How to Gradually Reduce Your Sugar Intake

As you change your mind-set and eating habits to reduce sugar, you can experiment with two different approaches. One is to work through a gradual transition in which you phase out sugary foods and make selective substitutions over time. The other approach is to quit sugar cold turkey.

Some folks have better success making a gradual transition away from sugar. A slow transition to healthier eating is often easier on the family, too. This is definitely the case if someone in the family is resistant to improving his or her eating habits.

As with most transformations, seeing big changes can take time. For a gradual transition to the low-sugar lifestyle, pick one change from the following list to make each week or two. Soon you’ll find that you’ve transitioned your eating from reactive sugar-grabbing to purposeful, healthy choices.

  • Plan ahead by bringing a snack to work instead of grabbing whatever’s available in the break room or vending machine.

  • Instead of using bottled sauces and condiments, start substituting additional fruits and vegetables to flavor your everyday foods. For example, put fruit in your oatmeal, extra veggies on your sandwich, and fresh salsa on your grilled fish.

  • Say no to soda! Make unsweetened tea or mineral water with fresh citrus instead.

  • Start cutting back on white-flour starches and start adding more vegetables. Foods like white breads and pastas, bagels, tortilla chips, and croissants are low in nutrients and fiber and high in calories and carbohydrates. Try replacing white-flour products with whole-grain or non-wheat choices like brown rice pasta, quinoa, or yams.

  • Make enough low-sugar dinner to provide leftovers for lunch the next day. That way you’re not at the mercy of trying to find something healthy while eating out.

  • If you buy processed or canned foods, look for organic and minimally processed brands without high-fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners.

  • Pick a weekend day when you and your family cook everything from scratch. It’s fun, it’s quality family time, and you’ll have lots of healthy food ready for the rest of the week!

Attempt a gradual transition to a no/low-sugar lifestyle if at all possible. However, some folks do better just going cold turkey — cutting out their sugar intake completely in one fell swoop. If you know yourself well enough to know that the only way for you to break the cycle of sugar addiction is to quit sugar completely, here are some things you can expect:

  • Your family may not want to transition with you, and you may face an uproar if their current eating style is disrupted. You may have to buy and prepare special foods just for you. Hopefully they’ll come around eventually.

    If you’ve decided to quit sugar and you find that family members are resistant to switching to healthier eating habits, you may have more success by using the gradual approach with the rest of the family.

    Making a few healthy substitutions here and there will likely draw little attention, and over the course of a few months you can gradually transition your family to a complete low-sugar lifestyle without them feeling like they’ve been hoodwinked.

  • You’ll be tired for the first week or two. Dreadfully tired. Over the years of addiction, you’ve likely taught your system to rely on sugar and caffeine for energy, and now you’re asking your body to step up and function normally without these substances and without any notice or preparation. Stick with it; it gets better soon!

  • Your appetite will change. Some people report that they’re much less hungry after they stop eating sugar. Others report the opposite. Whichever the case is for you, just remember that things will level out in about two weeks, so sit tight and stay on track!

  • You’ll stop craving most sugar after you’ve been clean for a week or two, and regular, healthy food (like vegetables) will taste better and be more flavorful to you after you’ve retrained your taste buds (and your brain) to be accustomed to a normal level of stimulation.

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