12 Tips for Quitting Sugar

  1. Plan ahead.  Empty your house of all sugary temptations prior to the start of the challenge. So no biscuits in the cupboard, no ice cream in the freezer and no soft drinks/sodas or beer in the fridge.   Give it to friends if you can’t bear to throw it out, but do not gorge yourself trying to finish it. Then during the week, make sure you have healthy snacks and meal options prepared and on-hand wherever possible so you don’t get forced by necessity to grab junk food.
  2. Snacks. Keep a jar of raw, unsalted nuts and seeds on hand at home and at work.  Eat a handful any time you get a sugar craving.  I use an equal mix of brazil nuts, cashews, and almonds, along with a sprinkle of sunflower seeds and organic raisins – and my kids have come to love it. I literally can’t get by now without this in the cupboard. Other snacks you might consider include carrot sticks with hummus or guacamole, a can of tuna, a tub of full fat yoghurt, smoothies, boiled eggs, cheese on seed crackers, and an avocado or piece of fruit. At work, people often grab a snack at morning or afternoon tea time simply because it gives them an excuse to take a short break. Recognise that “taking a break” might be the underlying need, rather than a “food craving” and go get a drink of water or take a short walk instead.
  3. Breakfast.  It is very important to eat a decent breakfast comprising either slow digesting carbs, protein or healthy fats, as this stops the mid-morning snack cravings.  Do NOT skip breakfast. Breakfast suggestions include: oats, gluten-free muesli (provided its low sugar), omelettes made with mushrooms, onions, cheese etc. and healthy green smoothies made by blending fruit with spinach, avocado, coconut milk or cashew nuts. See the FabFeb Meal Plan updates for more ideas and recipes. (Prepare your smoothie ingredients the night before if pushed for time). Get used to having things other than just grains for breakfast (ie. other than cereals and bread). Eggs and preservative free bacon is OK! Green smoothies are fantastic! Its worth noting that the consumption of breakfast cereals has declined 12% in the US in the last couple of years – so join this healthy trend!
  4. Fruit Juice.  The reason to avoid bottled fruit juice is because its typically as high in sugar as a can of soda/soft drink, i.e. 10-11 grams of sugar per 100ml. Even though it contains “natural sugar”, the juicing process removes the fruit fibre that would normally slow digestion, so you get an unhealthy spike in blood glucose levels.  A recent UK study showed that people who drank a glass of orange juice for breakfast every day actually increased their diabetes risk by 21%. So have a glass of water instead, or a healthy green smoothie. Special note: Full fat milk is just under 5 grams of natural sugar (in the form of lactose) per 100ml but it has a very low Glycemic Load and does not spike blood glucose levels significantly, so a glass of milk is ok.
  5. Sugar Daily Limit. The World Health Organization recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar (=24 grams) per day for the average woman, and 9 teaspoons for men (=36 grams).   Don’t obsess about tracking your daily sugar intake, but do use this as a comparative guideline when reading labels on packaged food.
  6. Chocolate.  Even though most chocolate is high in sugar and hence to be avoided, 90% cocoa dark chocolate is actually low in sugar and the cocoa is very healthy for you.  So feel free to have some of this, but not to excess of course. You will need to get used to the taste and this can take a little time, but your sweet tooth will disappear over the course of the challenge, so try it again at the end if you don’t enjoy it to begin with.
  7. Fat is Ok.  Ignore the messaging from many mainstream nutritionists that “fat is bad”. It’s actually a very important part of a healthy diet.   All foods are categorised under three macro nutrient groups – fat, protein and carbohydrates.  When a nutritionist tells you not to eat fat and to only eat “lean meat” (i.e. chicken and a little bit of fish) they effectively drive people to over-consume carbohydrates and its actually fast digesting carbs like sugar, pasta, pizza, pastry, potato and white bread that is causing the obesity epidemic.  Clinical studies in the last decade have shown that fat intake actually improves your HDL cholesterol level and hence lowers your heart disease risk. Also, without an adequate amount of fat in your diet, you are far more likely to constantly feel hungry. So choose full cream milk and choose full fat Greek yoghurt instead of low fat yoghurt (which is typically high in sugar).  Enjoy cheese and eggs. Eat butter not margarine. Be comfortable with fatty red meat like steak. Only avoid meats that are highly processed or loaded with preservatives. Cook with healthy natural fats like coconut oil, lard, ghee or olive oil, instead of manufactured seed oils like canola, corn, soybean and vegetable oils that are increasingly linked with cancers, type 2 diabetes and other western diseases.
  8. Do not starve yourself.  If you avoid fast digesting carbs then you can eat as much as you like, within reason.  This is opposite to general nutrition advice where people are told they need to significantly reduce their daily calorie intake if they want to lose weight.  It’s not sustainable to starve yourself on a diet for an extended period of time, especially if you are exercising, as this increases your appetite even more.   The interesting finding from recent studies of low carb/high fat diets is that people on those diets not only lost significantly more weight than those on low fat diets, but they also seemed to unconsciously reduce their calorie intake more than the others (presumably because a higher level of fat intake is more satiating or satisfying, so people don’t snack as much between meals).
  9. Sauces. Watch out for sauces and dressings as they typically contain very high levels of sugar, e.g. 50%+ is not uncommon, tomato sauce included. We provide some sugar free dressing and avocado and hummus recipes in our Meal Plan information that you can try as alternatives.
  10. Sweeteners. If you wish to replace sugar, we recommend natural sweeteners like “stevia” or “xylatol” over artificial “nutrasweet” type sweeteners. Recent studies on lab rats has shown artificial sweeteners negatively impair the healthy gut bacteria required for absorbing nutrients in the intestinal tract and create pre-diabetic insulin conditions similar to those caused by excessive sugar intake.
  11. Count chemicals, not calories. The idea that we need to count the calories we eat in every meal and track them using apps like MyFitnessPal in order to lose weight is absurd! Think about it. Are we really saying that humanity has evolved as a species over two million years to the point where our survival depends on calorie counting in a smartphone app? If you eat healthy and cut out fast carbs, you do not need to count calories in order to lose weight.   Instead you should focus on checking the amount of chemicals in the food you eat – so read food labels and Google the ingredients for major fast food brands. If you see a lot of numbers in the label (e.g. preservative 250, anti-foaming agent 900a, etc) then think twice about eating it. The bottom line is to eat real food (fruit, vegetables, meat) rather than processed food – and forget the calorie counting.
  12. Embrace withdrawal. You may well suffer sugar cravings and even possibly headaches as you cut down your sugar intake but stay with the programme! Eat a little more of foods containing fat with each meal to help suppress the cravings. Withdrawal feelings will pass within a couple of weeks and by the end of the challenge you will have made a permanent change to your diet that is sustainable and easy to live with.