This isn't the article to tell you why sugar is the devil. How to quit sugar is the dilemma here. Because I'm guessing you already know the perils of sugar or you wouldn't be trying to quit it. My community college education did me well in the area of comprehension. So we'll save all the sugar badmouthing for another day. Listen, I've been there and been off refined sugar (and gluten, dairy, and processed crap) for almost three years, and I am now able to eat it in moderation if I am out and not binge. I would call that a success.
If you're wondering WHY I went on such a radical diet you can read about my health journey here. Blah blah blah, let's get to it already!
First, I need to point out a very important distinction: refined/added sugar vs. naturally occurring sugars. Naturally occurring sugars are in everything from fruit to whole grains, and yes, even vegetables! And since you don't believe me here's a website where you can enter in different foods to get the nutrition data. I've conveniently looked up butternut squash for you, boo. So this plan isn't about detoxing from ALL sugars, it's about is quitting refined, added, and processed sugar, not naturally occurring sugar in whole foods.
Who is this plan for?
Everyone. The average American consumes 76+ grams (19 tsp) of sugar/day and the American Heart Association recommends 25. Sugar, not fat, is finally being called out as the secret culprit causing obesity, high cholesterol, inflammation, various diseases, fatigue, brain bog, gut dysfunctions, and countless other issues. Absolutely everyone can benefit from quitting sugar.
- Gradually decrease sugar addiction and consumption, in order to avoid detox symptoms, while eating balanced meals and making healthy substitutions to get through the transition phase
- Stabilize insulin levels, which prevents various diseases and also mood swings + energy crashes
- Reduce dependency on sugar for energy and stop letting it control you
- To be aware of how much sugar you are ingesting through various foods and how it affects the way you feel, which you can only discover by reducing or eliminating it
Ease into it, you freak
If you're a cold turkey person, FINE then. Personally, I like my turkey quite warm. Like, if the turkey even gets sorta lukewarmy at Thanksgiving, I'm gagging. So. It just depends on who you are. But given the extent at which the average person is addicted to sugar, I don't suggest cold turkey. Here are some reasons why:
- You will avoid extreme detox symptoms, which will make you give in and want to die
- You will be more likely to stick to this (or anything) if it becomes a gradual change
- You will be less frustrated and cranky in general and feel like this is an attainable goal
- Don't jump into it without a plan (like this one) and the proper supplies
For the duration of the plan, use this meal formula. This is what worked for me and is based upon extensive research and the recommendation of all the doctors I've consulted (lots, unfortunately) on the issue of blood sugar stabilization and balance. This also allows for more carbs than say a paleo or other type of diet, which is necessary for a lot of people who suffer from adrenal fatigue or energy issues and need more carbs. It will also make it much easier to stick to long term.
Non-Starchy Vegetables are typically the flowering parts of the plant. Examples: lettuce, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, spinach, mushrooms, onions, peppers and tomatoes, etc.
Complex carbs are comprised of three or more sugars, high in fiber, and digest slowly therefore not incurring drastic blood sugar spikes. Examples: whole grains (quinoa, buckwheat, oats, brown rice) or fibrous veggies and fruits: beans, potatoes, carrots, corn, parsnips, peas, zucchini, strawberries, blackberries, apples. (NOTE: keep fruit to 1-2 total servings a day while on this plan, however, it's better to opt for fruit than refined sugar if you must)
Proteins: eggs, poultry, fish, pork, beans, beef, or vegan options.
Healthy fats: avocados, coconut, sesame, flax, or olive oils, olives, ghee, butter, eggs, nuts and seeds.
(NOTE: For the purposes of this plan, I wouldn't limit fats. The ratio is just to make sure you're getting a minimum amount at each meal, but feel free to snack on fats regularly. They have great abilities to suppress sugar cravings and keep you full as they are the slowest digesting foods. Still scared of fat? Fats have finally been proven as the hero of life. Your brain, weight loss, metabolism, hormones and overall health depends on healthy fats. There are countless articles on this but this one from Dr. Mercola will get you started.)
Week 1 Plan: What To Ditch
- LIQUID SUGARS. Sodas, ALL juices, syrups, coffee creamers, and drinks with added sugars. SORRY! That is the hugest way to cut down and liquid sugars have the biggest effect on blood sugar, therefore, it's a good place to start getting balanced. I know what you're thinking - BUT WAIT some juices are natural! Unfortunately, the sugar content of a pure juice is far too high, even if it contains vegetables, and you simply cannot ditch a sugar addiction while drinking juice. Also, avoid all chemically processed artificial sweeteners, as they wreak just as much havoc on the body.
- For soda, try Zevia (available in most grocery stores or online) it is a natural, zero calorie, non crappy soda that is sweetened with Stevia (herb based sweetener) and Ethrylitol, a sugar alcohol, that the body doesn't even process so it doesn't pose an issue as far as health goes.
- Bai are fruit infused waters that you can pick up at Target or other places that also have good ingredients and 1 gram of sugar.
- For teas and coffees, get SweetLeaf, a stevia sweetener or Xylitol, a sugar alcohol that is completely safe and tastes exactly like sugar.
- Obviously, homemade fruit infused water is the best option.
(NOTES: Due to inulin fiber, excessive consumption of sugar alcohols, although safe, can cause minor digestive upset in some individuals, especially if suffering from SIBO)
*You shouldn't move on to the next phase until you are comfortable with the current one.
week 2 PLAN: what to ditch
- DAIRY PRODUCTS (YOGURT + MILK + ICE CREAM). You don't need to ditch cheese, ok?? SILVER LINING! Although I don't personally think dairy is a good idea, for this purpose, cheese is ok. Flavored yogurts can have up to 40g of sugar! Milk also has approximately 13g of sugar per cup! That's the lactose talking.
- SUBSTITUTIONS: Unsweetened cashew, coconut, almond milks are all ok. Don't opt for rice milk - it has the highest carb load of all. Yogurt is alright if it is PLAIN, and preferably greek style with high protein.
WEEK 3 PLAN: WHAT TO DITCH
- ADDED SUGARS (CHEMICAL + NATURAL): This gets its own week since high fructose corn syrup is literally in EVERYTHING! Basically, if there's a form of "sugar" in the label, you aren't eating it: fructose, HFCS, corn syrup, cane sugar, coconut sugar, etc. And for now, even added natural sugars such as: brown rice syrup, maple, or coconut nectar. Just for now, pumpkin.
- SUBSTITUTIONS: As in week 1, you can have Stevia sweeteners or sugar alcohols like Xylitol. Remember, you can still have whole foods with naturally occurring sugars like fruits or starchy carbs.
WEEK 4 PLAN: WHAT TO DITCH
- WHEAT AND WHITE FLOURS (BREADS + CRACKERS + CEREALS + PASTA + BAKED GOODS). Basically this step is about eliminating anything made with refined (processed) flours. Why? Because refined flours basically convert almost entirely to sugar in the body. But what about WHEAT bread?!? Do you know how many teaspoons of sugar are in two slices of that wheat bread? TEN! And, it has also been proven to spike blood sugar for LONGER than table sugar.
- SUBSTITUTIONS: No breads or cereals until you are sufficiently un-addicted to sugar. You can have quinoa, brown rice, any types of complex carbs listed above. In moderation, crackers such as Harvest Stone Simple Mills, or Mary's Gone Crackers which contain whole grains and seeds with no added sugar.
Long term plan
After you have made it through all the phases and are able to MAINTAIN them, you can start reintroducing healthy, natural options of your favorite foods in moderation. Even natural sweeteners in moderation. An example would be sprouted Ezekiel bread as opposed to processed wheat bread. I'll be writing a follow up article soon, which will be linked here!
Here is a great Pinterest board with dessert recipes that are crap free and sugar free!
Best of luck my friends and I promise it's worth it!
Wondering who's the mysterious wordy genius behind these posts? Follow this little rabbit trail to read more About Me! The use of the term genius is open to interpretation.