Hey Valentine! Did part of your special day include a box of chocolates or a big decadent chocolate dessert?
Feeling a little sugar hangover today? A little sluggish, maybe a headache, or a little moody?
There have been many studies done that have shown that sugar is one of the primary causes of many health issues. One study that I find extremely fascinating but very disturbing is the fact that sugar causes the same responses in the brain as cocaine does.
Sugar can suppress the immune system, weaken eyesight, cause hypoglycemia, cause weight gain, exacerbate arthritis, contribute to osteoporosis, increase cholesterol, lead to prostate and ovarian cancer, contribute to diabetes, speed up skin aging, increase fluid retention, cause poor concentration, mood swings, and depression.
What I have found in dealing with many of my clients, is that most of them know the dangers of too much sugar, and will try to cut back. However, because of the addictive nature of sugar, and the insidious way in which manufacturers put sugar in many foods (why does pasta sauce and salad dressing have to contain sugar?) many are unsure of where to start.
So, here are my 7 tips to start quitting sugar today.
1. Start the day off right
Many sugar cravings happen when our blood sugar is unbalanced (3 pm snack break anyone?) Eat breakfast within 30 minutes of waking - ditch the prepared boxed cereals and choose Steel Cut Oatmeal with fresh or frozen blueberries, or 1/2 cup of 2% plain Greek Yogurt and add 1/4 cup of fresh or frozen berries (don't buy the yogurt with the fruit already added - so is sugar!) Then eat smaller, well balanced meals throughout the day to maintain your blood sugar levels
2. Eliminate sugary beverages, including fruit juice and alcohol
That got your attention, didn't it? Yes, I'm sorry, not only does alcohol convert to glucose in our body which contributes to insulin issues, many alcoholic beverages have a lot of sugar in them. Granted, alcohol such as gin, rye, vodka and whisky don't contain sugar, but unless you're drinking them neat, what you mix with your booze has added sugar. I'm not saying you have to give up your girls night out forever, but while you're trying to eliminate sugar over the next little while, you'll need to consider being a tee-totaller.
Did you know that a glass of apple juice contains the same amount of sugar as a glass of Coke? That’s about 12 teaspoons in one standard glass. Fruit is naturally high in sugar, however, eaten whole, with the fiber and water intact, our bodies are able to metabolize the fructose. But when the fiber or water is removed, in the case of prepared juices we’re left with a crapload of sugar that our system simply can’t process. The best trick? Opt for low fructose whole fruit, such as berries and kiwi fruit.
3. Quit Sugary Junk Foods, including granola bars
Many of my clients think they're eating healthy when they choose granola bars, but unfortunately many processed granola bars contain a HUGE amount of added sugar. In fact, many name brand granola bars have as much or even more sugar than a chocolate bar. Sugary Junk Foods? Stop. Just stop. Right now. i know it's hard, but it will be SO worth it!
4. Eat more fat! And lean protein too!
Just to clarify, I'm not talking fried fats or trans fat, I want you to eat healthy fats - such as avocado, nuts, eggs, butter, and healthy lean protein - whole foods full of great healthy essential fatty acids. Fat fills you up, which helps with sugar cravings.
5. Cut out the white and increase your fibre!
Refined foods that many people typically eat are crackers, white potatoes, white breads, white rice and white pastas. These are simple carbs which because of the way our body metabolizes these foods, act like straight sugar in your body. Many people find these the hardest to cut back on. My suggestion is to reduce them one by one over the next three weeks. You can also substitute brown rice or quinoa for white rice, sweet potatoes for white potatoes (be sure to try this recipe or this one) A great pasta substitute is spaghetti squash. Cut the spaghetti squash in half, scoop out the seeds and lightly brush olive oil on both halves and bake at 400 F for 30 to 45 minutes. When fully cooked, take a fork and pull the flesh to separate into spaghetti like strands. Toss with some fresh vegetables and a little olive oil and enjoy!
6. Cook from scratch and eat simply
So many of our processed and prepared foods contain hidden sugar. For many, the thought of cooking every meal from scratch gives them more stress and headaches that they can even imagine. My advice is to pick a day once a week when you can devote 2 - 3 hours in the kitchen (depending on your schedule, Sunday afternoons may work well for this) Plan your menu for the week, including snacks and lunches, and grocery shop according to your plan. Prepare or pre cook as many meals as possible so that you won't be tempted to pick something up on the way home, or pick up the phone to order in dinner. This way you can control your sugar meal by meal, on a daily and then weekly basis. By having your lunches and snacks ready to go, you are more likely to achieve success, and not fall back on old habits.
One quote I am often found telling my clients is this one from Michael Pollen - "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants" Eating simply does not mean boring. Our taste buds have been so desensitized to what food really tastes like because of all of the added sugars that manufacturers have added to our food. There are so many ways to flavour your food that doesn't add sugar or calories! Get creative in the kitchen, your body and your taste buds will thank you! Be sure to check out some of my recipes here
7. 21 Days makes a habit
Making changes to anything can be difficult, and many people give up before they realize their goal. It has been shown that doing something for 21 days helps you make these new behaviours a part of your life. To make it easier for you to be successful in quitting sugar, pick a stretch of 21 days where you don't have commitments that could hinder your progress. (things like weddings, family celebrations, etc.) The first few days may be extremely difficult because you are basically withdrawing from an addiction. Don't despair. Use some of these coping techniques to get you through
- take a good quality magnesium and/or chromium supplement and a B complex (speak to me or your health care provider for what works best for you)
- when you feel a craving coming on, distract yourself with a good book, go for a walk, call a friend, or play a game with your kids
- have healthy snacks prepared and ready to go - keep small bags of nuts in your purse of glove compartment of your car, and chopped vegetables with hummus or fruit with yogurt, apples with almond butter in your fridge. That way you won't be tempted to choose a sugary snack
Remember, if you 'fall off the wagon', don't give up. Pick your socks up honey and get right back on that bike again - you can't do it, I believe in you!
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