I thought that eliminating processed sugar would be the biggest challenge for me. I love my sweets (as you can tell from my food blog). You wouldn’t think so, but travelling actually helped with this one. I wasn’t home so I couldn’t bake. The only sweets I eat are home made sweets. I just don’t like the taste of “fake” sweets. So I went a full 5 weeks and only had 3 sweet treats if you can believe it. After coming home and starting to live my “real foods” pledge it was amazing, my sugar cravings were gone (and are still gone). Completely gone!
In the past, I’d look at a yummy recipe on pinterest and would start drooling. I’d grab the bag of chocolate chips or my hidden stash of IKEA dark chocolate and indulge excessively while I waited for my cavity maker/heart attack dessert to bake. It seemed like I never felt satisfied- could never quite get enough sweets. Now, I can browse pinterest and am not phased at all by seeing an image of a dessert that previously would have made my mouth water. I feel like I have so much more self control and it feels great. I can indulge if I choose to, but I don’t NEED to.
As I mentioned in my 100 Days of Real Food post, I eliminated all processed sugar from my diet. I purchased a large jar of honey and a bag of raw sugar (which it turns out the sugar is technically against the rules). I only used 1 teaspoon of sugar the entire first week. I used honey to sweeten plain yogurt, oatmeal and a batch of brown rice peanut butter balls. Other than that, I relied solely on fruits to provide my sugar.
So, if you’re trying to reduce or eliminate sugar from your lifestyle, here are some tips I recommend starting with.
1. CLEAN HOUSE. Unless you can handle the temptation, toss out your brown, granulated and powdered sugars. Baking is a hobby of mine so I keep the sugar on hand for that, and I keep it in a separate cupboard. This way I don’t see it every time I open my baking cupboard and am not tempted by it. Although so far I haven’t been tempted to use it. If you typically keep a stash of storebought sweets (cookies, candy, soda, etc) those have to go. Get rid of them and don’t replace them! Your family doesn’t need the cavities or the calories.
2. CHECK THE LABEL. As a general rule, you should not eat anything with more than 8 grams of sugar (2 teaspoons) 3 times a day. If it has more than this, don’t buy it. You can’t eat what you don’t buy!
3. SWEETEN NATURALLY. If you’re used to eating a lot of fake sweets, your body needs to learn to appreciate the taste of real sugar. Artificial sweeteners are designed to leave you wanting more. Start by eating real fruits rather than artificially flavored fruit treats. Sweeten cereal, waffles, pancakes by topping with fresh fruit. If you must, use a little honey or a natural sweetener. Buy plain yogurt and sweeten yourself with honey, vanilla and fruit. In recipes, replace sugar with honey. Eat fruits for dessert. Anytime you get a sugar craving, grab some fruit and eat as much as you like until it goes away. Once you start eating more fruits and vegetables, your body will start to crave healthy foods rather than junk.
4. INDULGE IN MODERATION. If you just enjoy eating sweets, go ahead! Once you’ve purged your body of processed sugar and your cravings have gone away, go ahead and indulge in a small treat. Once a week. BUT, make it yourself if you can. This requires a lot more effort and I like to think I burn calories while baking 😉 I think you’ll find that the super sugary, unhealthy sweets aren’t as appealing to you once you’ve rid yourself of the sugar addiction. Instead I tend to lean towards more fruit-based desserts (apple/cherry crisp) or those that are more rich in flavor rather (like cheesecake or dark chocolate) than those just filled with loads of unhealthy stuff (like cool whip and caramel topping). Here’s a great recipe for oatmeal cookie bites– they totally satisfy and helps curb the desire for anything sweeter.