I decided to cut back on sugar after realizing that I was having dessert twice a day. Here are three tricks that helped me kick the sugar habit.
How To Cut Back On Sugar In Your Diet
Our Daily Habits Matter Most
If you have followed me for a hot second you know that I don’t believe in deprivation or creating strict food rules. But I do believe that our health is built with our daily habits. If you create a checklist of everything you do on a daily basis, you ultimately want every habit on the list to be contributing to good health.
Once a week or once a month habits can be evaluated through a different lens. I might argue that I think everyone should have a huge piece of cake at least once a month. Remember almost a year ago when I wrote about changing my daily wine habit? I realized that I was having something sweet after both lunch and dinner on a daily basis. Again, I have nothing against a little sugar, but this was a major habit that I knew I should probably kick.
Sugar Everyday, Twice A Day
My dessert consumption wasn’t huge nor was it fueled by deep cravings. What I did realize was that my mouth craved a change of palate after meals. The more savory my meal, the more I need a change of palate after eating. To cancel out whatever flavors were lingering, I’d have a small cookie or piece of dark chocolate. (Especially if the meal involved garlic!)
My Cravings Come From My Mouth
I’ve learned the craving is really all about my mouth and chewing. My stomach and body rarely care about sugar, especially if they have just finished a meal. There are really only two things that work for me: sweets or mints. (I’m actually writing this post after enjoying a kale salad with a peanut-sesame dressing made with garlic and would love a piece of gum right now!) I was chatting with my mom on the phone about sugar (she is also working on consuming less) and she said her sugar cravings occur in her upper body! So interesting. This post by Anne includes more about what causes sugar cravings.
Why Cut Back On Sugar:
Cutting back on sugar can help you lose weight, avoid chronic illness like heart disease, reduce inflammation, and improve your overall heart health. In fact, the American Heart Association recommends limiting your added sugar intake to more than 100 calories per day for women, 150 calories per day for men ( source ). Sugar can hide anywhere – from tomato sauce to white bread.
And if you’re downing sugary drinks or ice cream every night, you’re probably blowing past the daily recommendation. The average person can reach over 77 grams per day! Artificial sweeteners can help, but they aren’t exactly great for you either.
The American Heart Association suggests a stricter added-sugar limit of no more than 100 calories per day (about 6 teaspoons of sugar or 24 grams) for most adult women and no more than 150 calories per day (about 9 teaspoons or 36 grams of sugar) for most men.
Ways To Cut Back On Sugar
1. I put an extra toothbrush and mouthwash on my main floor
I used to have one there, but I think a child threw it in the bathtub or I ran out of toothpaste and never replenished. So I put a fresh toothbrush in the main floor bathroom to make it very easy and convenient for me to freshen my mouth after lunch. Mouthwash is an even quicker solution. Bonus: my dentist would probably like this setup!
2. I asked Thomas to relocate the sweets
I have long been an “out of sight out of mind” kind of girl. Usually, I am on the ball at the grocery store, and I rarely put sweets into my cart. Thomas, on the other hand, love his sweets. Every week there might be something new in the pantry or he might bake some fresh cookies! These are harder for me to ignore than the store-bought variety. While again, I don’t believe in deprivation, I noticed that if Thomas stores his sweets in the cabinet above the fridge, I never see them and am too lazy to get a stool to see what is even up there.
3. I get ready for bed right after dinner
If the toothbrush in the bathroom helped me with post-lunch cravings, this helped tremendously with dinner. Right after dinner, before we even put the boys to bed, I’ve been going to change into cozy clothes, washing my face (and putting on my skincare!), and sometimes going ahead and brushing and flossing. This signals to my brain that the kitchen is closed, and I am so much less likely to go hunting for a dessert.
4. Always Check Food Labels
There is so much sugar hidden in everything! So get in the habit of checking food labels for added sugars. It might be the deciding factor on whether you eat it or not. Breakfast cereals, flavored yogurt, fruit juice, snack bars, and even breads have been known to have added sugar.
5. Swap Artificial Sugars For Natural Sugars
If you have to have some sugar, go for something sweet that is a little less processed. Dried fruit, fresh fruit, or other health items without added sugars that are artificial are a better option. Naturally occurring sugars are not as bad for you as artificial sugars. Plus, you’re getting in vitamins and minerals that processed foods often don’t contain.
6. Manage Your Blood Sugar
I did notice that the amount of sugar I craved increased if I hadn’t eaten during the day regularly. The average American gets cravings when they deprive themselves for too long. So you can actually decrease the sugar in your diet by having healthy snacks around the house. Think added sugar free granola bars, hard boiled eggs, even beef jerky or a quick slice of cheese. None of which have sugar!
These simple changes have made it much easier to cut back on sugar. Without me even noticing too much too! Just like reserving wine for the weekends, I want the sugar I do consume to be inside a dessert that can be savored and devoured with enthusiasm at a party or restaurant.
Like wedding cake!
Do you have sugar (or mouth change) cravings and how do you handle them?
Photos by Cramer Photo