Sugar Busters-Crowd Out that Sweet Tooth
We know we’re wired to crave sugary foods and drinks. After all, milk—the first substance we consume—is rich in lactose, or milk sugar. Unfortunately, too much of the sweet stuff is detrimental to health, contributing to obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular issues, according to Harvard Health Publishing. To resist sugar’s lure, try to make it harder to access treats.
Read on for some helpful strategies to lower your own consumption.
Read nutritional labels:
A rose is a rose is a rose. So too is sugar, whether it’s called by any of its many names, from agave nectar to honey to maple syrup. When trying to reduce consumption, it’s important to read nutritional labels and to steer clear of products with a lot of added sugars. Even items that you’d expect to be free of sweeteners, like pasta sauce, salad dressing, crackers, and bread, often include a generous dose. Get to know various products in each category and favor brands that leave out the sweet stuff.
Clean out your house:
To cut down on sugars, it helps to control your environment by making sugary foods and drinks more difficult to access. Ideally, rid your home of any products with sweeteners. However, if that’s not an option, place them out of the way, as in high-up cabinets or towards the back of drawers. Then, in easier-to-reach places, keep nutritious items, like fresh fruits and vegetables. Try a bowl of fruit on your kitchen table, containers stocked with crudities on the middle shelf of your fridge, and plain oats at eye-level in your pantry.
Break your sugar habit:
Many of us use sweeteners throughout the day, without even realizing it. Our bodies then learn to crave and expect the reward of a sugary food or drink. To end your addiction, start chipping away at these habits. In the morning, abstain from adding (sweetened) creamer or sugar to your coffee. At lunch, dress your salad with oil and vinegar, rather than bottled dressing. At dinner, top your burger with mustard, rather than ketchup, the latter of which is loaded with sugar. Instead of perking yourself up with sweetened coffee and a pastry in the late afternoon, switch to plain coffee and an apple with nut butter instead.
Find healthier alternatives:
Experience sweet flavors, but in more nutritious ways. The best trick is to go for fruit, which will provide the taste you’re craving, along with fiber, water, and micronutrients (including antioxidants). So, for example, if you’re used to having a pastry at 3 pm, switch to a few prunes (ideally paired with nuts for satiating protein and fat). If you rely on sweetened oatmeal in the morning, try plain oatmeal, topped with fresh berries, and toasted nuts. In pancake batter, in lieu of sugar, incorporate unsweetened applesauce or canned pumpkin, both of which are naturally sweet. Rather than canned fruit in syrup, opt for canned fruit in water or 100% juice.
Boost your fat and protein:
Both fat and protein are satiating and will help reduce your cravings for carbs. For the best results, try to stagger your servings of these macronutrients throughout the day, as with eggs at breakfast, a grilled chicken-topped salad at lunch, and baked fish at dinner.
Don’t deprive yourself completely:
Research has shown that diets that are too restrictive can be difficult to sustain. That’s why, if you love cookies, indulge sometimes. Depending on what works best for you, you could, say, have a small (one-ounce) piece of dark chocolate once a day or one larger dessert per week. Just remember that the overall goal is moderation and eating healthfully the vast majority of the time.
Make water your default beverage:
So many of us derive a large percentage of our calories from beverages, like soda and sweetened coffee drinks. By hydrating primarily with water, you’ll end up drastically cutting your sugar consumption and eroding your sugar habit. To jazz up water, add ice, fresh herbs, and fresh fruits and vegetables, like cucumber slices, orange or grapefruit wedges, and fresh mint. Or, purchased flavored, unsweetened water, still or sparkling.