Cheat Sheet

Beating Sugar Addiction For Dummies

If you're wondering "How do I get off sugar?" you're not alone. Sugar abuse is one of the primary causes of obesity, and the Western diet's love affair with this cheap, pervasive, and addictive substance has resulted in record levels of diabetes and overweight Americans. Beating sugar addiction is a matter of learning how to plan and eat proactively instead of reactively, and retraining yourself to be more mindful of why you eat, what you eat, and how much you eat.

Ten No-Cook, Low-Sugar Snacks

If you're in a hurry, it can be difficult to come up with a healthy snack instead of one that's loaded with sugar and chemicals. Here's a list of ten healthy snacks that you don't have to cook, so that you can grab, gobble, and go:

  • Can of low-sodium tuna in water

  • Celery boat filled with peanut butter or chicken salad

  • Coconut milk (unsweetened) with a scoop of whey protein

  • Cucumbers or bell peppers with salsa

  • Cup of cottage cheese or Greek yogurt

  • Half an apple topped with (real) peanut butter, almond butter, or cheese

  • Handful of nuts

  • Hard-boiled egg

  • Lettuce roll stuffed with sliced turkey breast

  • Raw veggie plate and hummus

Keep some of these snacks prepped in your refrigerator or pantry so they're ready to grab when it's snack time. You can also portion some out in glass storage containers to take with you to work or when you're on the run.

Spotting Other Names for Sugar

Sugar goes by a lot of different names, and that makes avoiding it particularly tricky. Not everything that contains sugar uses that specific word in the list of ingredients, so here's a reference list of some alternative names for sugar that you may not recognize.

Agave nectar Fruit juice
Agave syrup Fruit juice concentrate
Barley malt Glucose
Beet sugar Glucose solids
Brown rice solids Golden sugar
Brown sugar Golden syrup
Buttered syrup Grape juice concentrate
Cane juice Grape sugar
Cane juice crystals High-fructose corn syrup
Cane sugar Honey
Carob syrup Invert sugar
Confectioner's sugar Lactose
Corn sugar Malt
Corn sweetener Maltodextrin
Corn syrup Maltose
Corn syrup solids Maple syrup
Crystalized fructose Molasses
Date sugar Raw sugar
Dextran Refiner's syrup
Dextrose Sorghum syrup
Diastatic malt Sucanat
Evaporated cane juice Sucrose
Fructose Turbinado sugar

Choosing the Right Carbs to Lose Weight

One of the main problems with a high-carbohydrate diet is that it triggers the production of too much insulin, which leads to fat storage and diabetes. By cutting back on the sugar in your diet and by choosing carbohydrates that are high in fiber and nutrients, you can keep your insulin levels under control, get off the sugar high/sugar crash roller coaster, and stop storing so much fat!

Here are some sugar-swapping substitutions you can make in your day-to-day food choices.

Instead of This Eat This
White pasta Brown rice pasta, whole wheat pasta, or quinoa pasta
Fruit juice Green tea
Soda Mineral water with a squeeze of lemon or lime
White rice Brown rice or quinoa
Junk food snack Crunchy raw vegetables
Ice cream Greek yogurt
Breakfast sweet roll or muffin Slice of whole-grain toast topped with scrambled egg

What to Do When a Sugar Craving Strikes

Regardless of how clean your diet is, almost everyone gets cravings for sweets or junk food now and then. As you practice better eating habits and wean yourself off sugar, use these suggestions to fight back when a sugar craving strikes:

  • Drink a cold glass of distilled water or citrus-flavored mineral water.

  • Identify what triggered the craving, and don't allow yourself to have the treat until you come up with the answer.

    Is it hunger? A stressful event? An inconsiderate spouse? Thirst? Loneliness?

  • Make a conscious decision to eat or not eat the sweet.

    Remember, you're the boss of your behavior. No one makes you do anything. If you decide to eat some sugar, you must own it and do it on purpose. Don't make any excuses or point any fingers!

If you decide not to eat something sweet:

  • Give yourself a (healthy) personal reward!

    Draw a smiley face on the calendar, put a dollar in the cookie jar, or take yourself to the movies.

  • Tell someone!

    Call or e-mail a friend, or write a blog post or a Facebook update.

  • Choose a positive substitute activity if you want.

If you decide to eat something sweet:

  • You must abide by the ten-minute rule — you have to wait ten minutes before you eat a sugary treat.

    If you still want it after ten minutes, go ahead.

  • Put the amount you'll eat on a plate first — no eating from packages or serving dishes.

  • Try a substitute sweet fix instead:

    • A couple squares of sugar-free chocolate

    • A small portion of a low-glycemic fruit like cherries, apples, or plums

    • A Tic Tac or Altoid mint

    • Decaf green tea or licorice tea to help restore adrenal function

    • Water sweetened with stevia and a splash of fresh citrus

Choosing Substitute Behaviors to Keep You Away from Sugar

A good way to beat sweets is to engage in an enjoyable substitute activity whenever you have a sugar craving. Try to find activities that you enjoy and that you find meaningful. Doing something good for someone else is a great way to get your mind off sugar. Here are some suggestions:

  • Do a Sudoku puzzle or play chess or Scrabble on the computer — keep your brain occupied!

  • Do some crunches or jumping jacks.

  • Find a new charity you like and send a donation.

  • If you have a partner, write a love note.

  • Look up a long-lost friend on Facebook and say hi.

  • Look up a subject that interests you and learn something new about it.

  • Make a list of movies you want to see or books you want to read.

  • Make a list of things to talk about with your partner, therapist, or best friend.

  • Phone a friend or family member to catch up.

  • Pick something in the house that needs fixed or cleaned and attend to it.

  • Play with your pet. If you don't have a pet, go to a shelter and give some love to one of the animals there.

  • Ride your bike.

  • Take a digital camera or your cellphone and go look for interesting or artistic pictures to take.

  • Take a walk.

  • Update your bucket list.

  • Visit someone in the hospital or in hospice.

  • Write an apology letter to someone you've wronged.

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