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How to Break the Sugar Habit Using Healthy Foods

Updated on January 30, 2016

Use Healthy Substitutes

Omitting sugar from one's diet can be a painful experience. However, processed sugar can derail your motivation, your energy, your health, and your healthy diet. It is often the reason why people gain weight and obtain health problems such as diabetes.

If sugar consumption has always been a big issue for you, you want to develop a realistic plan to help you come off of sugar while feeling like you aren't giving up much. It is possible to find healthy substitutes to help you come off of sugar step by step.

Use the Right Sweeteners

Sugar substitutes sometimes taste really yucky. There's a great reason for that - they are usually chemically derived.

Don't despair. There are a few sweeteners that you can employ as a sugar substitute while coming off of sugar, and you won't feel like you're missing much. They aren't terrible for you, and they don't have the same chemical effect on your body as white sugar.

Agave nectar does not bring your body on the insulin roller coaster ride like sugar, corn syrup and its varieties, honey, unprocessed cane sugar, and maple syrup do. Agave nectar tastes really decent to use as a sweetener in your morning tea or oatmeal.

If you want to substitute agave nectar, try stevia, which is a calorie free, all natural extract from the stevia plant. About ten or fifteen years ago, stevia could only be found in health food stores, and some of the varieties had a bitterness to them, but Truvia tastes really decent and can be found on most grocery store shelves.

Xylitol is a sweetener that is very sugar-like and also great for your teeth. It's actually used in toothpastes. The drawback is that it's pretty pricey, but this can be a great deterrent if you're looking to limit all sweet foods.

Brown rice syrup is also a pretty decent sugar substitute to use. You won't be able to sweeten your tea with it, but if you have a yen for baked goods, you can use brown rice syrup as part of your sweetener arsenal to give you a better choice than white sugar.

These options still contain sugar, but it's the kind that won't send your body into a roller coaster insulin ride.

Sugars that are less processed are slightly better, such as turbinado sugar and demerara sugar, but they are still sugar, and really don't offer much in the way of healthfulness over white sugar.

Substitute Your Sugary Drinks

If you're chugging on the soda, you can start out with one of the easiest ways to cut out sugar.

Even if you're drinking diet soda, if you're overweight, it's a sign that drinking diet soda isn't doing much for you.

Whether it's sugar-laden or full of chemically-laden sugar substitutes, soda has absolutely no nutritional value whatsoever. It detracts from your body rather than helps it.

Here are some healthier options to get you off your soda habit.

Juices

Be careful, though. You want to save this as a treat for the day. Drinking too much can give you a bellyache. If you find yourself getting tempted to drink more, you can water down your juice. Also, make sure the bottle states "100% juice," and it does not have any added sweeteners. Making your own juices with a juicer is the healthier option, and quite delicious.

Water

Water should really be a majority of what you drink during the day. This will help get your appetite under control. Water does more for your energy levels, even more than caffeine.

Try adding citrus juice or slices to your water. This tried and true addition to plain old water will help you if you can't bear the thought of drinking plain water. For people with a sweet tooth, you can make your own lemonade by adding a splash of lemon juice and agave nectar, or you can try orange aid using the same method.

Natural Caffeine

If you miss your morning caffeine boost, try going the natural route. Various types of tea and even coffee contain natural antioxidants that will help your body rather than harm it. You can make tea or coffee the night before and put it in the refrigerator if you crave something cold in the mornings.

Smoothies

The right smoothie can nourish your body as well as satisfy your sugar craving.

Use all natural fruits, combine cow's milk or a vegan milk like almond or coconut milk, a date or two, spices like cinnamon, or powdered chocolate if you have a yen for chocolate, can hit your sweet spot once or more times a day. If you need to add a little sweetener, use the natural sweeteners suggested in this article.

Try using smoothies at your most vulnerable times, like in the mornings when you first wake up, or right before bed if you have a tendency of dipping into the sugar bowl when you get really tired. Your body will be very grateful you did.

Not all smoothies, like fruit juices, are not created equal! Make your smoothies at home so you know what went into it. Smoothies from restaurants often contain sugar and corn syrup, which is what you are trying to avoid.

Try a homemade smoothie to squelch your sugar cravings.

Using fruits as a substitute can stave off sugar cravings and add nutrition to your diet.

Substitute Sugary Foods with Complex Carbohydrates and Healthy Sweet Treats

Thanks to diets that eliminate all carbohydrates, we have become carbohydrate phobic.

The right carbohydrates can help your body maintain energy throughout the day as well as stave off sugar cravings. As a matter of fact, if you are struggling with sugar cravings, eating complex carbohydrates is essential to curb your sugar cravings.

Some examples of whole foods containing the right carbohydrates are:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Oats
  • Barley
  • Brown rice
  • Millet

Have about a half of cup of wheat-free grains with each meal. If you need a bit more, add another half of a cup or so until you feel full and satisfied.

Wheat can have "addictive" qualities, just like sugar, and even whole wheat can send the blood sugar out of whack, so it's best to avoid wheat until you have your sugar cravings under control.

It might take some experimentation to find what works best for you, but with a bit of tweaking, you might find that eating some carbohydrates during or after your meals, or even for snack time, can help you curb your cravings at 4PM at work for that candy bar, or that doughnut in the morning, or dessert at night.

For example, you can try:

  • Brown rice and milk sweetened with agave nectar and stevia, with cinnamon and raisins.
  • Try oatmeal with cocoa powder, stevia, milk on top, and some raisins. It satisfies sweet cravings and chocolate cravings all at the same time.
  • If you don't like the mush, try an oatmeal pancake. Mix 1/2 cup whole oats with an egg and a tablespoon of milk, or coat oats with enough applesauce, or yogurt, and let sit for a moment. Add cinnamon and mix. Heat a pan on medium and spread the mixture onto the pan in the form of a pancake. Let brown on first side, then flip it over. You can use a bit of oil if your pancake sticks to the pan, but most days I'm lucky and I don't need to use any. Have with some agave nectar on top or your favorite sugar free syrup.
  • Sweet potatoes baked with juice (apple and pineapple work well) and cinnamon. The more they brown the sweeter they become.
  • This one is great for chocolate addicts. Melt unsweetened dark chocolate, mix in stevia and agave nectar to taste, and pour the mixture into mini cupcake papers until half full. Put in about a half a teaspoon of peanut butter into the centers, and a few raisins if desired, and top with more melted chocolate. Then let sit to harden, or put in refrigerator or freezer if people are standing around waiting impatiently. Yum. You can add some coconut milk if the dark chocolate is too intense.
  • You can make your own sweetened chocolate yogurt. Buy unsweetened yogurt. Use cocoa powder, and a combination of stevia and agave nectar. Add some raisins and unsweetened shredded coconut for a bit of variety.

You might find that having a hearty stew with barley, veggies, and beans is satisfying enough where you won't crave dessert. You will have to customize your diet to your sweet-tooth needs.

Don't forget your healthy proteins, like lean meats, beans, lentils, and nuts. These will help you stay full and satisfied and keep you off the cravings roller coaster.

Including complex carbohydrates with every meal can help wean you off of sugar.

Figure Out How You Feel About Sugar

If you're hooked on sugar, chances are you have some emotional attachments. Maybe if everyone else gets to eat it and you don't, it makes you feel deprived. Perhaps eating cookies reminds you of your grandmama and gives you comfort when you're stressed out.

Figuring out how you're feeling when you indulge in sugar can help you realize how you cope with things in your daily life, and you can decide to cope in healthier ways.

Keeping a journal can help this process. For instance, you might make entries like this:

  • I was really tired today. I didn't sleep well, and my coffee wasn't doing much to keep me awake. I can't take a nap at work, and because I was tired, I couldn't resist the doughnuts someone brought in for a meeting.

If your entry looks like this, you can use problem solving to resolve these issues:

  • I will go to sleep and record my favorite show so I'm not up late watching it.
  • I will take a nice walk every night after dinner to tire myself out and so I can sleep sounder.
  • I will bring a snack to use in an "emergency," so I can eat that and not feel deprived.

Enjoy What You Eat

Healthy foods do not have to taste yucky. Salads can be enjoyable with some fresh, homemade salad dressing. Try cooking cuisine from around the world. For instance, because many people from India are vegetarian, there are many delicious vegetable and lentil dishes that are aromatic and please the most sophisticated palate.

If you enjoy your meals and you find them highly satisfying, chances are your healthy, delicious meals will help keep you from eating and drinking junk.

You can keep with this plan to help wean you off of sugar for a long time or even the rest of your life, and your body will thrive. Healthy sugar substitutes and complex carbohydrates, along with fresh fruit can help your body's chemistry even out and get off of the sugar roller coaster for good.

Sum It Up

  • Substitute healthy sweeteners for white sugar, corn syrup, maple syrup, and honey.
  • Drink mostly water. Sweeten it naturally if you must.
  • Substitute healthy sweet drinks for soda, like herbal tea sweetened with stevia.
  • Avoid chemical sugar substitutes. Stick to all natural sweeteners.
  • Use complex carbohydrates to control sugar cravings and keep you full.

Do you know what sweeteners you eat and drink?

Go through your kitchen cabinets and pantries and see what types of sweeteners your food contains.

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How did you break your sugar habit?

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