‘Sugar and other junk foods, because of their powerful effect on the reward centers of the brain, are said to function similarly to drugs of abuse like cocaine and nicotine’.
Step away from that biscuit jar… Because let’s face it, just one biscuit can quickly turn into five or ten if l’m not careful. I love sugary stuff. I always have. Chocolate, candy, cake but biscuits and cookies are by far my biggest weakness. When l was young sweets were always available at home and in the case that they weren’t my dad was always quick to hand me a coin to get some. Although l do not eat sugar quite as much anymore, I can still finish a whole packet in one go, upset stomach be damned. Even just thinking about it makes my mouth water.
As l grow older l see the effects of too much sugar on my skin, l breakout so bad it’s disgusting. Since my weight loss journey began l have been having a tough time getting rid of my muffin top slowing down on the sugar might be the answer. Sugar is like a drug in how l often go through highs and slumps leaving me sluggish affecting my mood and overall health. So in an attempt to reverse the damage, l have been trying to cut down on sugar because let’s face it me going cold turkey would be both useless and CRAZY.
There are plenty of books and blogs on how to quit sugar completely but l am not there yet and l doubt l will ever be anywhere near there so l will just cut out as much as l can but will not beat myself up if l slip up and stuff myself with a packet of Cardbury Tumbles. I have been trying out habits that make it easier for me to succeed.
Don’t buy it. Write a shopping list and. Stick. To It! Not buying it means l do not have to fight the temptation every time l open the kitchen drawer. It is way easier that kidding myself into thinking that l will be disciplined enough to only eat one a day. Yeah right! Every time l go grocery shopping l go armed with a shopping list that l try to stick to. I try so hard to steer clear of the confectionery aisle sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Before trying out the shopping list method l would go to the store with a vague idea of what l wanted and then peruse every aisle looking for other things that l might need. That would always lead me to the sweets aisle where l would waste time trying to convince myself to leave. The shopping list has proven to be just what l needed.
Play a little game of substitution. There are days when l feel like l really need to eat something sweet so l have been trying to build an arsenal healthier options to reach for when the mood strikes. Instead of regular ice cream l have been quite taken by nice creams that use fruit instead of sugar so the sweetness in more natural than refined. Dates, bananas, mangoes and pineapples are good sweetener alternatives. Protein balls are also a slightly healthier option to chocolate. For fans of sweetened yogurt, natural or Greek yogurt with fruit and nuts is just as good if not better than flavored yogurt.
Read food labels. Many foods are teeming with high sugar levels. Sugar has become a constant companion in our diets and an additive to nearly all food – from cereal to salad dressing. If sugar is in the top three ingredients then you have a problem. Soup packets and sauces are usually loaded with up to 50% sugar. Low fat anything means they have taken out the fat and replaced it with sugar to make up for the loss of taste and texture. I buy full fat everything. In fact fat makes you fill fuller which helps with sugar cravings. Eggs, cheese, avocados, tuna, nuts and seeds are all good sources of healthy fats to add to your diet.
Everything in moderation. Yes fruits are a natural source of sugar but that doesn’t mean l should sit down and eat the whole fruit bowl in one day. Most fruit is high in sugar and if eaten whole with the fiber and water intact are healthy additions. The problem lies with fruit juices and dried fruit. Most fruit juices contain the same amount of sugar as Coke. Dried fruit is made up of up to 70% sugar. There are 5 teaspoons of sugar in a muesli bar, 7 in a serving of low-fat yogurt, 10 in a glass of apple juice, and 12 in a serving of tomato pasta sauce!
Here, have some Sugar. Since we have established that l will never totally quit eating sugar l have been using natural sugars to sweeten my porridge, pancakes and smoothies. Honey is a cheap and readily available natural sugar that usually satisfies my cravings. Banana pure with its subtle natural sweetness is a great replacement for sugary treats. One banana can be used in the place on one cup of sugar. Coconut sugar is made from the sap of coconut flowers and comes in block, paste, or granulated form. Lucuma is sweet, delicious and also considered a superfood. The pulp of the lucuma fruit, found in Peru, is dehydrated to produce the lucuma powder, or flour. Applesauce – The natural sweetness from a Golden Delicious or Fuji apple is perfect in after-dinner treat recipes. Apples are delicious fruits and a brilliant sugar substitute. Maple syrup comes directly from plant sap and naturally contains minerals and other elements with antioxidant properties. Organic black-strap molasses is also another natural sweetener which is rich in copper, calcium, iron, potassium, manganese, selenium and vitamin B6. You can substitute it in recipes that call for brown sugar or those calling for honey or maple syrup, though test the sweetness level before adding the super sweet substitute because it’s about two-thirds as sweet as regular sugar.
Note: Even natural sugar substitutes like honey, coconut sugars, maple syrup, molasses and agave are still sugar. They may contain more nutrients than the refined sweet white kind, but at the end of the day, sugar is sugar – once it’s in your body, it’s going to behave the same way all sugar does. You have been warned!
Here is a little shopping list to get you started…
Eggs: They’re quick to cook and starting out with a protein- and fiber-rich plate of scrambled eggs and veggies is a great way to curb sugar cravings.
Frozen berries: whole fruit gets processed and absorbed more slowly by the body. You can also blend frozen berries with a frozen banana to create your own low-sugar vegan ice cream.
Frozen whole tomatoes: Making pasta sauce from scratch is a great way to avoid added sugar and having tomatoes on hand will make it a whole lot easier.
Raw nuts: Nuts add lots of healthy fat and fiber to your meals, which is essential for regulating blood sugar.
Raw honey: It contains plenty of antioxidants, enzymes, and minerals that can soothe the gut and provide nutrients. A teaspoon a day is all you need.
Plain yogurt: Plain yogurt with no sugar added allows you to control the sweetness levels yourself by adding raw honey or berries.
Collard greens: Avoid the added sugar in regular sandwich bread and try using whole collard green leaves as wraps.
Lemons: Add fresh lemon juice to water or herb tea to encourage hydration.