Sugar by far is my most challenging food to manage because I LOVE the sweet stuff. I could give up coffee and alcohol easier than I could give up added sugar. I'm not counting fruit just the added sugars like cane sugar, honey, and agave nectar used in drinks, baked goods, condiments and dressings, ice cream, and oh just about anything Willy Wonka would make.
For the month of August, I've been doing an experiment where I'm trying to stick to eating less than 25g of sugar per day, and yes in this case I'm including fruit. I figured this would be one way for me to eat more fruit as I don't eat that much fruit in general. In terms of produce, I'm more of a vegetable person. In fact, I eat an argula salad for breakfast most days.
There are plenty of people like me who want to cut down their daily sugar consumption, so here are 5 things I do that have worked for me.
For 2 days, journal your sugar consumption without judgement and do it on a Friday and Saturday or Sunday and Monday. A week day and weekend day are good because you may see that you consume more sugar on the weekend because well fun days lead to more eating of fun food. I believe knowledge is Queen because you cannot change what you do not face. You may learn that you are eating way more sugar than you think. I emphasize doing this simple exercise without judging yourself because well it's easy to fall into that trap of waving the judgemental figure at yourself. This is about data gathering, nothing else.
Look at your drinks
The place where I overdo sugar the most is not in baked goods like my beloved cookies, but in my drinks even "healthy" drinks like bottled tea, and don't get me started on the energy drinks. Many to-go bottled and canned drinks are two servings not one, so be conscious to look at the serving count and then multiple the sugar grams accordingly. After journaling, at one point last year, I saw that I was consuming almost 80g of sugar per day JUST in my drinks...eye opening indeed!
Cut back on the packets
Those little packets of sugar you rip open to sweeten your coffee or tea have about 5g of sugar per packet. I've seen people put 7 packets of sugar in a tall Starbucks coffee. Every packet you cut back on is eliminating 5g per day which may not seem much but think about it this way, if you cut back just one packet a day, that's 35g of sugar or 140 calories per week. (1g of sugar is about 4 calories) In one year, that is 7,280 calories or 2.08 pounds. See even the little changes add up.
Wean versus cold turkey
Using my previous 80g of sugar per day example, if I went cold turkey and went from 80g/day to say 25g/day just in my drinks over night, all hell would break loose physically, mentally, and emotionally. The body just doesn't like that kind of dramatic change all at once. Unless a doctor is telling you that you have to go cold turkey on sugar because of a life threatening situation, why put yourself through that kind of torture? Take it slow. Behavior modification takes time especially to something as addictive as sugar.
Start by cutting out 1-2 packets of sugar in your coffee. Drink one less soda per day. Eat one less cookie per day. Do that for a week or two, and then start another new phase and make some more small cut backs. In that time, your palate will adjust, and your sugar habits will change slowly without igniting your Inner Resistance Monster into full on mutiny. It's not pretty when that happens. Weaning is far more pleasant and effective.
Are your emotions driving your sweet tooth?
Through journaling and introspection, I found that sugar consumption for me is worst at night because it's the times when I feel most susceptible to loneliness. Yes, there is also a physical thing where blood sugar levels can run low at night which I've learned to manage as well, but I'm conscious to also know there is an emotional reason I go to sugar more often at night.
I'm an emotional eater, and I eat when my emotions run high. I started seeing how I was symbolically using sugar as a way to make up for the lack of sweetness in my life like a happy relationship. Consequently, when I'm happily involved with someone, I don't over eat as much namely the sweet stuff. It's a good question to ask yourself, "Are you using sugar as a way to emotionally compensate for a lack of sweetness in your life?" When you get emotional, try reaching out to a friend instead of a cheesecake.
Those are 5 tips that help me cut down on my daily sugar consumption. What is one thing that has helped you?