Sweet treats may be enjoyable to eat, but countless studies show that refined sugar can wreak havoc on our health, from increasing the waistline and adding pounds with empty calories to compromising the immune system. Though we all know sugar isn’t good for us, the idea of quitting cold turkey can be a little traumatizing for serious sugar junkies.
If you’re looking to gradually cut sugar from your diet, read on for tips from Paddy Spence, the CEO of naturally sweet Zevia beverages and a fitness enthusiast who quit sugar with his family 16 years ago. Here’s what he recommends:
Be a Sugar Sleuth – Take an inventory of your diet to track down where you’re getting most of your sugar. It’s easy to pinpoint sources like the sugar in your coffee, but sugar finds its way to us in all kinds of guises.
Forget Fruit Knock-Offs – Whole fruits offer fiber and other good-for-you ingredients like vitamins. Fruit juice and dried fruit, on the other hand, are sugar-concentrated versions of the real thing.
Cut Down on Condiments – There’s a reason kids love ketchup…it’s one of the most sugary condiment culprits, and barbecue sauce is just as bad. Perhaps the sneakiest of the lot, however, is salad dressing — especially fat-free varieties. The best way to control sugar content is to make your own.
Cast Out Coated Snacks – From a sugar perspective, treats like honey-roasted nuts, teriyaki jerky, and yogurt-covered pretzels run neck-and-neck with candy bars. Opt for the naked versions.
Steer Clear of Cereal – Some choices — like Frosted Flakes and Honey Nut Cheerios — are obvious sugar pushers. But don’t be fooled by seemingly healthy options like granola.
Forego Fruit-Flavored Yogurts – A cup of regular fruit-flavored yogurt can contain about 30 grams of sugar (that’s not much less than a can of Coke)! If you want blueberry yogurt, you’re much better off stirring fresh blueberries into plain yogurt. They’re naturally low in sugar.
Not All Sweeteners Are Equal – Although your body metabolizes different sweeteners differently, at the end of the day it’s all sugar. Try stevia, a natural no-cal sweetener. It’s great for both coffee and baking, and a little goes a long way.
Curb Cravings with Protein – Everyone’s different, but a high-protein snack can help suppress a sweet tooth. Try nuts, like a spoonful of natural peanut butter to stave off a hankering. If you want a low-fat option, try hearty legumes, avocado or any high-fiber fruit for a satisfying sweetness without the glycemic spike that you get from white sugar.
Go for Lower-Sugar Desserts – Dark chocolate gives taste buds a treat without sugar overload. A bowl of low-sugar granola with milk will also satisfy an after-dinner appetite.
Don’t Try to Be Superman – Trying to eat healthily is a noble goal, but being too strict will set you up for failure. Rather than trying for gluten-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, vegan everything all at one, focus on just one and take it from there. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but if you’re disciplined over time, you can slowly begin to eliminate unhealthy habits and incorporate better nutrition into your everyday life.
For extra help cutting sugar out of your diet, try rebooting your system with a safe and gentle cleanse, like the Conscious Living 10-Day Detox.
Paddy Spence is a 22-year veteran of the natural/organic industry, having served as Kashi’s first head of sales and marketing before founding the leading market research firm for the natural products industry, SPINS. Cutting out sugar 14 years ago and tracking 300,000 natural products at SPINS led him to purchase Zevia in 2010, a line of stevia-sweetened sodas, which is now the leading zero-calorie, all natural soda.From 2005 to 2009, Mr. Spence was President of Levlad, a personal care manufacturer known for its natural brand, Nature’s Gate. From 1995 to 2004, he founded SPINS to introduce sophisticated marketing information services to the rapidly growing health and wellness industry. Spence served as the company’s Chief Executive Officer for eight years before selling to private investors in 2004. Prior to founding SPINS, Mr. Spence served as the first Vice President, Sales & Marketing for the Kashi Company.