Make a habit to read ingredient labels before buying any product. This will help you figure out whether manufacturers are sneaking in any extra added sugars or not and in what quantity. It’s important to recognise the various names of sugars like brown rice syrup, glucose, honey, raw sugar, coconut sugar, evaporated cane juice and agave, which may sound healthy, but are actually variants of sugar. ‘Low-fat’ or ‘no-fat’ foods are often marketed as healthy but most of the time even they are processed and the fat in them are replaced by hidden sugars or artificial sweeteners.
Identify your main source of sugar. Usual suspects are desserts, sugar you add yourself, and processed baked foods. It can be a lot of commercial fruit juices, carbonated sodas or hot sweetened beverages you drink often. The four teaspoons of sugar that you add to your tea or coffee, any sugary snacks, sweetened yoghurt or dessert that you eat at every meal or the processed bread, cakes and cookies that you consume several times a day. If you’ve been adding three teaspoons of sugar to your tea or coffee, gradually reduce to two within a week, then one within the next two weeks. If you are currently having at least two desserts a week, start by cutting down to one a week, then half a dessert the next week and see if you are comfortable with cutting out dessert entirely. The key is to be excited about cutting down your consumption and not experiencing frustration and deprivation. Once you cut down your main source of sugar, you will definitely enjoy some improvement in your weight and your energy levels.
There is mounting evidence that sugar can be addictive but don’t get discouraged. In fact, breaking an addiction is doable with the right approach. I have helped quite a few people with great success. Your best bet is to use a gentle, step-by-step process that gives your body and your tastebuds time to adapt. The mistake many people make when they decide to get off sugar is, they want to be perfect from day one, so they go cold turkey and cut out sugar completely from the beginning. While this may work for some super humans, in my real-world practice with people who have a rather mild sugar addiction, I’ve seen that a compassionate, gentle approach works far better. Start by believing that you can do it and make a commitment to give it all you’ve got over a period of time that feels realistic to you.
If you eat a lot of junk and processed foods, start by replacing it with home-made food one step at a time. If you cook and prepare your food, you’ll dramatically cut your sugar intake over time. Do this over 30 days or more, following the same gentle approach as mentioned earlier. Once you’ve cut down processed foods, you may realise that your sugar cravings are gone and that you’ve even managed to kiss your sugar addiction goodbye.
Replace foods and drinks high in added sugars with healthier options. Eat fruit for dessert instead of cookies or cakes. Swap sugary cereals for unsweetened cereal with fruit. Drink zero sugar soda instead of regular sodas. Add one teaspoon of sugar to your tea or coffee instead of two. You can still have foods and drinks with added sugars — just stay in the recommended daily limit. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the maximum amount of added sugar per day is nine teaspoons (37.5 grams) for men and six teaspoons (25 grams) for women.