Our bodies need sugar in its natural state to function properly, but when we process it and add it to food, that’s where the trouble begins. That’s called ADDED sugar, and it’s very dangerous.The real problem is that added sugars don’t just come from sweets. They’re lurking practically everywhere, even in the places you would NEVER expect. Your efforts to create a healthy lifestyle can be sorely challenged by sugar intake. Cravings can be the downfall of a successful diet, but so can added-and often hidden-sugar in the foods you eat.
Sugar has empty calories, messes with your metabolism gives you belly fat, and makes your insulin wonky, which can lead to insulin resistance and ultimately obesity. There is also a host of other health issues that it contributes to, including cancer and dementia.
Here are eight easy ways to cut down sugar for good…
8 Easy Ways to Cut Down Sugar
Read food labels
If you buy a lot of packaged and processed foods, it’s important to read labels of every packaged item you buy. Cracking a sugar addiction is hard enough when cutting out the stuff that you already know is loaded with it.
Learn to recognize sugar’s sneaky aliases, like high fructose corn syrup, dried cane syrup, molasses, sucrose, dextrose, agave, honey, and maple syrup, to name a few. Manufacturers love to hide sugar in foods that you wouldn’t think have it. Bread, pasta, yogurt, kefir, salad dressing, almond milk, and even ketchup can be loaded with sugar. If the carbohydrates look a little high, it probably has more sugar than you realize.
Take time to look at the ingredients as well as the sugar content and make an effort to choose foods and brands that have zero added sugar.
Stop drinking it
We know that few things are more satisfying than a sweet drink to give you a little pick-me-up during the day. Maybe a little sugar in your coffee, a bottled iced tea, or an icy, cold soda.
Just one or two isn’t a big deal, right?
There are SO many studies out there that say the same thing about drinks with added sugar; they are THE most fattening part of a diet (American). Sugary drinks can increase your risk of obesity by at least 60%. Diet drinks with artificial sweeteners are even worse! Not only do they increase your obesity risk just like sugar, but the chemicals themselves are really bad for you.
Better yet, make your own iced coffee with protein!
Eat regularly and often
There always seems to be a mad dash toward the vending machines or convenience store in the afternoon. The candy aisle is a popular place that time of the day. The 3:00 slump is dangerous to our productivity AND our health!
People often skip lunch because they’re too busy to leave their desk, they forget their lunch, or they’re on a budget. There are a million reasons why, but skipping meals or not having a healthy snack option is the death knell of many a diet.
Not eating regularly doesn’t help you lose weight, and it certainly doesn’t make things easy when you’re trying to cut down sugar. Blood sugar levels drop when you’re hungry, which can make you crave a sweet snack.
Another pro tip: Make a rule to never eat outside of mealtimes but allow yourself coffee and tea in between to help suppress your appetite and keep you from boredom eating!
Eat protein and/or fat with every meal
Protein and healthy fats control blood sugar. They keep it from going up or down too quickly, which can cause the sugar monster to rear its beastly head. Eating protein and fats will slow down the release of blood sugar, which will keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Healthy fats include avocados, nuts, and oils like olive oil and coconut oil. You can add some almonds into oatmeal for a healthy breakfast, or have a snack of avocado and turkey breast slices in the afternoon.
Another pro tip: Keep a yummy and healthy protein powder on hand to make protein shakes, add to your oatmeal, smoothies, etc. It’s super satisfying and keeps you full!
Add spices to satisfy your taste buds
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, sometimes it’s hard to eat anything without a little bit sugar. Fortunately, there are lots of yummy spices that have zero calories and sugar available to make life a little sweeter.
If you can’t do anything without a latte in the morning, order an unsweetened one, then add cocoa or vanilla powder that doesn’t have sugar in it. You can sprinkle some cinnamon, coriander, or nutmeg on oatmeal.
Cinnamon will make things taste sweet, but it has the added benefit of helping you control your appetite by regulating blood sugar.
Remind yourself why you want to cut down sugar
You know sugar isn’t good for you, but that little voice inside your head that tells you “donuts are love” keeps sabotaging your efforts to make better choices.
You don’t need to go all scared-straight on yourself. You know that sugar has been linked to everything from obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and even Alzheimer’s. Simply remind yourself of what your goals are. Do you want to lose weight, decrease your risks of cancer, or feel better?
Stick a note on your refrigerator door, or kitchen cabinets, or a daily reminder on your phone about all the wonderful health goals you have. They’ll quiet your cookie monster alter-ego and help you stay on track!
Keep sugary treats and snacks out of your home
For you single folks out there, this might seem like a no-brainer. However, when you have kids, a hungry husband, or an ultra-skinny roommate, it’s a lot harder to do.
Kids love sugar for many reasons. Their taste buds aren’t fully developed yet, hence sweet and salty flavors are the most enticing things. Plus, there are massive marketing campaigns directed towards the little ones that push sweet things like cereal and candy bars.
Remember that sugar is very dangerous for children too, especially because their bodies and minds are still developing.
Do the whole family a favor and keep it out of the house. Take special trips with your kids when you go out for sweets and treat it like a reward.
Take high-quality supplements
Did you know that nutrient deficiencies can cause food cravings? If you’re dieting, you might be low on certain vitamins and minerals, which can make you jones for sweets.
Magnesium helps regulate glucose, insulin, and dopamine. If you don’t have enough in your system, it can make you go all kinds of crazy. Low dopamine levels have a lot to do with addictive behaviors.
Not that you’re addicted to sugar. You can quit any time, right?
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