I’m not in the best of shape. I’m a little bit overweight and I don’t exercise much, but reducing how much sugar I eat is not about losing weight or looking better. It’s also not about dieting because I don’t think diets are a good idea. They too often require a change of habits that won’t last and so won’t be effective. Eating less sugar is about feeling better. And it has the wonderful side effect of making you more aware of everything else you’re eating.
Perhaps the biggest and simplest change one can make to reduce refined sugar intake is to read labels. You may be surprised to find out that your Luna bar, which falls under the category as “good food,” has more sugar than a Krispy Kreme donut. Pre-sweetened yogurts and smoothies are also laden with sugar, as are salad dressings, sauces (including spaghetti sauce), and sweetened lattes.
Don’t follow the recipe. I am a baked-goods fanatic. Cookies, sweet breads, biscuits, pies, cakes—they’re the first thing I want in the morning and the last thing I want at night, but boy do they have a lot of sugar. Rather than cut them out altogether (because that would never work for me), I reduce the amount of sugar by as much as half. This, I think, is a time to experiment. If you are accustomed to things being really sweet, start with reducing what the recipe calls for by one third and see how it goes. Another trick is to replace half the fat (butter, oil) with unsweetened applesauce.
Have your cake and eat it too: use honey or real maple syrup as a sweetener. Refined sugars break down quicker and turn to fat, but the body takes more time to process honey and maple syrup and uses them more effectively. In other words, they have a lower glycemic index than does refined sugar.
Be willing to spend a little extra money on higher quality treats. By recognizing them as an indulgence, you’ll be more likely to appreciate them as such.
If you really just NEED something sweet, chew some gum. The Moscow Food Co-op has gum (and mints) made with xylitol, a natural non-nutritive sweetener that also just happens to be good for your teeth. Most importantly, don’t berate yourself when you do eat sweets. Enjoying your food is necessary if you want to maintain a healthy relationship with food.