As most of you remember, my husband and I have been working to cut sugar out of our diet this year. If you’re new to All Things Autumn, you can read about our initial decision to cut added sugars out of our diet here. There are updates to our first sugar detox here, here and here. You can also read about our August challenge to not eat at restaurants or eat sugar, there are posts about it here and here. What generally seems to happen is that we do a sugar detox, and go about a month without eating added sugar, and then go on a modified sugarless diet, in which we have added sugar sometimes, but not as much as we used to. At this point, it’s easy to tell when we have had too much added sugar. We both get acid reflux, and generally don’t feel well. The goal is to be able to not feel deprived, but also not get out of control. At first, this was a really difficult balance to find. It’s gotten a little easier, but still something we need to practice.
Through all this time, however, I have found some tricks that make reducing added sugars easier. So, here are five of the best tricks I have found so far for reducing added sugars daily:
- At first, DETOX!
Cutting sugar out of your diet is hard. Even if you’re motivated, and know what to avoid, the pitfalls aren’t always easy to avoid. If you’re a stress eater like I am, one bad day can send you on a spiral. Not everyone has the same experience detoxing from sugar, and not every sugar detox will be the same. For example, the first time my husband and I detoxed from sugar, we went for a few weeks, and I had the most terrible time! I had really bad headaches, mood swings, and just generally hated every minute of it. My husband, on the other hand, didn’t have any problems. He felt totally fine, lost a pant size, and loved it. The second time around, it was basically the complete opposite. Just knowing that not eating something that is not good for me can make me feel so terrible has been a huge motivator in trying to cut added sugars out of my diet. The detox is also hard if you work in a place where treats are readily available, or if you spend time with people that eat a lot of added sugar. It’s not impossible though, I promise!
- Research, research, research!
As I have written about before, our journey into the uncharted waters of cutting out added sugars started when we watched a documentary called Fed Up. The main focus of the movie was childhood obesity, but the information in the movie totally relates to adults as well. After getting some information there, we started looking up information in other places. My absolute favorite resource for information on giving up added sugar comes from Eve O. Schwab, who wrote a book called A Year of No Sugar. This book started out as a blog, where she documented her family’s journey through an entire year with no added sugar (with exceptions). I find her writing very honest and can easily relate to it. I am not a parent, but there are struggles that her family goes through that I went through myself. I think it’s important to not only talk about the good parts of giving up sugar, but also the bad parts, because there are quite a few. Another reason I love and absolutely recommend her book is that she also did quite a bit of research prior to making a commitment. She talks about some of her findings, and the things she learned that motivated her to make the change. It’s compelling, entertaining, and inspiring! If you want to cut out (or even just reduce) the amount of added sugar you consume, I highly recommend her book.
- Look for acceptable alternatives
I can tell you from experience that one of the first things that happen when you cut out sugar, after the excited and motivated feeling melts away and reality sets in, is that you feel very deprived. Prior to this, I don’t feel like I ate a whole lot of sugar. Well, besides occasional drinks from coffee shops, and food that aren’t actually sweet but inexplicably contain sugar. Once I started a sugar detox, however, cravings for sweets skyrocketed. Many times, the sense of deprivation is more powerful than the actual desire. The fact that I just couldn’t have a brownie made me want one with a passion. Eve Schwab discusses this as well. So, instead of just feeling sad and deprived, I did even more research to find acceptable alternatives to sugar. In researching sugar addiction, you learn that there are two types of sugar: glucose (which is necessary for body function) and fructose (which isn’t necessary to body function, and causes all of the problems with insulin production). Sweeteners that are glucose don’t raise insulin production in the body, or blood sugar levels, so they are a much better alternative. A few sugar alternatives that are acceptable are dextrose (which you can apparently buy in powdered form from Amazon, but I have not tried this), dates (seriously) and brown rice syrup, which I found in the natural food section of my local grocery store. Brown rice syrup is approximately the color of honey (maybe a little darker) and has the consistency of molasses. It is not as sweet as sugar, honey, molasses or agave, and since it’s a liquid, you can’t really use it in things like cakes and cookies, but I was surprised with how much I liked it. I made banana bread with it, and preferred it to a bread sweetened with sugar. Even more surprisingly, agave and honey are not at all acceptable. I understand honey a little (but I still eat it because there are some health benefits to it that I think outweigh the small amount of it that I eat). Agave was very surprising to me because people have stated that it’s a great alternative to sugar for diabetics. It is, however, 90% fructose, so I am not sure how that works out. My mother-in-law made a pecan pie with agave for when they came over to dinner, and we of course ate it. It made me feel really strange afterwards. Cutting out sugar has made me more sensitive to sugar, and I can feel how it affects my body more than I could before. So, I am steering clear of agave.
- Talk about it!
I have heard this many times: if you have a goal that you’re trying to reach, talk about it with people, because you will feel more of an obligation to succeed. Or, at the very least, you won’t really be able to just fall off the bandwagon without anyone noticing. This is absolutely true. My husband and I of course keep each other accountable and every decision to have sugar ends up being a discussion between the two of us. We have also told family members and friends, who have been very supportive. It has made the process easier. We do still eat sugar sometimes, but it’s just not an option the way it used to be.
As I’ve stated above, there is a sense of deprivation when you cut out sugar. In America especially, sugar is everywhere. It’s in just about everything people buy at the grocery store, and it can be a struggle to cut it out of your diet, because the grocery store becomes a more complicated trip than it was before. You have to look at the ingredients on packages to find things that are okay to have. Finding added sugar in deli meat, bread and pasta sauce is very disheartening. But, it’s really exciting when you find things that don’t have added sugar (or, don’t have much added sugar). Just about every time we find something that we want or need that doesn’t have added sugar, I almost feel like throwing confetti into the air to celebrate. There are times, though, where I will indulge, and I don’t feel guilty about it. These are usually parties or family events (or, my birthday is coming up, and I am for sure having a cake!). Balance and moderation are important in our lives, and this is definitely the case when it comes to cutting added sugar out of your diet.
I hope that these tips help those of you who are also trying to cut out or decrease the amount of added sugar you eat! If you want to talk about it more, or have any questions about my specific experience, please comment on this post, or contact me through my contact page! I would love to talk to you all about this experience!