You hear the same set of sentiments at the start of every year - “I want to lose weight,” “I want to get healthier” and “I’m going on a diet,” but how many of us actually follow through? One of the simplest ways to achieve these goals (and stick to them after the weight falls off) is to reduce your overall sugar intake - especially when it comes to added sugar.
Why should you cut down on sugar?
Although a treat here and there is nothing to be ashamed of and you don’t need to cut your favourite dessert out completely, cutting down on added sugar has proven health benefits. Other than weight loss, lowering your sugar intake can stabilise your mood and energy, lower your risk of diabetes and heart disease, as well as help prevent tooth decay.
So now that we know why we should cut down on added sugars, here are our top tips in doing so for the long run.
Avoid typical high sugar desserts
Let’s start with the obvious one: high sugar desserts. Classic offenders such as donuts, cake and ice cream provide very little nutritional value and can lead to a sugar high, which means a sugar crash is sure to follow not long after. Sugar crashes leave us hungry, tired and most importantly they make us crave more sugar.
Although it might be obvious, this one can be hard if you’ve got a particularly strong sweet tooth. Luckily, there are heaps of alternatives available to curb your sugary cravings!
Instead of your usual sugary snacks, try greek yoghurt with some fresh fruit, dark chocolate, dates, and some companies like Noshu even make no sugar cakes and classic desserts so you can indulge without guilt!
Avoid sugary condiments
And we don’t mean maple syrup or golden syrup! Some of our favourite sauces, including ketchup, sweet chilli and barbecue sauce have a surprising amount of sugar - one tablespoon of ketchup can contain up to a teaspoon of sugar! Instead, try flavouring your food with spices, fresh chill or pesto to bring your dishes to the next level without the added sugar. Remember to always check the nutritional info on the label - what you see might surprise you!
Go for the whole food option
Whole foods refer to foods that haven’t been processed, and are free from artificial substances such as preservatives and additives. Processed foods often contain lots of added sugar, fat and salt in order to make them last longer. Some examples of processed foods include canned pasta sauce, cheese and cereal. Most processed foods can be made easily from scratch using whole ingredients, so try to cook from scratch when you can.
Ditch the sugary drinks
There’s nothing quite like a cocktail during happy hour, or a crisp cola on a hot day, but soft drinks and alcohol are some of the biggest offenders when it comes to added sugar. Even some of our “healthier” options such as juice or sugar contain crazy amounts of added sugar and all without the fibre, vitamins and minerals found in real fruit. That being said, there are a lot of options for when water just won’t cut it. For your everyday drinks, try black coffee or a flatwhite, herbal or fruit teas, or kombucha (great soft drink alternative). For alcoholic drinks like cocktails, there are a surprising amount of low sugar alcoholic alternatives. You could try alcoholic seltzer, low sugar cider, or even alcoholic kombucha - like HALO :)
Be wary of so called “healthy” foods
A lot of brands will market their foods as healthier because they’re low fat, detoxing, high in protein or natural. These foods, including muesli bars and protein bars can contain a lot of hidden sugar - sometimes even more than chocolate bars! So always make sure you check the nutritional information on the label to make sure you aren’t buying a secretly high-sugar snack.
Eat a higher protein and fat diet
Eating a diet higher in fat may sound like a strange way to stay healthy, but making sure you’re eating a balanced amount of fat and protein is key to feeling fuller for longer. Now this doesn’t mean you should start overloading your plate with bacon, butter and fries, but it does mean that healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado, whole eggs and nuts should feature more prominently in your diet. And remember, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is!
Make sure you’re getting a good night’s sleep
The body craves high sugar foods when it’s tired because they provide a short term increase in energy. But if you’re well rested after a good night’s sleep then chances are your body will be less likely to crave sugar during the day.
Eat before you do your weekly shop
Shopping hungry is never a good idea! Supermarkets pay a lot of money for consumer psychologists to tell them how they can trick their customers into buying more, and that’s not just in relation to sugary foods! If you have a snack before you shop, write out a list and try to get in and out of the shops as fast as possible, you’ll find there’ll be less sugary treats in your shopping basket when you hit the checkout. Avoid the checkout with the candy (also known as the impulse items display) to curb any last minute impulse purchases.
To summarise, cutting down on added sugar can be tricky, but if you read the nutritional label, shop with a plan, get enough sleep and search for alternatives you enjoy, it’s actually a lot easier than it seems. However, it’s important to remember not to beat yourself up if you indulge in your favourite snack or drink now and then, afterall, the most important part of a healthy diet is balance!