Most of us eat more sugar than our bodies need, and that can have detrimental impacts on our health.
Whether you’re looking to lose weight, reduce your risk of disease, or simply feel better, reducing your sugar intake is a smart idea.
And if you’re going to do that, it’s well worth experimenting with a totally sugar-free diet to see what a difference it might make.
But where do you start with this change, and what are some of the main things you need to adapt?
Without a clear plan, many people abandon their attempts to boost health and go back to a diet packed with sugar.
In this guide, we’ll look at some of the most compelling reasons why you should cut out sugar for good, and how you make this new habit stick.
Plus, we’ll give you some advice on how you can streamline your meal plan to lower your daily sugar intake.
The average adult has way too much sugar in their diet – indeed, an average of 15% of all dietary calories come from added sugars.
This figure doesn’t even acknowledge the national sugar intake from fresh fruit and dairy foods (though in the section below, we’ll ask whether natural sugars might be good for you).
But how bad is sugar for you? And why should you cut it out?
Studies show a link between high sugar consumption and a range of serious health worries, such as:
In contrast, if you cut back on how much sugar you eat, your risk of all the above illnesses drops.
Now, does it make a difference to your risk of ill health if most of your dietary sugar comes from natural sugars?
Most of the above research shows a link between health risks and added sugar – the sort you find in candy, processed meals, and so on, which has no nutritional value.
Natural sugar is quite different. It occurs naturally, as the name suggests, in foods like fruit.
Is natural sugar good, then?
While it isn’t necessarily going to make you healthier, it doesn’t seem to have the same negative effects.
Plus, it is in foods that are otherwise good for you thanks to all the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants they contain.
So, a plan to cut out sugar can sometimes make a big difference even if you only focus on reducing added sugar.
With all the above in mind, let’s move on to how you can adapt your diet to reduce sugar.
Starting a healthy diet can sound daunting, and if you try to be too strict then you’re likely to fail.
Here are five simple but effective things you can do to get rid of sugar starting the day.
We’ve all heard the saying “You are what you eat”, and when it comes to sugar content this saying is entirely true.
However, all the information you need to make smart choices about what you put in your body is right there on product labels.
Read through them, and look for the percentage of sugar as well as scanning the ingredients list.
When you’re first adopting a no-sugar diet, you might find it easier to focus on “sugar counting” rather than calorie counting.
In other words, for at least a week or two, concentrate on keeping the percentage of sugar as low as possible, and worry about overall calories again once you’re used to this new way of eating.
You might be shocked by the many different names of sugar and sugar-based ingredients in products (such as sugar syrups and sugar concentrates).
There are other 60, but here are the most frequently added to everyday foods:
In addition, keep an eye out for ingredients with “-ose” at the end, which indicates a type of sugar. Examples include the following:
You’re most likely to find these added sugars in pasta sauces, cereal bars, milk products, salad dressings, and ready meals. However, it pays to get into the habit of checking all products you buy.
When people quit sugar, they often wonder if this means they should also be saying goodbye to sweeteners.
After all, if you keep artificial, low-calorie sweeteners like aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose around, sugar-free foods can be a lot more palatable if you’re used to a lot of sweetness in your eat.
And there’s no one answer to the question “Is aspartame bad?”.
Some nutritionists think these sweeteners are harmless, while others argue they contribute to disease processes.
That said, most agree that if your goal is to establish a sugar-free diet, you need to cut artificial sweeteners too.
This is because sweeteners make your body think you’re still having sugar, and can actually make existing sugar cravings worse.
If you want to get to a stage where your body no longer expects or thinks it wants sugar, the best plan is to avoid sweeteners like aspartame
Another ambiguity in sugar-free diets is whether they should involve getting rid of sugar in drinks as well.
The bottom line is that there is no important distinction between drinking vs eating as far as your body is concerned, and as far as it processes nutrients.
In addition, many drinks (including sodas, iced teas, and coffees) have a way greater sugar and artificial sweetener content than you might first assume.
So, get into the habit of checking drink labels as well.
Food can taste bland and off-putting at first when you’re used to large doses of sweetness, so it’s smart to look for other ways to make your meals exciting.
The good news is that there are loads of healthy sugar replacements, each of which adds a different flavor to things you’d normally expect to be high in sugar.
Good examples include spices like cinnamon, vanilla, and nutmeg.
These taste especially good when added to coffee, yogurt, and breakfast foods (like oatmeal or porridge).
You now have a solid plan in place for cutting back on sugar and artificial sweeteners in your food.
And your body will thank you, as a reduction in sugar impacts everything from heart health to inflammation levels and your risk of diabetes.
However, there are always ways to make your diet even healthier – and ways to make your healthier eating easier to stick to.
At HealthyEating.com, we provide you with an easy tool for generating recipes and ingredient lists for meals that taste great while requiring absolutely no sugar.
We have meal and snack ideas to suit all tastes, and our meal planner ensures that you don’t get bored with what you eat.