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Your Simple 7-Day Plan To Lower Sugar In Your Diet
We hate to say it, but even if you’re not chowing down on cookies every night, you’ve probably still got too much sugar in your life. And since sugar’s been blamed for nearly every health crisis in recent years, we know you’re well aware of the risks of consuming too much.
In case you needed a reminder, though: “There is absolutely no benefit at all to having added sugar in your diet,” says Brooke Alpert, author ofThe Sugar Detox: Lose Weight,Feel Great, and Look Years Younger.
So to help you give sugar the boot, Alpert designed a 7-day plan to break your sugar addiction for good. Yes, it will be tough, but you can get through it (it’s only a week!). And we guarantee you’ll feel great when it’s through. (For more healthy ways to feel great and keep off the pounds try this . )
So prepare to break out from under the spell of the sugar witch. Here’s how to get started.
Monday: Nix the fro-yo.
While you’re at it, it’s time to ditch the brownies, the office candy stash, and your coworkers (stale) birthday cake, too. And yes, even that low-fat blueberry muffin and the “nutritious” energy bar you stashed in your purse have got to go. It’s a no-brainer place to start since the sugar in sweets is easy to spot. Plus, you’ll slash a whole bunch of unnecessary calories from your diet while you’re at it.
Also, when a craving hits or you feel your willpower sliding, stop and take a moment to figure out what’s really going on. Addressing what’s truly driving your sugar craving sets you up for success, says Jacob Teitelbaum, author ofThe Complete Guide to BeatingSugar Addiction. The top three contenders:
- You’re having PMS or arein perimenopause.Inadequate progesterone or estrogen triggers cravings for sweets by cutting the feel-good brain chemicals serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which leads to insomnia, headaches, fatigue, or mild depression. If this is the case, try eating edamame, since soy contains compounds called isoflavones that mimic estrogen in the body. If that doesn’t cut sugar cravings, go for nature’s sweet treats—an orange, a handful of berries, or two squares of dark chocolate.
- Your blood sugar is too low.That means you’re likely skipping meals or spacing them out too much, or you’re not eating enough blood sugar-steadying protein. As a remedy, pair a sugary snack with protein—like mixed nuts and no-sugar-added dried fruit. The healthy fats in the nuts slow absorption of the fruit’s natural sugars so you get back into balance and cravings stop. When you do have a meal, add grilled chicken or chickpeas to that pasta salad. ( tostay-full, and make low-sugar eating even easier!)
- You’re tired.As in, you’re short on sleep. As in, you keep going to bed too late. Instead of reaching for something sugary to boost your energy, caffeinate with a coffee or tea; both have a host of health benefits.
Tuesday: Don't add sugar to anything.
Time to ditch those packets of sweetener. Your body breaks down simple sugars like this faster than kitten videos go viral on Facebook. The problem with that? Overindulging causes blood sugar surges followed by crashes, which can make you even hungrier.
“Any time you would physically add sugar or sweetener, admit it to yourself first—and then omit it,” says Alpert. And cap your use of natural sweeteners like agave or honey—your body handles those the same way. Eat your oatmeal sans sprinkle of brown sugar on top, and take your coffee with a shake of cinnamon instead of flavored syrup.
Artificial sugars are leaving your diet today, too. “They’re sweeter than sugar and your body still responds with the same hormonal cascade, as if it is regular sugar,” says Alpert. “That’s why they don’t help you lose weight.”
(Losing weight is so much easier when you break your sugar addiction. to help youshed stubbornpounds for goodand improve your overall health.)
Instead, get your sweet fix without the (real or fake) sugar. Life without added sugar might leave your taste buds yearning for sweetness. These simple flavor hacks keep your mouth—and the rest of your body—happy.
- Add vanilla extract.While it’s not actually sweet, vanilla reminds us of ice cream, cake, and other desserts. Add a few drops—or the contents of a vanilla bean—to tea, yogurt, oatmeal, nut butters, or smoothies.
- Try toasted coconut.These flakes are naturally sweet and add nuttiness and crunch to breakfast or dessert. Opt for the large flakes over tiny shreds; more surface area means more flavor on your tongue.
- Caramelize onions.If you’re making tomato sauce or soup, skip the sugar and caramelize any onions in the recipe instead of just sautéing them. Their natural sweetness subs in well.
- Create contrast with salt.Because sugar and salt are polar opposites, a dash of salt can intensify sweetness. Try it on foods that are naturally a little sweet, like sweet potatoes, butternut squash soup, or sliced fruit.
Wednesday: Give up sugary drinks!
By now you’ve likely heard all the news about how soda is harming your body. (Some evidence against even diet soda: It adds significantly to belly fat, weakens bones, and leads to metabolic syndrome, the cluster of high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and high cholesterol that can result in diabetes and heart disease.) You also likely have firsthand experience with how hard it is to leave behind the caffeine high, sweet jolt, and comforting ritual of popping open a can.
This is your body on diet soda
But it doesn’t stop there. Yes, you know soda has added sugar, and so does a vanilla-flavored coffee drink. But other drinks might not be so obvious, like coconut water (some brands add sugar), bottled iced teas, and flavored waters. This even includes “healthy” drinks like matcha lattes, says Alpert. “These have sweetened syrup pumped into them, which is why they’re deliciousness,” she says. But hold off on that deliciousness this week. (Oh, and same goes for artificially sweetened drinks!)
To help you kick the cans (or cups), replace the offending drink with something less bad for you. Most people can’t just drop a bad habit—they replace it. Psychologist James Claiborn, author ofThe Habit Change Workbook, suggests opting for replacements that clash with the behavior you’re changing. Think about it: If your soda jones is a caffeine thing, could you switch to unsweetened coffee, tea, or dark chocolate? If stepping out for an afternoon latte is helping to relieve boredom, how could you make things less dreary? Maybe you could walk over to a coworker’s office for a midday chat instead.
Thursday: Go plain.
Start reading ingredient labels like it’s your job. (And don't believe all of the claims food manufacturers make on the front packaging! Watch for these 9 misleading claims.) Switch out flavored yogurt or almond milk for the plain versions.
Not-so-fun fact: Some flavored fruit yogurts pack nearly 6 teaspoons of added sugar into their tiny containers, which is the amount of added sugar the American Heart Association suggests you eat in an entire day. Sweeten your favorite foods with whole fruit, instead. And be on the lookout: Dressings, pasta sauce, crackers, peanut butter, and soups are all common sources of hidden sugar, too. (Not sure what you’re looking for? Here are 56 different names for sugar you'll find on ingredient lists.)
Friday: Kick out refined grains.
“White flour, white rice, and white bread are basically just sugar,” says Alpert. In fact, you might not think you have a sweet tooth, but if you’re eating bagels and pasta on the regular, you’re probably fooling yourself. “Pizza is basically dessert. Your body consumes it just like a slice of cake,” she says.
The fix: Eat carbs, but make them whole grain. Brown rice, sprouted-grain bread, and quinoa are all your friends. Use the chart below to gauge what are the best (and healthiest) carb choices. (Psst! There's more super-useful info like this in )
- Refined grains: Eat rarely.Processed grains like white bread and pasta, cookies, cakes, and pastries have been stripped of fiber and valuable nutrients such as antioxidants, and speed through your gut, making you hungry shortly after eating them. Have no more than two handfuls of refined grains daily. Try to eat these carbs with protein to help decelerate their race through your stomach.
- Whole grains: Eat in moderation.Since it takes your body more energy to turn whole grains like brown rice and quinoa into energy, your body can’t quickly process them like their refined counterparts. Meaning: greater satiety, fewer cravings. Eat up to three servings a day of 100% whole grains. People who do so are 76 times more likely to get the most fiber—which has been linked with weight loss.
- Starches: Eat your fill.Research reveals a welcome twist on this group of foods: It’s not carbs like corn or potatoes that do waistline damage, but the degree to which they are processed (fried in oil versus baked). Don’t be afraid to pile potatoes, corn, or bananas on your plate. All contain resistant starch, which shows a waist-slimming promise. Evidence suggests it acts like fiber, slowing digestion, shutting down hunger hormones, and increasing calorie burn.
- Legumes: Eat your fill.Even though they contain protein and fiber, a lot of diet plans have banished foods like beans and peas. In reality, they should be your go-to carbs. One analysis found that people felt 31% fuller after eating around 1 cup of legumes daily. Try swapping 1⁄4 cup cooked beans for an ounce of ground beef in burgers; you’ll save nearly 4 g of fat and 30 calories. Then work beans and other legumes like peanuts and chickpeas into your regular meals.
Saturday: Lose the booze.
Ugh, yep. If your weekend routine involves savoring a few glasses of vino while out to dinner with your spouse or meeting friends at a bar for drinks, it’s time to cut back. “Red wine may have phytochemicals and health benefits, but the truth is that when we drink alcohol, it turns to sugar in our body,” says Alpert.
If you decide to have a drink, stick to light beer (12 ounces), wine (5 ounces), or 1 shot of spirits (vodka, gin, rum, Scotch, bourbon), sans mixer. Most mixers—even tonic water—have added sugar or are fruit juice–based. Do not have those. Limit your drinks to a maximum of two per week.
Sunday: Measure your fruit.
You may be thinking, Wait! I thought fruit was good for you. And you’re right. Fructose, fruit’s built-in sugar, makes a pit stop in your liver, a diversion that helps prevent spikes in blood sugar levels. Whole fruit also packs fiber, vitamins, and water that keep you feeling full. However, “it’s possible to over-fruit yourself and choose those that are super high in sugar,” says Alpert. She recommends capping your consumption at one to two servings a day, and scarfing options that naturally fall on the lower end of the sweet spectrum, like apples, berries, and citrus fruit.
This article is adapted fromSugar Detox Made Easy.
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