If you are planning to adopt a sugar-free lifestyle, consider these must-do strategies for success — vital skills to achieve the new habits and new mind-set you’ll need. As you pick up these principles, not only will you have more energy and feel much better, but your tastes will probably change. After a few weeks of nonaddictive eating, your desire for sugar is likely to drop dramatically!
Adopt a new mind-set to be sugar-free
The goal of any successful eating plan is to create a healthy, sustainable normal so that you’re never on a diet or on a special plan; you just do things differently from how you used to do them.
For many people, mindful eating seems to be one of the most challenging parts of revamping an eating plan, so you should expect to put some extra effort and attention into eating on purpose instead of reactively.
When you find yourself craving something sweet, check in with yourself to see whether food is what you’re really after. Are you bored? Are you lonely or sad about something? You may find that you’ve established a habit of wanting something sweet anytime you feel anything!
Develop new habits to beat your sugar addiction
Sometimes the idea of changing your daily routines can seem daunting. Don’t despair! Developing new habits isn’t as complicated or overwhelming as it may seem. Don’t think that from now on you have to eat perfectly all the time and deprive yourself of your favorite foods forever.
Decide what and when to eat instead of eating reactively
The biggest challenge most people face is eating purposefully instead of reactively. To get off sugar and eat healthfully for the rest of your life, you need a new mantra: Decide, don’t react! If you lose control over your food intake every time something unexpected or stressful happens in your life, you’ll never be able to sustain a healthy eating system.
Planning ahead is one of the most important habits you must develop to eat purposefully. Make sure that you’re prepared for the day’s eating schedule with this checklist:
Breakfast: A breakfast high in protein helps control your blood sugar levels and staves off hunger more than a breakfast of all carbohydrates.
Snack: To keep blood sugar levels stable and to avoid cravings, the best snacks combine a protein and a carbohydrate.
Lunch: Don’t forget to load up on the veggies at lunchtime! Here are a few good lunch examples:
Snack: Like your morning snack, your afternoon snack should combine protein and carbohydrates.
Dinner: Be sure to have a healthy dinner planned, so you’re not grabbing unhealthy convenience foods when you come home hungry after a long day.
In addition to the list of what you’re going to eat, make sure you have
Plenty of distilled water to drink throughout the day
Any other approved sugar-free beverages you desire, like mineral water with citrus, or green tea
Obey the ten-minute rule
When a craving strikes, always wait ten minutes before acting on it. The ten-minute rule gives you time to decide on something smarter to eat, gives you a few minutes to distract yourself with a positive substitute activity, or allows you the opportunity to figure out what you really want besides food.
Make a gradual transition away from sugar
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.
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.
Say no to soda!
Start cutting back on white-flour starches and start adding more vegetables.
Make enough low-sugar dinner to provide leftovers for lunch the next day.
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.
For most people, it’s a good idea to 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 go is cold turkey, 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’ll be tired for the first week or two.
Your appetite will change.
You’ll stop craving most sugar after you’ve been clean for a week or two, and regular, healthy food will taste better and be more flavorful to you after you’ve retrained your taste buds to be accustomed to a normal level of stimulation.
Shop with purpose to beat sugar
Unless you grow and raise all your own food, mindful grocery shopping is an integral part of staying prepared and purposeful. A simple grocery list that you keep handy is a very important planning tool. When you see you’re close to running out of an item, write it down.
Here are some other grocery shopping tips to help you succeed in cutting sugar:
Don’t shop when you’re hungry.
Focus your food shopping on the outer perimeter of the store — produce, meats and seafood, eggs, and dairy.
Don’t buy tempting junk food “just for the kids” or “just for my spouse.”
Stick to your list!