In today’s world, sugar is EVERYWHERE. Whilst some sugar is necessary for our survival, we can get all we need from whole foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and we certainly don’t need all the additional sugar added to foods. Consuming too much added sugar on a regular basis can increase levels of inflammation in the body and contribute to the development of diseases like type 2 diabetes. In this article, I’m exploring 10 simple ways you can reduce your daily sugar intake:
- Fill up on protein – we often reach for sugary treats when we are hungry and it’s not just a lack of willpower – sugar is the most digestible form of energy for the body so your brain will tell you to reach for it when blood sugars are low–hello sugar craving! To combat this, be sure tinkled high-quality protein sources with each meal and snack to support stable energy levels and keep cravings at bay. Meat, fish, eggs, beans and pulses are all great sources of protein.
- Focus on whole foods – most of the sugar in the western diet is obtained through eating processed, pre-packaged foods, which are often already loaded with sugar before they even reach the kitchen table. By focusing on eating a mainly whole foods diet and preparing meals at home, you are in total control of how much sugar is added. Try basing the majority of your meals around meat, fish, eggs, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
- Switch up your breakfast - traditional breakfast foods tend to be sweet – cereal, toast with jam, pancakes and porridge, for example. By swapping out your usual breakfast for a savoury option, you can massively cut down on your daily sugar intake. Another benefit of starting the day with a savoury breakfast is you’ll be more likely to consume a good amount of protein, fat and fibre, helping to keep you fuller for longer and reduce mid-morning sugar cravings. Some fab options include poached eggs, savoury oats, a grilled breakfast or sweet potato toast topped with avocado, hummus and mixed seeds.
- Embrace natures candy! - There are so many naturally sweet foods available to us; fruits like dates, apples, oranges and raisins, and even vegetable such as carrots, courgettes and butternut squash. These foods are not only incredibly nutritious and full of fibre, but they can work brilliantly as sugar replacements in desserts and sweet bakes. Blackbean brownies, carrot cake, orange energy bites–the list goes on. Why not try my apple, almond and olive oil cake?
- Avoid sugar-free foods - while sugar-free may appear the healthier option on the surface, it’s best to stay clear of them as they often contain artificial sweeteners like sucralose, saccharin and aspartame. Although these taste sweet (in fact, much sweeter than natural sugar), research suggests that they may interfere with blood sugar balance and confuse brain signaling, increasing cravings for sugar rather than reducing them. Artificial sweeteners have also been shown to have damaging effects on the gut microbiome, so try to avoid where possible.
- Swap out your drinks – instead of drinking sugary fizzy drinks and juices, try swapping for water or herbal teas – you'll also find they are WAY more thirst-quenching. If you are missing the flavour from your regular tipple, add a squeeze of lemon, lime or orange juice. Alternatively, add slices of strawberries and cucumber into a jug of water and leave in the fridge overnight to infuse – this will also provide natural sweetness without all of the sugar!
- Choose full fat – Don't fall into the trap of buying low or no - fat options in the supermarket, and instead opt for full-fat varieties of your favourite foods. The fat in foods provides products with texture, flavour and mouthfeel and removing it can change a food significantly. The solution?Manufacturers will often replace the fat with added sugar (and chemical stabilisers!) to keep the product palatable. Your best bet is simply eating smaller amounts of the original product.
- Be wary of condiments – store - bought sauces and condiments are often loaded with unnecessary added sugars; by reducing the amount you eat, or avoiding entirely, you can very easily slash your sugar intake. Many store - bought sauces are surprisingly easy to make at home with a handful of ingredients and this way, you can control the amount of added sugar.Alternatively, look to flavour your foods with bold herbs and spices, as well as the zest and juice from lemons and limes.
- Go slow – By reducing your sugar intake slowly, over time your tastebuds will adapt and you’ll find that you are able to detect sweet flavours much easier, meaning you’ll naturally eat less. A great example of this is using sugar in hot drinks; if you usually have two teaspoons, try one and a half, then one, then half, and eventually, none. Doing this over a few weeks will make the transition smoother and means you’ll be less likely to miss it. This is a great way to reduce your sugar intake naturally and reduces the chance of cravings.
- Go cold turkey! - Alternatively, you may choose to completely cut out sugar all at once. Whilst this may be more challenging to begin with, your body and tastebuds will adapt much quicker. Depending on your current sugar intake, for the first few days of omitting sugar you may experience withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, fatigue and cravings. To support your body through the process, be sure to eat-nutritious meals regularly throughout the day and drink plenty of water.
Ultimately, when reducing your sugar intake, these steps will help cumulatively; each will help in its own right, but by combining a few of them (maybe even all 10!) you will betaking even bigger steps towards better health. As always, I recommend starting with the tip that feels most doable for you to begin the trail of success!