Note: I’m doing a month of mini fresh starts, including cutting back on sugar by unsweetening things I normally sweeten. Here’s the whole list of mini fresh starts if you want to join in.
I expect them to pop up any day now–the posts on Instagram declaring new diet resolutions. Whole 30 seems to be the most popular choice in my feed; perhaps for you it’s something different. Maybe your people are going vegan or trying Paleo or eating clean.
I have nothing against diet resolutions. I’ve done Whole 30 and it was a truly great experience. But I know myself and doing a total diet overhaul is just too much right now. Can you relate to the feeling? Sometimes a big change isn’t feasible. It just takes too much energy, too much discipline, too much effort. That’s okay.
When big changes are too much, I turn to small ones. For diet, one of my go-to favorite changes is to cut back on sugar. I like to set a goal for how many “sugar free” days I can have in a week. This week it’s four days. For four days I want to pass on sweets, on added sugar, and on dessert.
The amazing thing about cutting out sugar is that your taste buds start changing almost immediately. Also…
If you cut back on sugar, you’ll start to notice the following within a week:
- that sugar starts to taste weird–cloying and out of place
- that sweets gradually become too sweet
- that your craving for sugar diminishes
- that other flavors in your food become more prominent and enjoyable
- that store-bought foods are weirdly sweet, and homemade tastes better
- that You. Just. Don’t. Need. It. Anymore.
Ready to give it a try? Here are eight ideas for cutting out sugar that you can start today:
1. Replace soda (including diet) with sparkling or soda water. A couple years ago I realized that carbonation was what I loved most about soda–not the sugar. So I switched from cola to drinks like Perrier and La Croix, and started asking for soda water with lime at restaurants.
2. Try removing sugar from your morning tea/coffee. I used to think that my favorite tea was perfect with just a hint of sugar to bring out the flavor. Now the taste of sugar in my tea–even a little bit–ruins it. Honestly I was amazed at how quickly this shift happened; after a couple days of feeling like my tea was bland, suddenly my preference shifted and I started liking the new unsweetened version. Now I’ll never go back.
3. Eat fruit or nuts instead of cookies, granola bars, etc. Mid-afternoon is my hour of temptation. I start to feel my energy fade and crave a boost to get me through the rest of the work day. This is when chocolate or cookies, or really any kind of carb-y sweet thing, calls to me. To fend off the temptation and satisfy my craving, I’ll turn to fruit and nuts. Apples with cashews. Oranges with peanuts. Carrots with almond butter. You get the idea.
4. For homemade baked goods, try brown rice syrup instead of maple syrup. Available at health food stores (and even some big commercial chains), brown rice syrup is lightly sweet but contains no fructose or sucrose. It’s a great alternative in recipes that call for sugar, syrup, or honey.
5. Replace commercial nut butter with natural nut butter. Health food stores almost always sell a variety of natural nut butters, including almond, peanut, and cashew. Avoid the “honey roasted” versions, and check the ingredients. The kind you’re looking for lists just the nut and perhaps an added oil and salt. If you can’t find a sugar-free option, or if you’re looking for a zero waste choice, buy the nuts you like in bulk and blend them into butter at home using your food processor.
6. Make homemade salad dressing instead of using commercial versions. I don’t know what it is with salad dressing but the commercial versions almost always have sugar. It’s weird to think that we’re all putting sugar on our veggies, right? For unsweetened versions, make your own dressings at home. Pinterest has tons of recipes, or try this really fun salad dressing dice set to play with combinations.
7. Choose home-baked bread instead of store-bought bread. Confession: I love baking bread. I keep a sourdough starter healthy and hungry in my pantry so that I can whip up sourdough loaves on the weekends. However, I realize that not everyone loves baking bread as much as I do. If this is you, there are some commercial brands that don’t have sugar–just check the label. Generally sourdoughs are a safe bet, and whole grain breads are not (they almost always have sugar). Tortillas are also a good sugar-free alternative. Like with most things, once you get used to unsweetened bread, the sweet versions start tasting weird.
8. Try these almond butter cups. If you’re really craving a rich desert, make these. As listed, the recipe is really low on sugar but high on satisfaction. And if you’re really wanting to keep it sugar-free, you can modify it the way I do by replacing the honey with brown rice syrup and the chocolate chips with unsweetened cocoa powder. Also, I like these better with peanut butter but that’s just me.
What do you think? Would these ideas work for you? Also, what other small diet changes are you making this month? Tag me on Instagram to share your plans, or leave a comment here.
Also, two resources for quitting sugar that I’ve found to be helpful and inspiring: