A little bit of sweetness in your life is absolutely okay- laying very clear emphasis on ‘little’. In fact, sometimes tubs of ice creams and bars of chocolates become essential for when you’re going through a rough patch (no, still not healthy to do so). Researchers have been trying to tell us that sugar is the ultimate no-go ingredient for a healthy diet, for many, many years. Sadly, we can’t hear them over the sweet, melodic sound of our chocolate bar wrapper.
Kicking off sugar from you can be an extremely challenging task even for the strong-willed ones as it has been proven in research that sugar tricks our brain into wanting more and more of it. However, if we tell you the health benefits of cutting down sugar from your diet, it will most probably motivate you to cut it (mostly) out. Sugary fare spikes blood sugar and triggers a flood of insulin through your body, which encourages fat to accumulate around your abdomen over time. It considerably reduces the risk of serious problems like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, tooth decay and obesity. Quitting sugar would not only help you drop off the extra pounds (if that’s what you’re looking for) but also help you get rid of stubborn abdominal fat. Cutting down on sugar also helps to lessen sagging, premature wrinkling, and other visible signs of ageing on your skin.
Now that we have almost convinced you to give up your sweet guilty pleasures, let’s take a look at 10 effective tips that will help you achieve a sugar-free diet.
1. Quit drinking Sugary drinks
Sodas, energy drinks, juice concentrate, sports drinks, etc., contain heaps of added sugar. For example, there are more than 49 grams (12 teaspoons) of added sugar in 450 ml (15.2 ounces) of 100% apple juice. Imagine the massive impact of cutting off all this sugar from your diet. Diet sodas also aren’t necessarily a good alternative to regular soda. Instead of consuming all these sugar-sweetened drinks, increase your water intake and give your detoxification system a boost. If you are not big on plain water, add lemon slices, cucumber slices, mint, etc. and make it more interesting. You can also replace soda with unsweetened tea or coffee, sparkling water, herbal or fruit teas, etc.
2. Choose fruits over dessert
Replace desserts and sugary treats with fresh fruits to cut down your sugar intake. Most of us have an unhealthy habit of reaching for something sweet after our meals. Convince yourself to grab a fruit instead of something with added sugar. Fruits are a healthy alternative to consuming desserts with added sugar as fruits have natural sugars and contain the fibre and nutrients to slow the absorption into the bloodstream. So, next time you are about to reach for that candy bar after dinner, grab some antioxidant-rich berries that have low sugar and are also yummy. You can try eating fresh fruits with yoghurt or baked fruit with cream.
3. Healthy fat foods
If you are trying to lose weight, you are probably under the myth that fats are bad. Fat-free food does not mean sugar-free. When fat is removed, comparatively more sugar is added to maintain the taste. For example, a low-fat coffee drink contains almost 7 teaspoons of added sugar as compared to a coffee made with whole milk and added sugar, which only contains half a teaspoon of naturally occurring milk sugar.
You have to come to terms with the fact that consuming healthy fats is not bad. This helps reduce your sugar cravings and makes you feel full for longer. Healthy fats can include ghee or grass-fed butter, avocados, nuts and seeds, unsweetened coconut products, etc.
4. Whole food
You should increase your intake of whole foods if you want to cut back on sugar. Whole foods are foods that have not been processed or refined and do not contain additives, artificial sweeteners, emulsifiers, etc. Add lentils, vegetables, fruits, fishes, meat, nuts and seeds, yogurt, milk etc. to your diet
5. Avoid canned food
Canned food is a cheap and useful product to add to your cart for those of us who have busy schedules, but canned food contains a lot of added sugar. Canned foods are packed with loads of artificial sugar that most companies hide by using terms such as dextrose, malt syrup, lactose, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, molasses, invert sugar, maltose, rice syrup, caramel etc. There are so many harmful artificial ingredients that are greenwashed with fancier terms to mislead us. It is better to avoid canned food altogether and go for whole foods.
6. Replace simple carbs with complex carbs
Most of us do not understand the difference between simple and complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates help in balancing energy levels by reducing the glycemic load, whereas simple carbohydrates create a high glycemic load. Stay away from simple and refined carbohydrates as they spike and crash your blood sugar. Eat more complex carbohydrates found in starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes and butternut squash that provide you with a nutrient-dense source of carbohydrates.
7. Avoid sauces with sugar
Common table sauces such as ketchup, sweet chilli sauce, and barbecue sauce contain shocking levels of sugar content. Read the label to ensure that you are choosing the lowest-sugar content option or there are some alternatives to try such as yellow mustard, vinegar, harissa paste, pesto, fresh or dried herbs and spices, etc.
8. Switch to healthier snacks
Do not consume packaged and sugary treats. Even snacks like granola bars and protein bars have high levels of sugar. Replace these snacks with healthier options yoghurt, nuts, dried fruits, boiled eggs, fruit smoothies, etc. Switch to the alternatives that have considerably low sugar content and are also healthy.
9. Don’t shop when you have a sugar craving
We ignore healthy options and fixate on our cravings when we go grocery shopping hungry or while craving. You will most likely purchase high-calorie products or sugary treats and that too in comparatively more quantity when you are hungry or craving. And we all know what happens when you have sugary treats in your house. You are more likely to crave them and eat them if you know they are easily accessible. Try to shop for groceries after having a fulfilling meal so that you don’t get distracted by all the unhealthy options.
10. Sleep properly
It has been scientifically proven, you are more likely to crave calorically dense food that most often includes high sugar content when you haven’t had enough sleep. Sleep deprivation or insufficient sleep reduces insulin sensitivity which makes blood sugar less stable, making you crave carbs and sweets to keep the blood sugar up. Follow a proper sleeping schedule and get sufficient amounts of sleep for a healthy, sugar-free lifestyle.