Nowadays, giving up sugar is a real challenge, while a sugar-free diet could bring many health benefits. Most people in Western countries have a sweet tooth, with adults consuming an average of 22 teaspoons of added sugar daily. Accordingly, excessive sugar consumption is often linked to diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. For this reason, a sugar-free diet could be the right dietary change for you, and here’s how and why you should get started.
Table of Contents
- Improve overall health with a sugar-free diet
- Start slowly
- Replace sugary sources with a sugar-free diet
- Educate yourself about foods
- Learn the alternative names of sugar
- Avoid artificial sweeteners
- Avoid sugary drinks
- Choose unsweetened foods for a sugar-free diet
- Focus on more flavor instead of sugar
- Consume nutrient-rich foods
- Limit a sugar-free diet to occasions only
Improve overall health through a sugar-free diet
A sugar-free diet can significantly reduce disease risks for the above health conditions, according to nutritionists. Keeping this in mind, it would be easier to stick to a new diet plan. Read on for tips on how to get started, foods to look out for, sweet alternatives to try, and more.
Creating a diet plan that you can stick to is key when making a change like this. For many people, this means starting slowly. In doing so, think of the first few weeks as a time with less sugar instead of no sugar at all. Your taste buds and palate can retrain you accordingly to adopt a lifestyle with fewer sugary foods. Eventually, you will no longer crave the same high-sugar foods as before. However, during this time, you can continue to eat a food with natural sugar content such as fruit, as they are full of nutrients and fiber. Then, as your knowledge base begins to grow, you could make small changes to your diet to reduce sugar intake.
Replace sugary sources with a sugar-free diet
You don’t have to be a label reader to know that sugary foods can be unhealthy. These include breakfast pastries, such as muffins and coffee cakes, and baked goods. Frozen treats like ice cream and sherbet are also high in added sugars. In addition, keep in mind that some foods with naturally occurring sugars are often high in nutrients, or fiber. In addition, natural products lend themselves to a balanced diet plan. However, if you choose to create a sugar-free diet plan, you can also eliminate foods high in naturally occurring sugar from your daily menu. This will further train your brain to have fewer cravings. Such products can include dried fruits, such as dates and raisins, yogurt with added fruits or other flavors, and sweetened dairy products.
Educate yourself about foods
Making the switch to a sugar-free lifestyle often involves a learning curve. Many, if not most, products found on supermarket shelves contain added sugar. This can be found, for example, in canned vegetables, crackers, packaged rice, frozen entrees, and grain products such as bread and pasta. The easiest way to eliminate hidden sources of sugar is to read the nutrition facts and ingredient list on the label. Sugar content is often in grams on labels. Four grams equals one teaspoon. However, some foods, like fruit, don’t have a label. That means you’ll have to look up the nutrition information online.
Nutrition labels should provide additional information that will help you make informed decisions. However, reading labels can sometimes be confusing. Therefore, you can help yourself by researching for several pieces of information in advance. In addition, there are apps available for a sugar-free diet, as well as shopping apps that you can download directly to your phone to check food facts on the go.
Learn the alternative names of sugar
Sugar has many sneakily coded aliases, and you need to know them to keep the sugar-free diet healthy by cutting out added sugar completely. As a general rule of thumb, look for ingredients ending in “ose” – these are usually forms of sugar. For example, these would be: glucose, maltose, sucrose, lactose, as well as dextrose and fructose. So, in addition to clearly labeled variations of sugar, such as malt sugar, the substance can take many other forms. These include molasses, agave syrup, corn syrup, rice syrup, malt syrup, maple syrup, as well as fruit juice concentrate and maltodextrin. Once you learn to recognize sugar in all its forms, it will be easier to avoid it and stick to your diet plan .
Avoid artificial sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners can be between 200 and 13,000 times sweeter than real sugar. This can trick your brain into thinking you are actually eating sweets. In the long run, these substitutes can trigger cravings that would make a sugar-free diet more difficult. For example, a common sugar substitute might be stevia. Although sweeteners are usually marketed as sugar substitutes for cooking and baking, they are also often present as ingredients in some foods. Additives to watch out for include: Saccharin, aspartame, neotame, sucralose and acesulfame potassium. Sugar substitutes are often included in products sold as sugar-free, low-sugar or low-calorie.
Avoid sugary drinks
It’s not just what you eat that matters, but also what you drink. Accordingly, drinks with added sugar can interfere with a sugar-free diet. Some notable examples include sodas, fruit juices, flavored coffee and tea, sweetened milk, hot chocolate, and water with flavor enhancers. Cocktails and liquors are also high in sugar and can significantly increase blood sugar levels after dinner, for example. Wine, even if dry, contains naturally occurring glucose.
Choose unsweetened foods for a sugar-free diet.
Many foods and beverages come in sweetened and unsweetened varieties. In most cases, the sweetened form is the standard product. However, there is usually no indication that a product is sweetened beyond the ingredient list. A label designation as “unsweetened” is usually an indication that the item contains no added sugars. Naturally occurring sugars, however, may still be present. It’s best to read the label carefully before making your selection.
Go for more flavor instead of sugar
Eliminating sugar from your diet doesn’t mean eliminating flavor as well. Therefore, rely on spices and other natural ingredients to add some variety to your meals. For example, add a stick of cinnamon to your cup of coffee or sprinkle the spice on a cup of plain yogurt. Vanilla is another option that is great for a sugar-free diet. The extract can add a delicious flavor to foods you used to sweeten with sugar. At the same time, you can also use the whole bean to make iced coffee or tea, for example.
Consume nutrient-rich foods
Make sure you are getting enough nutrients from other sources. If you eliminate foods loaded with natural sugars, such as fruit, it is important to add others that can provide you with the same nutrients. For example, fruit is usually rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, and fiber. Vegetables can also serve as an easy substitute for many servings of fruit. Eat vegetables in different colors to make sure you get the full spectrum of nutrients. Each color represents a different nutrient that your body needs. You might also be able to add a daily nutritional supplement to your diet plan. However, talk to your doctor first about how best to meet your nutrient needs.
Limit a sugar-free diet except for occasions
Completely giving up natural and added sugars is not easy. If the thought of never eating another piece of birthday cake is too much, know that complete abstinence may not be necessary. Nutritionists recommend limiting your intake of added sugar to nine teaspoons a day for men and six teaspoons a day for women. However, your cravings for extra sweet foods won’t be as strong after retraining. When adding sugar back to your diet, start with naturally occurring sugars, like those found in fruit. You’ll find these taste sweeter and are more satisfying once you’ve gone through the elimination process.
Think of sugar like your favorite vacation. Knowing there is a sugary occasion you are working toward can help you stick to your goals. On certain occasions, sugar can be eagerly anticipated, savored and then tucked away until the next time. Regardless of how you reduce your sugar intake, making a concerted effort will likely have a positive impact. This can help your skin clear up, boost your energy levels, and significantly reduce excess weight you’ve been carrying around. In the long run, you can only benefit more from these health benefits.