What do we all like? What should we not have too much off? What is the key ingredient in almost every sort of junk food that is bad for you?
Yes, the answer to all of this is Sugar!
Eating too much sugar is one of the worst ways to harm your body & your system, and the negative effects of doing this are not only innumerable but also scary. An excess of sugar in your diet is known to be one of the primary causes of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart conditions, cancers, and even tooth decay in human beings. Yikes, right?
Sugar is found naturally in fruits & vegetables as well. However, that is, in fact, the acceptable level of sugar that one must consume rather than sugar from anything packaged which tends to carry a lot more of it per serving.
Fruits and veggies also carry tons of healthy nutrients which is why that little bit of sugar is offset by all the other goodness. Junk food has virtually no healthy nutrients which mean that not only are you consuming a lot of sugar, you are also packing up on other harmful elements like bad fats.
Health experts tell you that anything more than 6 teaspoons of sugar in a day is not good for you. The global average, keeping in mind the sale of junk food, is a staggering 17 spoons a day. This is a conservative estimate and in a lot of countries & cultures, this estimate ranges to anything between 25 to 30 spoons of sugar a day.
Now that we have your undivided attention, let us try to help you wean off your sugar habit. The key, like any other healthy habit, is to try and make it sustainable as well as provide plenty of substitutes so that you don’t miss the sugar rush.
Simple Ways to Stop Eating Sugar
1. Sugary Drinks
Aerated drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks, smoothies, fruit juices and the likes all contribute towards almost 44% of your sugar intake. Yes, you heard that right! Ditch soft drinks and almost half your sugar intake is taken care of right there. The human body stops recognizing calories from drinks the way it does from food.
Drinks also can’t make you feel like food, so they tend to be consumed more and people who drink a lot also tend to eat a lot adding significantly to your calorie count.
Some worthy and healthy alternatives to sugary drinks are;
- Water, sparkling water or soda with some lime.
- Water infused with cucumber and mint.
- Herbal and fruit teas.
- Unsweetened tea and coffee.
Desserts including ice creams, cake, cookies and their likes are loaded with sugar and provide almost no nutrition. The overload of sugar causes blood sugar levels to spike inconsistently leaving you feeling tired and fatigued, hungry and craving even more sugar. Now everyone gets a dessert craving once in a while or even often.
So what do you do?
- The better option would be to have a fruit every time you are feeling like binging on something sweet.
- Greek Yoghurt with a pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg makes for good dessert eating too, or baked fruit with natural cream sounds very interesting as well.
- A handful of dates or raisins will also cure the sugar fix over time.
- And the most decadent alternative we can give you is a slab of dark chocolate.
3. Sugary Sauces
Ketchup, barbecue sauces, sweet chilli seasoning, store-bought mayos and the likes are usually abundant in our kitchens. We stock up on these whenever we feel the urge to get a quick fix for a sandwich or sometimes to make ‘boring food’ taste good. The price of generously drizzling any of these, however, is huge sugar intake. One tablespoon of ketchup contains one teaspoon of sugar. That’s roughly 4 grams of sugar with every squirt.
- Fresh and dried herbs to add natural seasoning.
- Fresh chilli to help you forget the sugar kick.
- Yellow mustard, sugar and calorie-free vinegar, pesto & harissa paste packed with flavour without the need for sugar as an ingredient.
4. Eating Full Fat Foods
Most people prefer to opt for low-fat versions of their favourite foods to help them not gain weight while still being able to eat the things they like. Well, uh oh!
Eating a low-fat version of foods like dessert bars and packed made coffees is actually worse for you because these low-fat, packed and packet versions tend to carry a far higher quantity of sugar in them than the actual food that you have been shying away from.
And since we know that excessive sugar leads to an immediate and unhealthy weight gain, your decision to eat low-fat anything now seems to be all wrong even for its most basic premise. Instead;
- Stick to the whole fat food, but moderate your intake.
- Stick to one baked yoghurt dessert a day.
- And don’t go over the two cups of coffees.
5.Eat Whole Foods
Now, this is nothing that you have not already heard before. Packaged foods are detrimental in every which way to you and your system. Whole foods are, on the other hand, natural and consumed fresh, so they do not need additives and preservatives to extend their shelf life, sugar being a major preservative by the way.
Ultra-processed foods are prepared with salt, sugar and fats, but also substances not usually used in home cooking. These substances are artificial flavours, colours, emulsifiers or other additives which can be found in pizzas, desserts, pies, cereal and aerated waters, to name a few. The healthier option is to eat natural and try to cook it from scratch. Home food is not made with oodles of preservatives which shows a direct effect on your good health.
6. Sugary Canned Foods
Sometimes it is not possible to eat fresh and wholesome all the time due to hectic schedules, a paucity of cooking skills and more reasons like that. So that is when one usually turns to food coming out of a can. Canned food is much like processed food, and it needs to have plenty of preservatives in it to extend its shelf life.
However, if it is also the only option, we would suggest checking the label for their sugar content. Some canned foods which boast of longer shelf life will be even more loaded with sugar as compared to the others. For your best health, always pick the others! If you are buying canned fruit and vegetables, rinse them with water before cooking or eating. This will help take off some of the excess sugar.
7. Healthy Processed Snack Foods
This is the biggest myth of all times. There is absolutely nothing like healthy processed foods period. Do not fall for marketing gimmicks and other promotional strategies. If it comes out of a packet, a can or any other sort of packaging, it is not good for you. It may be better than the worst possible option, but that does not make it healthy.
So don’t go picking up snacky bites thinking these are all right to eat. They are simply not. Instead;
- Carry a few grams or nuts in your pocket.
- Fresh fruit is a great fibre source to satiate the snack cravings.
- Also, a hard-boiled egg will not just fill you up but also give you your protein fix for the day.
8. Sugary Breakfast Foods
Breakfast cereal, the easy and supposedly healthy alternative to cooking breakfast, is one of the worst sugar offenders that you will ever come across. The reason for the same, once again they need to stay fresh and crunchy in a packet until they are picked up by simple souls like you from market shelves. Cereals can carry almost 50 grams of sugar per serving which translates to more than 90% of the weight of the actual portion. And it’s not just cereals.
Granola bars which are supposedly classified as healthy food carry even more sugar content than cereals. Other popular breakfasts like pancakes, waffles, muffins and jams, are also loaded with added sugar. Healthy solutions include hot oatmeal, Greek yoghurt, eggs done in whichever way you like them and loads of natural foods like avocado and fresh fruit.
9. Read the Label
Learning to read a label on packaged food is an essential trick not just to stay away from foods rich in added sugar but also to stay away from a high-calorie count. Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to identify sugar on a food label. This is because most don’t differentiate between natural sugars and added sugars.
Food companies are also wary of calling sugar by its name and come up with names like high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, maltose, dextrose, invert sugar, rice syrup, molasses and caramel just to hoodwink you into thinking that the actual sugar content is minimal. The trick is to always read food labels to check for sugar. The closer to the beginning it is on the ingredients list, the greater quantity of sugar in the product.
10. Eat Protein and Good Fats
A heavy-sugar diet and intake are linked directly to increased appetite and weight gain. Subsequently, a diet low in sugar and high in protein and good fats has the exact opposite effect and ends up reducing hunger and food intake.
Protein reduces appetite and hunger, so if you’re full, you’re less likely to crave a quick hunger fix that a sugar rush provides. High-fat intake also reduces appetite. Fat receptors in the mouth and gut alter the way it is digested depending on the fat content is what you have eaten. This reduces appetite and naturally then also reduces calories.
Further reading: Fats – The Good vs The Bad
11. Try Natural Sweeteners
This is specifically for those who just cannot do without the sweet fix and must binge on something sweet either with their foods or beverages. While artificial sweeteners have their own critics too, they are still better than wolfing-down loads and loads of added sugar in unhealthy and damaging packaged products.
Giving up sugar completely or even reducing it drastically may be an almost impossible endeavour in some people. This is why we would suggest artificial sweeteners, however only in very, very, very mild quantities. Stevia, Erythritol and Xylitol are just some of the artificial sweeteners around which are prescribed often for those people who cannot do without something sweet in their lives.
12. A Sugar-Free House
The simplest way to stay away from added sugar is to not bring it home. Keep all foods with high sugar content away from the house and then be disciplined enough not to binge on any of them outside.
If you have sugar-filled snacks and beverages waiting for you at home, you will most definitely feel the urge to reach out for them when the craving is strong. Instead try and distract yourself with some work, a chore or even your favourite book to help you stay away from them. In the long run, getting rid of them [not by eating them] is a great way to train the mind and the body to go sugar-free.
13. Shop on a Full Stomach
Go grocery shopping to the supermarket when you are full after a good meal. Studies have shown that when you go shopping on an empty stomach, you tend to gravitate to all sorts of quick fixes which are usually classified as packaged foods and unhealthy to satiate your hunger.
The chances of you reaching out for ice cream, chocolate or a box of crisps and chips are much lesser when you are feeling full and happy after having eaten a proper, healthy and nutritious meal. This way you buy only what you need rather than being tempted to buy things that you may want but are bad for you.
14. Sleep it Out
Good sleep habits are a crucial deciding factor in how much you gravitate towards unhealthy sugar-laden foods which are terrible for you. Studies show that people with good sleep patterns and enough sleep do not suffer as often from sugary food cravings as compared to people with erratic sleeping patterns or those that do not sleep enough.
Lack of sleep causes people to favour high-calorie, sweet and salty foods over healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. So all you have to do is get a good night’s sleep to help you eat less sugar. Does not seem so hard now, does it?
To sum up;
Try to avoid obvious sugar such as desserts and sodas, while also being aware of hidden sugar in processed foods. Instead, choose a diet based on whole foods to be in full control of your sugar intake.