I have recently been pointing out the negative effects sugar has on our physical and emotional health. If you have missed those articles take a look at http://bit.ly/1RlGVCR and http://bit.ly/1RyC1iR and also http://bit.ly/1WJFlMs to get a better understanding of how important it is to avoid sugar as much as is practical. And I do want to stress being practical. I have cut down on my sugar intake drastically over the past five months and I feel much better. I have more energy and my mind is more alert. But during this time I have learned how difficult it is. There are the obvious ones like deserts that we all love; cakes, pies, donuts, CHOCOLATE, and candy. Reducing these is simple but hard. It just takes a mindset shift and discipline. The really tricky ones are the added sugars in so many of our foods today, both from the grocery and from restaurants. Food companies and chefs know what we Americans like and they know we love sugar. When they add sugar we enjoy it and buy more. And, as I pointed out in my other articles, it is addicting so the more we eat the more we crave. The more we crave the more the market responds by supplying it. It is a vicious cycle that we need to derail. So here are the ten ways I have used to cut down on my sugar intake. Hopefully they will work for you.
- Don’t go cold turkey – the whole premise of this blog is that we can make small healthier decisions each day and, over time, succeed at living healthier and happier lives. I recommend incremental changes even though you are actually breaking an addiction. Determine that you will eliminate one type of food or drink at a time such as sodas, candy or added sugar in your morning coffee. After a week or so of conquering that you can target something else. Start small and as you build momentum you will feel more in control.
- Change what you drink – this is the one area that, for most people, will make the most drastic difference in cutting down on sugar. According to the experts, sugary drinks are one of the top sources of sugar in our diet. For example, a mere 12 ounces of Mountain Dew delivers 52 grams of sugar and the same amount of grape juice has 58 grams. Orange juice has 33 grams of sugar and about 20 grams in Gatorade. And who stops at 12 ounces anymore? Learn to enjoy filtered water and you will be glad you did.
- Plan your meals and snacks ahead of time – success comes easier when you are organized and intentional about your food. Deciding in advance what you will eat will help you make good decisions, especially when you find those hunger pangs and junk food cravings sneak up on you. Have healthy snacks handy to avoid cramming handfuls of Thin Mints in your mouth. Also, eating regularly will keep your blood sugar levels stable.
- Choose fresh whole foods – the closer a food is to its original form, the less added sugar it will contain. Food in its natural state provides more and better nutrition and variety will feed your body and mind exactly what they need. Eating more vegetables and meats with a moderate amount of fruits will give you more energy and better focus. Your digestive system works much better and your body fights diseases more efficiently. Grabbing convenience foods from the freezer or snack isles will only increase your cravings for more of the same.
- Read labels – as I mentioned earlier, sugar is hiding everywhere! And, unfortunately, it changes its’ name often. Sugar can be in the form of honey, agave, high fructose corn syrup, fructose, sucralose, sucrose, maltose, dextrose and most any other “ose”. The list of ingredients begin with the substance that is the highest concentration to the lowest concentration so if one of these sugar variants is high on the list it spells danger.
- Incorporate healthy fat and protein in each meal – they control blood sugar levels and make you feel full, satisfying your cravings. Eating too many carbs is like putting yourself on a roller coaster ride; your blood sugar zooms up shortly after you eat, then goes crashing down after a short time. you then find yourself hungry again and you start all over. Breakfast is the biggest challenge to avoid the bagel/cereal/toast/pastry ride. Check out my earlier blog on healthy breakfast choices at http://bit.ly/1pIVU0S
- Get the rest you need – trying to survive the day feeling tired and run down will not give you the resources your mind and body need to resist the temptation to go back to old habits. This can be hard and you need to be rested to make it past the first few days and weeks.
- Remove the temptation – get all your favorite sweets and junk food out of the house and out of those secret stashes at work. Cutting down on sugar is easier if you have to go in search of it.
- Get plenty of physical activity – you will be in a much better state of mind if you are more active. This can also take your mind off the sweet cravings if you are able to get up and walk or move around a bit when the urge hits you.
- Begin with a detox – this will help to reset your appetite and decrease your sugar cravings from the very beginning. I did this later in the process and wished I had done it earlier. Our bodies, especially our digestive systems, are so bombarded with toxins from our food, the air, the chemicals we slather onto our skin and just our environment that we must detox periodically to stay healthy and strong. I offer one with Advocare that does an excellent job but is mild enough not to disrupt your normal day to day life. It is the first phase of our 24 Day Challenge. Order it here; http://bit.ly/1UlHlNp
I hope this helps in your quest to be healthier and happier. It really is important to avoid sugar as much as possible and practical. Living healthy is all about understanding how our daily lifestyle decisions affect us and knowing how to prioritize the positive changes we strive to make. We can succeed!