Baby steps to sugar-free

If you’re anything like me going sugar-free is a challenge. Hats off to anyone that can do this seamlessly, I am definitely not one of you. But we each have our own food preferences, and mine is sugar. I don’t like coffee, don’t care for alcohol, and can go months without bread and not even notice it. But chocolate… I can sense when it’s nearby! 🙂

Let me start by saying that you don’t have to remove sugar from your diet. There is nothing intrinsically bad about sugar. The issue is simply that sugary foods deliver a lot of calories with very little nutrition, so in some instances it may be beneficial to reduce or remove sugar consumption.

Exactly how this is done depends on the individual, and for some people eliminating sugar for a season may help repair that relationship and craving, and for others, it makes it worse. For some people it’s better to have a restriction of sugar consumption and not elimination. Again, there is no food that needs to be eliminated from a healthy diet (unless you have a medical reason to do so, such as an allergy or a disease). Reducing or eliminating sugar is a personal decision, eliminating it does not give you any superiority to those who don’t eliminate it, and conversely, eating sugar does not make you bad.

Test things out, see how your body responds.

Our bodies need sugar, and convert all carbs into sugar, but the excess is harmful basically because it doesn’t give you satiety and some people (like me) have trouble regulating consumption. Reducing our consumption is good for many things – overall health, mental clarity, weight management, reducing cravings, etc.

Here are 5 tips to reduce/eliminate sugar. Going in this order is pretty effective, but the best way to do it without too much struggle is to go from easiest to hardest for you. I strongly encourage you to take a step, any step, in the direction of less sugar. You will probably find that the first step is the hardest one, and it gets easier from there.

1. Eliminate added sugar
Start to read labels, and include your family in this process. There is a lot of added sugar in things that don’t make much sense to have sugar, like tomato sauce, waffles, peanut butter, pizza dough… A baby step within this first step is to eliminate foods with sugar in the first 5 ingredients on the ingredient list. From there you step up to eliminating added sugar.

A note here is that simply because sugar is an ingredient doesn’t mean there are heaps of it. Always read the list but also the nutritional information to see if the sugar listed in the ingredients is in a significant amount.

2. Decrease sugar in recipes
This is probably the easiest one to apply, and the one you will feel the least. Decrease (or eliminate whenever possible) sugar from any recipe you made. Baked goods such as cookies, brownies, cakes, etc can have their sugar reduced by 25% and not change the result. Trust me, you won’t be able to tell. Some recipes like waffles, pancakes and pizzas can simply go without any of the added sugar, bread recipes usually have very little sugar to begin with, and it makes a big difference, so that would be a personal preference. In many instances you can substitute sugar for unsweetened applesauce or a sweetener.

Regarding artificial sweeteners. Non-nutritive sweeteners can be a great tool in your weight loss and maintenance journey, but as with everything, you need to try for yourself. Interesting studies have shown that weight loss and maintenance was greater in a group that consumed one zero calorie artificially sweetened beverage than the group that only consumed water. There are more details in this, but the conclusion is that artificial sweeteners can aid in curbing cra

In the end, our body gets used to our habits. We can reeducate our bodies to crave less sugar… so you may benefit from going cold turkey and reintroducing, and then using either nutritive or non-nutritive sweeteners (aka with or without calories) to continue with your goals.

3. Stop drinking sugar
This step will only be as hard as your habits. As a former diet soda aficionado this was very hard for me, but it all depends on what you already consume. If you heavily sweeten coffee, tea and juices – this is the place to find substitutions. Drinking ready made drinks is usually a big source of added sugar and calories because they have a lot of added sugar.

Again, with artificial sweeteners, the change from sweetened with calories to 0 calorie beverages could be a good step for you. See #2 for details.

4. Reduce/eliminate highly processed foods
Carbs and highly processed foods are not the same thing. While carbs are an important part of your diet, highly processed foods are not. Sure, we would ideally eat more carbs that have more fiber, but lower fiber carbs have their place and importance as well.

The highly processed foods are the ones that, while delicious, offer very little in terms of nutrition and a lot in terms of calories. The biggest reason to do this is because these foods lack fiber and nutrition, so they offer very little in terms of satiety, and they are the harder foods to self control. They also tend to be much higher in calories.

So in the end when you eat heavily processed foods you are getting a lot of calories for very little nutrition and satiety. Eliminating or reducing these overly processed and simplified foods will help your health in numerous ways, one of them being hunger and binging. Foods like chips, candies, and fries do not keep you satisfied for a sustained amount of time, which may lead to overeating. It’s a never ending cycle…

5. Reduce desserts
This is where you will reduce or eliminate your desserts. This step is highly dependent on where you are in your journey. When you do steps 1-4 this step tends to be seamless. As you continue on your journey you will begin to find replacements for what you love – fruit with unsweetened peanut butter, fruit with cinnamon, 70%+ chocolate, etc.

Does this mean you’ll never eat dessert again? No! Well… maybe, but the point is that it’s your choice. You get to choose how you eat, and the best thing you can do is eat according to how good it makes you feel, how it impacts your health, and how it fits in with your goals.

In this step what usually happens is the elimination of desserts from day to day life, and the enjoyment of desserts as an occasional treat.

One thing to remember is that with ANYTHING in your health, there are no rules. You do what you are willing to do based on where you want to go. Chances are that if you’ve read this post you feel that you need to reduce sugar – and it’s hard. I hear you. I’m the person who ate sugar from the sugar bowl and 12 donuts in one sitting. This is not an easy journey. This is a life journey. Take it one step at a time, and the better you feel, the more you will want to make good choices for yourself.

Keeping it simple,

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