There are so many reasons to cut back on sugar: healthier eating, fewer cravings, glowing skin, and more consistent energy. The problem is, sugar is everywhere, and it’s not easy to avoid. Plus, the taste of sugar makes you crave more sugar, and eating too much sugar is detrimental to your health. It’s time to make a change!
Three Steps to Start the Sweet Defeat 21-Day Sugar Detox
- Limit sugar intake to 25 grams or fewer per day (that’s 6 teaspoons).
- Cut out hidden and artificial sugars.
- Focus on eating lean proteins, healthy fats, and unprocessed carbohydrates.
Now let’s break that down.
How to Track Sugar Consumption
The key is that we’re talking about all
sugar here. Foods with natural sugars like fruit and milk are fine in moderation (though they count towards the daily total in the detox). It’s the high-fructose corn syrup in sodas, the artificial sweetener we put in coffee, and the hidden sugars in unexpected places like pasta sauce, smoothies, and flavored yogurts that are the biggest problem.
The American Heart Association
recommends that adults consume no more than 25 grams of sugar a day for women and 36 grams of sugar a day for men, the equivalent of 6 teaspoons and 9 teaspoons respectively. Â The average American eats way more than that-82 grams
How do you know how much you’re eating? You need to read nutrition labels. Packaged goods tell you how many grams of sugar are in a serving. One gram is about 1/4 teaspoon of sugar. That’s why we translated the 25 grams into 6 teaspoons, so you realize that adding a few spoonfuls of sugar into your morning coffee uses up a lot of what you should be eating each day.
How to Cut Back on Sugar
First, here are five things you’ll cut out (or consume in moderation if you choose to indulge!):
- DON’T add sugar to your food. That means no sweeteners in your coffee and tea: you can add whole milk, which has natural sugars. You’ll also skip the jam, honey, and dried fruit in oatmeal. Make unsweetened oatmeal instead (you can cook it in milk for natural sweetness), then add a sprinkle of cinnamon on top.
- DON’T use artificial sweeteners (i.e. Splenda, stevia, aspartame). Fake sugar makes you crave more sweets as much as regular sugar does.
- DON’T eat packaged goods that have more sugar than fiber. Read nutrition labels and compare the number of grams of each. You’ll be surprised at how many foods have hidden sugars like this: regular pasta, breads, crackers. Clean these items out of your pantry, so you’re not tempted to eat them.
- DON’T have sugary drinks like soda or juice. We all know sodas are full of sugar (a 12-ounce can of Coke has 39 grams), but some bottled green juices have just as much (a 15.2-ounce bottle of Odwalla’s Superfood Smoothie has 51 grams). Go for water, seltzer, or unsweetened coffee/tea.
- DON’T over-use bottled salad dressings, pasta sauce, and condiments like ketchup and bbq sauce, which often have hidden sugars. If you look at the ingredient list, sugar shouldn’t be in the first three ingredients.
And here are five things you should include in your meals:
- DO eat lean proteins (such as chicken, fish, and shrimp). If you include some protein in every meal, it will make it more satisfying and keep you from craving sweets.
- DO include healthy fats (such as avocado, eggs, and nuts). Fats take more time to digest, so you’ll feel satiated for longer.
- DO have whole grains, legumes, and seeds like brown rice and quinoa. Skip simple carbs like white rice (as in sushi) and pasta.
- DO eat fresh fruit, but no more than 3-4 pieces of whole fruit a day. Cut out juice and applesauce, which remove the fiber that keeps you full. Remember, fresh fruit also counts towards your daily sugar total!
- DO give yourself a daily intentional treat like a square of chocolate or one small cookie. Don’t totally deny yourself, or your low-sugar eating plan won’t be sustainable.
Not sure what to eat? Here’s a sample day:
||Two eggs and a piece of whole-grain toast (look for bread with less than 3 g of sugar a slice).
||A salad with chicken or tofu, all the veggies you want, and even cheese or avocado! Just be careful to use a dressing with little or no sugar.
||A handful of almonds and green tea.
||Grilled salmon with a vegetable stir-fry over cauliflower rice. (Avoid teriyaki or other sauces that contain sugar.)
||A 1-ounce square of dark (85% cacao or higher) chocolate (which has 4 grams of sugar).