How to Quit Sugar: The Essential Guide to Quitting Sugar
Obesity is a national epidemic.
Obesity is the #1 killer of all adults in the form of heart disease, killing 589,000 people every year. Those are staggering numbers. But that’s not all.
One recent study from the American Journal of Public Health found that the number of deaths related to obesity may be as high as three times the number of deaths from heart disease alone. This means that there are nearly two million obesity-related deaths in the United States every single year. That’s a sobering number.
The number of Americans suffering from sugar addiction is on the rise, right along with the obesity epidemic. According to the American Heart Association, Americans are consuming nearly three times the recommended amount of sugar on a daily basis, which is six teaspoons for females and nine teaspoons for males.
Most people aren’t even aware of the amount of added sugar that they ingest daily. This is because the sugar they are consuming isn’t from obvious sugary treats.
Many processed foods are loaded with hidden sugars. These are foods that people would never suspect, such as salad dressing, ketchup, BBQ sauce, and bread.
With such high numbers of diabetes and heart disease, is it possible that sugar is toxic? The answer is yes! Sugar is toxic.
In high doses, sugar has proven toxic. In fact, many studies have linked sugar as the culprit of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
In some studies, sugar has been shown to be as toxic and addictive as heroin, but big-name food companies are legally allowed to put large amounts of sugar into every product imaginable.
In fact, sugar is so bad that the best solution is just to quit sugar entirely. This is a big leap; realistically, try to decrease your sugar to the minimum that you find naturally in vegetables and a few fruits. This guide will show you how to do just that.
Can I Eat Fruit When Quitting Sugar?
If we look at the food pyramid, it suggests we should consume 2-4 servings of fruit a day. This runs counter to the idea of living a sugar-free lifestyle. Plus, many vegetables have some amount of sugar in them naturally.
Living 100% sugar free is just about impossible. What I suggest doing is to do the following:
- Use products with zero added sugars.
- Do not add extra sugar, yourself.
- Only eat a moderate amount of fruit.
I’ve found this to be the easiest method for quitting sugar. Cut back to the minimum amount of sugar, even on seemingly “healthy” items like fruits.
When it comes to naturally occurring sugars in fruits, choose fruits with lower amounts of sugars per servings.
Fruit Sugar Comparison Chart
Why Quit Sugar?
Quitting sugar means getting rid of many great tasting foods. This may make you wonder, “Why quit sugar at all?”
There are many great benefits to quitting sugar. Here’s a list of all the wonderful things you can look forward to after quitting sugar:
1. Mental clarity - When you are sugar free, your brain functions better. You are able to think more clearly.
2. Weight loss - With less of the “empty calories” from sugars, it is easier to control your weight.
3. Diabetes - Reducing your sugar intake dramatically decreases the chance of developing diabetes.
4. Cavities - Less sugar means fewer cavities, less tooth decay, and a less expensive trip to your dentist.
5. Increased Energy - Sugar highs give you an increased spike of energy, followed by a long slump where you feel tired and drained. Less sugar means your energy levels will return to a more consistently stable level of energy than you’re used to.
6. Healthy heart - Too much sugar can lead to issues with your cardiovascular system, which makes your heart work overtime. Decreasing sugar can decrease this extra strain on your heart.
7. Hormone balance - Sugar can cause hormone imbalances, which can lead to crazy mood swings. With normal insulin levels, you can find a better hormone balance and become less of a hormone-raging monster.
8. Clear skin - Want clear, hydrated skin with less oil production? Quit that sugar intake!
9. Stabilized Mood - Studies have shown that consuming over 25 grams (approximately six tsp.) of sugar daily can cause of mood swings, anxiety, and depression. Quitting sugar can be a huge benefit to your mental health.
10. Increased immune system function - Many people who eat too much sugar also find that they get sick more often than normal. This is because excess sugar interferes with the immune system. Quitting sugar can help the body combat bacteria and viruses, keeping you healthier.
How to Quit Sugar: 12 Steps to Kicking the Sugar Addiction
STEP 1: Learn to Read Labels
This step is very important because food companies use sugar to make their “low fat” foods taste better. Reading labels will help you to identify exactly how much sugar is in the food you’re eating. How to Read Nutrition will help you identify all the different names that sugar hides under.
STEP 2: Stop Adding Sugar to Everything
Do not add extra sugar to anything. If you want to have a cup of coffee or tea, drink it plain. If drinking water gets boring, you can use lemon, mint leaves, or fruit for some added flavor.
STEP 3: Stop Drinking Sugary Drinks
Don’t drink your sugar. Soda and other sugary drinks don’t give you energy. They just tire you out after a very short-lived boost.
Stick to pure and clean water as much as possible. Every drink contains calories (and sugars) that you just don’t need in your life.
STEP 4. Stop Eating Sugary Food That You Know Is Bad for You
Cut out the obvious sugary foods. You don’t need the empty calories. These foods contain no nutritional value and send your insulin levels through the roof.
10 Obvious Foods to Avoid
- Candy or chocolate bars
- Caramel popcorn
- Cinnamon rolls
- Fruit snacks
STEP 5: Start Slowly by Quitting the Worst Sugar Offenders (the Sneaky Ones)
Since sugar addiction can run deep, one of the best ways to overcome addiction is not by an all-at-once method. Instead, use a slow and gradual approach.
The first four steps of our quit-sugar process removed the worst offenders. Step 5 gets rid of the sneaky sugar offenders that many people may not realize are harmful.
The 17 items listed below are the sneaky offenders, but they do not constitute ALL of the bad sugar offenders. In addition to avoiding these 17 items, I would like to refer you back to Step 1, which is to read labels.
Keep an eye on everything you consume. Since we are doing a gradual approach here, you do not have to quit sugar, “cold turkey.” Learn to avoid items that have excessive sugars.
17 Sneaky Sugar Offenders: Don’t Fall for A Sugar Ruse
These 17 popular food & drink items often contain far more sugar than you would normally expect. Don’t fall for the trick that any of these items are even close to being healthy.
1. Flavored Coffee - A large flavored coffee from your favorite local coffee shop (I am looking at you Starbucks) has up 25 teaspoons of sugar. By volume, that is the same amount sugar in three cans of Coke.
2. Granola Bar - Often people eat granola bars because they appear to be healthy. But many of these “health” bars contain honey, chocolate, and sugar to bind it all together. Granola bars can have up to 6 teaspoons of sugar.
3. Sports Drinks - Drinks, such as Gatorade, are designed to help replenish athletes after intense and lengthy workouts. When consumed otherwise, they are simply drinks that have more sugar than most soft drinks. Unless you are running a marathon, stick to water.
4. Fruit Juices - The best part of fruits is that they contain fiber. Fruit juice has all the sugar and none of the fiber. Worse than that, many of these juices don’t taste sweet enough in their natural form, and even more sugar is added.
5. BBQ Sauce - These sauces taste great because they are mostly sugar. Up to 45% of the weight of BBQ sauce is pure sugar. Remember that as you slather your food in sauce. You might as well be pouring sugar on top.
6. Low Fat Yogurt - It is easy to think healthy, when you hear “low fat.” But that’s a bit of a scam. Much of the good parts of yogurt are stripped away when it is made low fat. Plus, low fat does not mean low sugar. Even pure sugar could be labeled low fat. Many of the tasty low fat yogurts are also pumped full of sugar. A single cup can have as much as 12 teaspoons full of sugar.
7. Ketchup - Just like BBQ sauce, ketchup is chock full of sugar. For most brands, there’s one teaspoon of sugar for every tablespoon of ketchup.
8. Chocolate Milk - Milk is good for you. At some level, so is chocolate milk with an added 2 teaspoons of sugar per serving.
9. Canned Soups - Many soups have some naturally occurring sugar from the vegetables in them, but be wary. To flavor these soups, often a lot of sucrose and fructose is added to the mix.
10. Spaghetti Sauce - Sugars are even hidden in items like this that don’t taste sweet at all. Tomatoes have some sugar, but most premade brands add a few teaspoons of sugar on top of the tomatoes. If you use premade spaghetti sauce, check the label carefully.
11. Iced Tea - Tea is very healthy, but many iced tea drinks have enough sugar that they are almost equivalent to a can of Coke.
12. Protein Bars - These bars contain protein, which helps to give your body a feeling of being “full.” To make them more palatable, they can be filled with as much as 30 grams of sugar, making your “healthy protein bar” no different from a Snickers bar in terms of sugar.
13. Vitaminwater - The name could not sound healthier. How awesome to have your vitamins and water all in one; however, it seems like they really mean “sugar” when they say “vitamin.” Vitaminwater has 32 grams of sugar. Stick to real water, and flavor it with a slice of lemon, lime, orange, or other real fruit if you want some flavor.
14. Canned Baked Beans - Similar to soups, the bean mixture will have some small amounts of natural sugars. To enhance taste in the canned beans, a heaping serving of sugar is often added. Again, be sure to watch those labels.
15. Smoothie drinks - Some smoothies can be healthy. Some are almost pure sugar, combining sugars, fruits, syrups, and fruit juices. I have a soft spot for a Jamba Juice “Razzmatazz” and the Naked Juice “Berry Blast,” but both of these drinks are on the strictly “must avoid sugar” list.
16. Canned fruit - We already went over fruits. While fruits have sugar, they can have a lot of nutrients, too, which is why some are still good to consume. Canned fruits, however, are the worst because they are soaked in sugar to stay preserved, doubling and sometimes tripling the amount of sugar per bite.
17. Breakfast Cereal - The first meal of the day may be the most important. Eating right is an important part of any morning routine. Don’t mess it up with a breakfast cereal that is full of sugars.
Step 6: Find Alternatives for Foods That You Used to Eat
Find foods that will keep you from feeling hungry. Eating protein, fiber, and healthy fats will keep you full and your sugar levels at bay. Instead of eating a bag of chips, enjoy a handful of nuts, such as almonds or cashews. Don’t eat anything that promises to be “low fat” or “fat free,” as these products are typically loaded with hidden sugars for taste.
Below is a short list of food alternatives to sugar that are low in sugar and healthy to consume. Many of these work wonderfully when substituted for sugar in recipes that call for sugar.
Step 7: Give Your Body Time to Adjust
You can progress thru the first six steps fairly quickly, but you will want to give your body at least 30 days to get used to the lower levels of sugar before going further.
This gives your body time to physically adjust to lower sugar levels and begin to make a habit of eating less sugary foods. This may not be easy, depending on the amount of sugar you were consuming daily. You may have a physical addiction to sugar that you need wean off of.
Step 8: Learn the Language of Hidden Sugar to Avoid Mistakes
Quitting sugar is difficult because 74% of processed food contains hidden sugar. Don’t be fooled by the food companies claiming their products contain zero “refined sugar.” This only means that there is no white sugar.
In addition to looking for familiar sugars on the labels, also look for the ingredients that end in the letters “-ose,” such as glucose, fructose, sucrose, and galactose.
Furthermore, food companies are getting even sneakier at hiding sugars in their foods. They can call sugars by many different names on their labels.
This list shows an amazing 56 different names for sugar. Become familiar with these names so that you can recognize them when reading labels.
Step 9: Keep a Journal of Your Battle With Sugar
Keeping a journal has been proven to have mental health benefits. It helps you work through problems. It helps you stick to habit changes. And it helps you stick to things you might not always want to stick to – like healthy eating.
Taking a few minutes at the end of your day to reflect on your food choices will help you eat healthier as you become more aware of your eating habits.
Step 10: Find a Partner to Help You Quit
You mat need to explain to friends and loved ones about your decision to quit sugar. Some will support you, while others will pressure you into sharing a slice of pie.
It’s important to surround yourself with people who will support your decision. You can even ask someone to join you and motivate each other. You can hold each other accountable to help achieve your goals.
Step 11: Build a New Identity as Someone who Eats Healthy and Avoids Sugar
Quitting sugar is not a diet or a phase; it is a lifestyle change. A diet is a temporary change for a short period of time, where a lifestyle change is a long-term adjustment.
Choosing to eat healthy and avoid sugar should compliment your life, not rule it. Make time to eat healthy, and plan your meals ahead of time to avoid feeling starved and grabbing a quick fix.
Step 12: Take the Final Steps to Reduce Sugar to a Minimum
Cut out all processed foods because the majority of these foods contain sugar in some form. Eat high protein foods, such eggs, cheese, butter, and chicken, to keep you feeling full and satiated.
Purchase foods with whole ingredients that you recognize, and remember all the way back to Step 1, which is to read food labels.
The shorter the ingredient list, the easier it is to understand, and the lack of sugar generally means that it is better to consume.
Quitting sugar should not be a fad. You can choose to quit sugar for good.