Here are 5 tips to kick your sugar habit. If you can't seem to get your arms around your sugar addiction, you're not alone! Millions of people around the world struggle with managing cravings for sweet stuff and millions more are living with conditions made worse by excessive sugar consumption, including heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer.
Unruly sugar addiction affects so many facets of our lives, including sleep, productivity, cognition, mood, body weight, disease control and so much more. Cutting out sugar isn't impossible, but it does take little bit of work. Give these tips a try for a couple weeks. You'll be a lot healthier for it if you do!
1) Drink lemon juice in the morning
This tart juice has an amazing effect on our blood by making it more alkaline. It's true that lemon juice is acidic in nature, but pushes our blood's pH in the opposite direction, making it more alkaline. When we eat foods that are more alkalizing, we can control our blood sugar levels better. This means fewer cravings for sugar!
TIP: start the morning off with 12 ounces of water + a few tablespoons of lemon juice. If you're on the go, keep a bottle filled with lemon water at your side so you can sip throughout the day.
2) Go sugar free, especially in the morning
Even though you may not go out of your way to eat sugar in the morning, you might be surprised by how many unsuspecting breakfast foods contain this sweet stuff. Foods and drinks including low fat yogurts, specialty coffee beverages and cereal bars are often loaded with several teaspoons of sugar. The more sugar we eat in the morning, the more it fuels our addiction. What's more, once you start on an unpredictable sugar roller coaster, it becomes very difficult to control appetite later in the day.
TIP: eat a breakfast that has a healthy balance of protein, fat and carbs, such as
old-fashioned oats + nut butter + cinnamon
hard boiled eggs + fresh berries
homemade (plain) yogurt smoothie with protein powder + berries
3) Cut back on caffeine
If you start your day off with caffeine, you could be fueling cravings for sugar…even if you drink coffee black! Caffeine elevates cortisol levels, which can throw off our insulin levels. After this chain of hormonal events starts happening, it can be really hard to get it under control again.
TIP: If you're hooked on caffeine and want to try to get off, start by drinking green tea. You'll get a healthy dose of antioxidants and prevent caffeine withdrawal symptoms at the same time.
4) Watch out for calorie-free sweeteners
This doesn't apply to everyone, but non-nutritive sweeteners, including aspartame, sucralose, acesulfame potassium (ace-K) and stevia can all decrease insulin sensitivity in people who already have a rough time managing their blood sugar levels, from hypoglycemics to diabetics. In other words, these calorie-free sweeteners can have the same type of reaction in your body as sugar. Everyone should avoid artificial non-nutritive sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose or acesulfame potassium) because they're quite unhealthy, but stevia is a natural sweetener that really only presents problems to people who are already have trouble managing their blood sugar levels.
TIP: If you really want something sweet, try a couple squares of dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa) or a cup of berries instead.
5) Limit starchy carbohydrates to one meal a day
Starchy carbs, including breads, potatoes, pastas, rice and quinoa are commonly added to most meals - morning, noon and night. Cereals, sandwiches, wraps, pizzas, burger and burritos are a few examples of meals containing a lot of starchy carbohydrates. These carbs are calorically dense and can convert to sugar in our blood quickly, creating unsteady blood sugar levels. Cutting back is a good way to get this habit under control. Add starches to part of one meal a day, then forgo these foods for the remainder of the day.
TIP: There are still plenty of foods that can fill your plate in lieu of these starches, including leafy greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, squash, tomatoes, egg dishes, soups and stews. Get creative!
Traci D Mitchell is a nationally-recognized Chicago-based nutrition coach and personal trainer featured on the TODAY Show and Dr. Oz. As the trainer for Steve Harvey's Bridal Bootcamp, Traci keeps herself busy by challenging others to be the healthiest they can be. Traci is available for corporate speaking events and private coaching. Interested in working with Traci? Get info here. To keep up-to-date, subscribe to her newsletter.
Traci D Mitchell is a nationally-recognized health and fitness expert who has been featured on The TODAY Show, Dr. Oz, Steve Harvey. Oprah.com, SHAPE and many more. She holds an MS in Health and Nutrition Education and is the author of The Belly Burn Plan (Harper Collins, 2016).
If you'd like to contact Traci about training, public speaking or media-related event, please email traci [at] TraciDMitchell.com.