The average American consumes nearly 90 grams of added sugar on a given day, and all this sugar can contribute to the development of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer. That’s before even mentioning the major role that sugar plays in weight gain. Cutting your added sugar intake as low as possible is one of the most powerful things you can do for your health. Follow these tips to help you in that process:
1. Never eat sweets on an empty stomach.
This is a recipe for a “carb coma”: high blood sugar with an energy rush followed by an energy crash that leads to subsequent sugar cravings. The earlier in the day you start eating sweets, the more likely it is that you’ll continue to eat sweets throughout the day.
2. Eat more protein.
Protein is the number one thing that will help you feel full and satisfied, and therefore less likely to crave sweets. Protein, when paired with carbohydrates, also helps to keep blood sugar levels steadier and decreases the glycemic load of a meal by slowing absorption of glucose (from broken down carbohydrates or sugar) into the bloodstream. Protein-rich foods include organic meat, eggs, fish, beans, dairy, and nuts and seeds.
3. Brush your teeth after eating.
Sometimes the sweetness of the toothpaste is enough, and the act of brushing your teeth means that mealtime is over, helping you move on to other activities. Also, ice cream or a cookie just doesn’t seem quite as appealing when you have a minty taste in your mouth.
4. Practice productive distraction.
In other words, when you keep thinking about eating sweets, consciously decide to shift your focus to something else. Try having a cup of your favorite tea, reading a good book, hugging someone, or going for walk. Often, it’s not the sweet that we really need, but instead a nurturing distraction from our everyday activities.
5. Avoid saboteurs.
For many people, the workplace is the worst source of sabotage when trying to improve your eating. Clients, patients, or staff may bring in sweets, or co-workers may have candy jars at their desk. I’ve heard many stories from my clients whose co-workers give them a hard time for turning down the steady stream of sweets in the office in order to lose weight or get healthier. These positive behavior changes should be celebrated, but instead are unfortunately often chided by others who have more trouble making good choices.
6. Get enough sleep.
I can’t stress this one enough. It’s not only more difficult to make good decisions when you’re sleep deprived, but inadequatesleep is associated with decreases in levels of the hormone leptin, leading to decreased satiety and increases in ghrelin, which in turn increases appetite.
7. Remember that your taste buds will change over time.
Much the way one’s tolerance to alcohol changes with varying levels of alcohol intake, one’s taste for sugar can change over time. To follow the alcohol analogy, a heavy drinker needs more alcohol to get drunk, while one who rarely drinks feel tipsy after one beer or glass of wine.
The same is true of sugar. The soda drinker doesn’t think fruit provides much sweetness, but after giving up soda, it tastes unpalatably sweet. As you start to limit your intake of sugar, you’ll start to have a lower tolerance for sugar. Sweets you used to love will start to taste too sweet, and you will begin to enjoy the natural sweetness of fruit and foods like nuts that have a small amount of natural sweetness. Dark chocolate may even start to become enjoyable, when it may have seemed too bitter in the past.