Hooked on sugar? It’s not hard to be considering the physiological response sugar can have in our bodies. Sugar provides a quick burst of energy, can stimulate mood and satisfy cravings, but these effects are short-lived. Sugar highs are followed by sugar lows that can trigger the complete opposite reaction, leaving you feeling fatigued, moody and craving more sugar. The best defense against sugar is to cut if from your diet, after all sugar is nutrient poor and calorie-rich, and continually eating it only leads to health issues long-term. Making a few simple diet switches can help you cut out sugar for good.
1. Switch Juices to Water
You might think that drinking juice is a better choice over soda, but this is not the case. Juice maybe natural but it’s also full of sugar, and lacks the fiber that you get in the full fruit version. You will also end up getting about 5 to 6 servings of the fruit in a single glass versus eating one piece! Instead of reaching for juice to satisfy your thirst, drink water and plenty of it. Water can help fill you up without the added sugar. Have a hard time just drinking water? Add slices of lemon, lime or make a water infusion with slices of citrus fruit, cucumber or even strawberries. And if you still want juice, mix half juice and half water or sparkling water to cut calories and sugar.
2. Switch Simple Carbs with Complex Ones
Simple carbs like white rice, pasta and bread are loaded in sugar! These simple carbs can spike blood glucose levels leading to a release of insulin, whose primary job is to quickly clear the blood of glucose, shuttling it to either be stored in muscle or fat. Once the blood is cleared from glucose, energy levels fall and hunger and cravings can increase once again. The problem with this constant energy high and low is that your body’s storage capacity becomes limited and instead of burning off those calories, the body starts storing them in your fat! Switching your simple carbs for complex carbs that are high in fiber and lower in sugar can decrease blood glucose spiking and reduce sugar cravings, since they take much longer to digest versus simple carbs. Complex carbs include non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and squashes, lentils and beans, or whole grains such as brown rice, oatmeal or quinoa.
3. Switch Carbs for More Protein
Eating a diet that provides more protein and less carbs can help keep hunger and sugar cravings in check. Protein has a satiating effect in the body that can reduce appetite. In fact one study showed that eating a high protein snack of yogurt led to less hunger and delayed eating by up to 30-minutes compared to a high carb chocolate snack. What’s more, eating the high protein snack led to eating 100 less calories at later meals. Following a diet that provides at least 40% protein will help control hunger and reduce appetite while also helping to maintain lean muscle. Pick lean proteins such as lean cuts of red meat, fatty fish like salmon, chicken, turkey, whole eggs, or non-fat dairy like plain non-fat Greek yogurt.
4. Switch Processed Foods for Whole Natural Foods
Processed foods are often laced with simple carbs and refined sugar. If you’re eating any processed products like crackers, cereals, white bread, or pasta then you’re definitely taking in extra sugar you don’t need. Instead of eating processed foods, switch to eating only whole natural foods that do not contain added ingredients. Instead of pasta try spaghetti squash or a hearty side of vegetables. Realistically you should be able to purchase all your food from the exterior perimeter of any grocery store, where all the natural fresh foods are located, and avoid the interior aisles where most boxed processed food is located.
By Lauren Jacobsen
Nutrition Director for Kcal