How to Stop Eating Added Sugar Once and for All

Everyone craves sweets from time to time, but how do you know it’s time to curb your sugar habit? Is it possible to learn to stop eating sugar? And, most importantly, do you have to break up with sugar completely and forever?

First of all, you need to know how to define “sugar.” We are not talking about the sugar in fruit (or even milk). When we hear about the risks of sugar, we talk about “added sugars,” which must be included on nutrition labels starting in 2020.

“Many people think that using honey, agave, coconut sugar or date sugar instead of white sugar is healthier,” he says. Stephanie Searor, MS, RD, LDN. “Sugar is sugar. They all still have about the same amount of calories, and in fact, honey has even more calories per teaspoon than table sugar (21 calories for honey vs. 16 calories for table sugar).”

The problem is not enjoying a cupcake or ice cream from time to time on a hot summer day. “The problem lies in the constant day-to-day exposure to sugar from processed foods,” he says. Tina Marinaccio, MS, RD, offering nutritional counseling and cooking classes in the New York City metropolitan area. “The palate becomes accustomed to expecting a cloyingly sweet taste.”

Let’s look at some different methods on how to stop eating sugar, as well as signs that you might be eating too much.

How much added sugar is too much?

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The average American consumes 17 teaspoons (71 grams) of added sugar per day. But, according to American Heart AssociationMen should aim to consume no more than nine teaspoons (36 grams) of added sugars, while women should aim for no more than six teaspoons (25 grams) of added sugars.

And added sugar hides in plain sight, says Dr. Whitney Bowe. “It may be called something other than ‘sugar.’ Cane sugar, sucrose, fructose, agave nectar, high fructose corn syrup, but sugar is sugar no matter how you spell it. There is more than [70] names for sugar! And it can be difficult to avoid if you don’t make a conscious effort and don’t know what to look for.”

How to stop eating added sugar

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It’s up to you to decide when and how to stop eating added sugar (or just cut back). Searor recommends using the Yale Food Addiction Scale as a first step.

“This can help determine if you may be experiencing food addiction,” he says.

Your brain releases the chemical that makes you feel good dopamine when you eat sugary foods, Searor adds. So if you’re feeling out of control with chocolate and gummies, know that some of us are “hypersensitive to the brain’s reward mechanisms, which means eating foods high in sugar (or fat or salt) could release much more chemicals in their brains,” he says.

Below are some of the different ways you can train yourself to stop eating sugar.

1. Cut added sugar cold turkey

While you can completely eliminate added sugar overnight, Searor says it’s difficult and complicated to have 100 percent success—you definitely need a plan. “It can be very overwhelming to give up something cold turkey,” he says. If you plan to cut out sugar completely, then you need to know what you’re going to eat instead.

Marinaccio creates individual meal plans for clients who are ditching added sugar cold turkey. She helps them incorporate whole fruits, naturally sweet starches like sweet potatoes and squash, beans and whole grains instead of processed and sugary carbohydrates. This “allows the palate to reset in a short period of time without feeling deprived,” according to Marinaccio.

2. Reduce added sugar consumption

Reducing added sugar consumption without eliminating it is the easiest habit to implement (but it requires willpower). You can decide for yourself what this looks like, but here are some simple tips and tricks:

  • Reduce your consumption of fast food. (There is added sugar lurking even in salty foods.)
  • Switch from soda and other sugary drinks to sparkling water. Add a slice of lemon, lime, or cucumber for more flavor.
  • Swap sugary pastries for a piece of fruit. Try apple slices with peanut butter or a bite of berries.
  • Reduce sugar in your coffee and tea. Start with one teaspoon less until it tastes sweet, then keep reducing.
  • Read labels. Added sugars hide in some canned fruits (look for those canned in their own juice), packaged granola bars, and in almost all processed foods.
  • Swap sugary glazes and sauces (like barbecue and teriyaki) for spicy or savory sauces like pesto, vinaigrette (no added sugar), and mustard.

“These are all ways you can slowly reduce your intake of processed foods and set yourself up for long-term success,” says Searor.

Displacing sugary and processed foods and replacing them with nutrient-dense whole foods can slowly take away the power of sugar. In the end you discover that you can take it or leave it.

“If you want to have ice cream, have ice cream,” adds Searor. “Just keep that in mind. Know that you are eating it because you want to, not because it is a reward or a way to ignore stress.”

How to come back from a sugar “detox”

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Even if you quit added sugar cold turkey, you can often add it back into your life without backing down, Marinaccio says. When you feel ready, treat yourself to a really good cookie, a slice of your favorite cake, or a donut; Eat it slowly and see how you feel.

She says some of her clients find that candy has completely lost its power (and appeal) because of this approach, “because their palate has changed or part of the appeal turned out to be nostalgia, where they associated the candy with a memory. , and now it no longer serves them.”

When should you seek professional help

Does the thought of giving up added sugar give you cold sweats? If you’re feeling anxious about this, Searor says, you may want to work with a therapist at the same time (or even before) talking to a registered dietitian about learning techniques to stop eating added sugar.

“There are often underlying experiences that have led us to turn to food for comfort,” she explains, adding that with therapy “you can begin to develop healthy relationships in all aspects of your life, including your relationship with food “.

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