Six easy steps to help you consume less sugar

Most of us consume too much sugar. Reducing sugar intake will help with weight loss and make you feel healthier. 

 Sugar (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Sugar
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

We all consume too much sugar. We know it, but aren’t always aware of it. 

Sugar is found in so many products, like tomato paste, and we often don’t realize it. 

It’s recommended that calories derived from sugars shouldn’t exceed 10% of daily caloric intake. For most people that’s about 150 calories. Many people consume more, so how can it be reduced?

Eating less sugar is not only a consideration regarding weight and shape (although it obviously greatly impacts these), but also a step in long-term health maintenance. Reducing sugar in your daily diet reduces the risk of developing metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. 

Here are six relatively simple steps to help you do just that:

1. Daily nutrition monitoring

To start reducing your sugar intake, you must first understand how much sugar you actually consume per day, and where it comes from. Try to keep track of your regular diet for a few days, read food labels to check for sugar and what kind of sugar you are eating. There's a good chance that you’ll be surprised to find sugar in some of the foods you consume daily that you didn’t know was there or even how much.

2. Start small

Don’t attempt a total and complete withdrawal from sugar at once. This will only increase the chance that you’ll suffer from a sudden and intense craving for sweets, and in nutrition as in many other things in life, extreme steps are less likely to succeed over time than gradual and moderate goals.

3. Don’t rush to replace sugar with artificial sweeteners

Just because something is “sugar-free” doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Many sugar-free snacks contain artificial sweeteners like aspartame and stevia, which aren’t healthy. The choice of these chemical substitutes may even come back to haunt you like a boomerang. Studies show that the brain responds to the sweet taste of sugar substitutes in a similar way to how it responds to naturally-grown sugar, as it causes the secretion of substances that create a desire to eat sweet things.

(Credit: Ingimage)(Credit: Ingimage)

4. Set yourself a "sugar budget" 

This gives you a limited number of calories that you’re allowed to consume daily from sugar. Start with a modest budget of 100 calories a day. It's not much, but it’s enough for a chocolate cube or a small cookie. The advantage of the sugar budget is that it’s a limit that allows you to decide how to utilize it with a few small treats during the day, or in one sweet and rewarding delicacy? It's up to you.

5. Behavioral strategies

Create new habits that will distract you and keep you away from patterns that cause you to eat sweets. If for example you know that your weakness for sweets is mainly in the evening and at night, try brushing your teeth and flossing immediately after dinner, which will make you think twice about putting something sweet in your mouth afterwards. You can also turn off the light in the kitchen while you sit in the living room in the evening. This may help you think less about the candy in the pantry.

6. Find sweet substitutes that work for you

There are plenty of options for delicious snacks and pampering drinks which don’t have horrible amounts of sugar. Herbal tea instead of sugary drinks, various fruits or a fruit salad to end a meal. Play with it and find substitutes that suit you and meet your specific desires and needs, so that you won’t feel deprived all the time.

Sugar detox: How long does it take?

If you’re accustomed to consuming relatively large amounts of sugar daily, these gradual changes may cause withdrawal-like effects. These will be manifested in feelings of intense cravings for sweets and perhaps symptoms that are characteristic of withdrawal such as fatigue, headaches, etc. There are even people who report a flu-like feeling. Most often, these symptoms go away within a few days to a week. In a few people they may last a little longer, up to two to three weeks, so be patient and hold on until your body gets used to less sugar consumption.