We've all agreed that we tend to eat too much sugar, that we crave it, and that we want to learn to eat less of it (or even none at all- don't miss tomorrow's post!).
So here's the really challenging part... how do we do that, practically speaking?
There is a lot of information out there about the dangers of sugar, it's effect on our bodies, and much more. For these posts, I purposefully chose not to get all educational on you, and instead, focus on real, everyday ideas and solutions!
(But, do look at the bottom of the post for more educational resources and links)
21 Ways to Eat Less Sugar
Image by yogma
Use Better Sweeteners
- Replace your white or brown sugar with an unrefined, dehydrated sugar, like Sucanat or Rapadura. Yes, it's still sugar but that one change still makes a difference by somewhat reducing the dramatic blood sugar effect, giving your body at least a few nutrients in the process, and avoiding the high temperature and chemical process used to create regular sugar.
- Use fruit as a sweetener. Substitute some of the sugar and liquids in a recipe with ripe bananas, apple sauce, pineapple, or other fruit puree. Dried fruits like dates, raisins and figs add wonderful sweetness to foods.
- Try Stevia. This herb, originally from South America, is extremely sweet by nature but without any calories or sugar-like effects on the body, and you can use as little as a couple drops to sweeten a mug of tea or a few teaspoons in a dessert. It does have a somewhat bitter aftertaste, depending on the type you use. Unrefined foods are always best, and you can buy Stevia as a simple dried powder. Personally, we use this sometimes, but my husband only likes a particular brand of Stevia with absolutely no aftertaste (NuNaturals liquid). It is refined, but it works for us.
- Use raw honey. Although it is still a sweetener and can be overused like anything, raw honey is full of nutrients, enzymes, and actually has many healing properties. It is lower glycemically than sugar, and many people who react to sugar strongly can eat honey without issue.
These are just a few of the alternative sweeteners out there. For a more thorough overview of natural sweetener options, see this post from The Nourishing Gourmet.
Image by Siona Watson
Replacing Sweets with Healthier Treats
- Replace "like with like". This is a common phrase you'll hear from me, because I believe that we make the transition to healthier choices easier when we find better alternatives that are similar to things we already like. This is an old post with a bunch of sweet tooth ideas that are just a little bit different.
- Learn to use fruit as a dessert. In North America we have a tendency to make our desserts very sugar, grain and dairy focused (and don't forget the chocolate). But in many other parts of the world, fruits have a starring role in treats. Think fruit crumbles or cobblers, lightly poached peaches, homemade apple sauce, fresh berries with cream, fruit salad, or fruit smoothies. One of my very favorite desserts is simply peeled and sliced pears, fried lightly in a pan with just a bit of water, a sprinkle of cinnamon and some toasted nuts, especially pine nuts. It's surprisingly fantastic!
- Choose savory grains instead of sweetened ones. Sometimes a lovely slice of warm bread and butter can satisfy as much as a sweet treat. Yes, it is made with grains which are still carbohydrates, but the effect on our body is so much better.
Use Less Sugar in General
- Cut back on the sugar in your recipes. Start to cut back just a bit, perhaps 1/5 or 1/6 the amount, then 1/4, 1/3, even 1/2. See at which point you really start to notice a difference. Over time, you will likely find that you enjoy the less-sweetened version!
- Be purposeful about cutting meals out of your regular routine that include sugar. If you usually eat a lot of pancakes with syrup, or muffins, or even things like sweetened baked beans, try cutting out one or more of those meals each week. Substitute with something more protein or veggie based instead.
- Try Stevia as a sugar replacement in your drinks. I think that sweetened beverages are one of the places where we consume the most sugar, in the most un-conscious way. Just replacing the sugar in your drinks with Stevia can cut down your sugar intake more than you might think. It's great in hot drinks like coffee or tea, as well as for making lemonade or limeade, in iced teas, etc.
- Try other more complex flavors instead of just going with something sweet. Add fresh or frozen fruit, nuts, coconut, etc. to your oatmeal instead of just honey or brown sugar. Play around with various fresh fruits to add more natural sweetness to smoothies. Use nut butters and a sprinkle of cinnamon instead of jam on toast.
- Make sourdough bread instead of bread that uses honey or sugar. It tastes amazing, is so cheap to make, and is just as satisfying (check out the Sourdough eCourse that I am currently reviewing- it's so helpful!)
Image by Matthew F
Dealing with Social Situations and Celebrations
- Fill up on a really good dinner or wholesome snack, BEFORE you leave the house. If you're less hungry, you'll be less tempted.
- If you are truly attempting to stop eating sugar altogether, mention to your hosts beforehand (if it's an appropriate situation to do so) that they needn't prepare any desserts or sweet treats, because you are trying to stay off of them.
- Offer to bring something that you know you'll feel good about eating, like a fruit or veggie platter, some hummus and bread, deviled eggs, chips and salsa, etc. Others will likely appreciate a non-sweet item in the mix. I am always pleased at church functions when I see that the savory treats or the bowl of mandarins are the most popular in the midst of the brownies, cookies and bars.
- Have a special treat waiting for yourself at home when you know that you will be somewhere with no sugar-free alternatives. Instead of feeling tempted all night, you'll feel better knowing that something yummy awaits you.
- Allow yourself a small piece of something, or just choose one item that looks the very best. Savor that one thing slowly, and really enjoy it, even if others around you have a plateful.
Will Power and Mind Games :)
- Have treat days, where you can "cheat" and have a splurge food. It's easier to go sugar-free for several days knowing that on Friday, you can indulge without guilt. Try having several cheat days each week at first, then down to only one, and ultimately limit yourself to only sweet alternatives except in very special situations.
- Simply go cold turkey and force yourself to find other options when you're feeling hungry or snackish. Personally, I like going cold turkey, because there's absolutely no room for compromise; I simply can't have it. For others, this is sheer torture and will cause them to cave, so it's not the right strategy for everyone.
- In tough situations, remind yourself of the reasons you are doing this. It may help to write them on an index card and put it on your fridge, or perhaps keep it in your wallet.
- Brush your teeth right after eating a meal, so that you won't be tempted to eat something sugary and have to go and brush your teeth again.
At Tiffany's Table- This is a book I got this spring, trading my Real Food on a Real Budget for a copy of Tiffany Perez' wonderful real food cookbook. She avoids regular sugar, share tips for going sugar-free (some of which inspired me for this post), and many, many recipes to help you along the way.
Beyond Sugar- From GNOWFGLINS, this was part of a series last year. Overcoming the Withdrawal Symptoms of Going Without Sugar and Snack Ideas are both helpful posts to read.