with added sugar with something healthier. You could try savory snacks such as peanuts or cashews, or you could go for something with natural sugar, like a banana.
- Learn to look for hidden added sugar. Items that contain added sugar often don’t advertise it; instead they say that they contain syrup, nectar, agave or fruit juice concentrate.
- Carry an emergency snack with you for cravings. It is likely that at some point during week two you will start craving sugar. Make sure you already have a healthy snack in your bag for when this happens, so you are less likely to give up and eat sugar.
Your body is now getting used to a life without added sugars – and it is thanking you for it! By week three your cravings should have lessened, so the hardest part is over now.
- Half any sugar left in your diet. Lots of people cut out snacks and cold drinks with added sugar, but they still enjoy a spoonful in their coffee. If you are doing this, try halving the amount that of sugar that you put in. A small amount of sugar will go a long way!
- Put a post-it on anything in your home with sugar in it. You will want to keep items like honey and brown sugar for baking and other recipes, but putting a post-it on them will remind you that they are high in sugar. This will help deter you from using them too frequently.
- Create an eating schedule. Try to eat all three meals at a similar time each day, and plan what you will eat in advance. If you have a food routine, you are less likely to get accidentally hungry, so you are less likely to buy a sugary snack.
- Make a long-term plan. If you want to keep added sugar out of your diet, you should plan your food shops in advance, so that you don’t end up accidentally buying something with added sugar. This will help you to stick to your plan in the future.