Dealing with your food addictions can be one of the hardest parts when transitioning to a healthier lifestyle. Refined sugar is one of the most addictive substances in conventional food, and many people struggle when trying to eliminate it from their diet.
Some indications that you may be addicted to sugar include:
- Intense cravings for sweets such as chocolate, pastries, or candy
- Cravings for refined starches such as chips, bagels, or crackers
- Lack of self control when sugar is involved (overeating even when you try to limit yourself)
- Going out of your way to get sugar (ex. making a special trip to the store for sugary or starchy snacks)
- Feeling upset or ‘hard done by’ if you are in situations where you can’t obtain sugar
Here are 10 ways to help break your addiction.
First off, why is sugar unhealthy?
There are many other reasons why sugar is unhealthy in large amounts, but lets move on to how we can avoid these issues all together!
1. Don’t keep sugar in your house
This means any kind of sugar, which includes sugary snacks such as cookies or granola bars. Even sweet snacks that are marketed as healthy generally don’t live up to their claims. For example, Kashi granola bars and cereals are high in sugar (and some are made with genetically modified ingredients, although they are starting to make some of their cereals GMO free). Remember that it is not only products that contain refined sugar, but also refined flours (such as white bread) that can spike your blood sugar and send you back down the road of sugar crashes and binges.
It is dangerous to keep sugar in your house because it is readily available if a craving strikes. Leave it to a sugar addict to search out any sugary item in the house and devour it! If you don’t have any sugar around it is easier to settle for a piece of fruit or another healthy option instead. Not keeping sugar in the house makes it easier for you to decide to ignore the craving without using every ounce of your willpower (and yes, it actually is possible to use up all your willpower).
2. Take your time
You don’t have to 100% eliminate sugar overnight. Gradual changes in your diet are often the ones that stick with you long term. Instead of throwing out everything in your house that contains sugar, try not replacing items once they are used up. Easing yourself off sugary foods is often easier than quitting cold turkey.
3. Replace sugar with healthy options
Instead of having a sugary drink such as pop, try replacing it with a cup of tea with a small amount of honey in it. Instead of having a chocolate bar, have an apple. There are many healthy foods that are naturally sweet that can curb your sweet tooth without setting back your progress! However, it is important to eat these foods in moderation as even natural sugars can spike your blood sugars in large amounts.
Here is a list of some possible snacks:
- Fruit such as apples, berries, bananas, oranges, grapefruits, etc. (If you have severe blood sugar issues make sure you eat fruit with protein and fat such as nuts or dairy to keep your blood sugar stable).
- Home baked snacks such as Chocolate Banana Muffins or Chia Two-Bite Brownies
- A few squares of dark chocolate (make sure it is at least 60% + cocoa solids)
- A cup of tea with a teaspoon or two of honey or maple syrup
4. Make sure you are getting enough fat and protein in your diet
Protein and fats are very important for blood sugar stability. They will keep you feeling full for longer which decreases your likelihood to turn to surgery snacks as a pick me up. Fat is needed to help metabolize protein and it is the only macro-nutrient that doesn’t affect blood sugar! Don’t think following a low-fat diet is the way to go because it will send you right back to your sugar cravings. That being said, make sure you are eating the right kinds of protein and fat! Protein powders are considered a refined food so it is best to consume whole food sources of protein such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds. Click here for a whole list of whole food protein sources! Avoid large amounts of polyunsaturated fats such as foods that contain soy or canola oil. The best sources of fats are from whole foods, but you can also supplement your diet with some homemade salad dressing or healthy treats made with coconut oil or grass fed butter!
5. Make sure you are getting enough carbohydrates in your diet
It’s not just protein and fat that are important! The type of carbohydrates you consume are important too. While sugar and refined flour are simple carbohydrates that spike your blood sugar and cause imbalance, complex carbohydrates such as starchy vegetables and properly prepared whole grains help stabilize your blood sugar and reduce your sugar cravings. This is because a low-carbohydrate diet can also lead to sugar cravings. While some people can have great success on low-carbohydrate diets, there are many other people who will not thrive on them. If you are pregnant, an athlete, or suffer from hypothyroidism you should avoid low-carb diets (source). If you feel great eating low-carb and don’t have sugar cravings, then you can ignore this step!
Complex carbohydrate foods helps avoid a low-carb diet without spiking your blood sugar by adding more fiber and nutrients to your diet. The trick is to eat a moderate carbohydrate diet! Unless you are an athlete you probably don’t need to be eating more than 150g of carbohydrates per day. Click here to read more about getting the right amount of carbohydrates in your diet.
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