If you find yourself always reaching for the biscuit tin come 3pm, or wonder why your energy levels plummet along with your forehead into your keyboard, then this post is for you.
Whether you love bumper tubs of Pick n Mix, endless chocolate bars at snack time, or a sugar or two in your morning coffee, sugar is the weak point for all too many of us. In fact, when it comes to sugar addiction, most of us have been there, done that and got the t-shirt; it’s one of the biggest addictions we have in the Western World, and we simply can’t get enough of the white stuff.
Of course, after years of being told that fats were the enemy (most of us will have embarked upon a low-fat diet at some point during our lives), we now know how damaging this was. Simply, we need plenty of ‘good' fats to make us…well…less fat. Sugars, though? Not so much.
However much we love the taste of sugar (and, let's face it, sugary foods taste pretty darn spectacular, else why would we do it?), it's not good for us.
You see, not only does sugar contain a whole heap of calories with zero nutrients, but it also rots your teeth. It's highly addictive and can cause premature ageing and wrinkles. It can lead you to pile on the pounds, or act as a stepping stone to insulin resistance (yep, that will lead to type II Diabetes and a whole host of other problems), and it's even been linked to a heap of other diseases, including cancer and heart disease.
If you’re looking to give up the s-word, yet feeling slightly overwhelmed, then don’t fret. We have plenty of tips to help you kick your sweet tooth - and you’ll never need to dive into the biscuit tin again.
Here is our guide to giving up sugar for good. Sugar, sugar, we are through…
1) Sweeten With Cinnamon
Not only does cinnamon add a natural sweetness and spice to your food, but it also works at lowering blood sugar levels, meaning it will help to prevent spikes. Try stirring it into coffee, porridge or even adding to dishes such as chilli to feel the full effects.
2) Get Your 8 Hours of Sleep
We know, we know. It’s easier said than done, right? However, a lack of sleep means your body's hunger hormones go haywire. Levels of Ghrelin - which triggers the hunger sensation - increase, while Leptin, which makes you feel full or satisfied, plummet, leaving us even more likely to reach for the Starmix.
3) Eat a High Protein Breakfast
We all know that we should be breakfasting like Kings (or Queens) to help us feel our best throughout the day. If you start the day with a protein-packed breakfast, then your body will maintain a steady blood sugar level throughout the day. Scrambled eggs on sourdough bread toast with sliced avocado are a fantastic option, or try adding protein powders to your morning smoothie if you like to keep it light.
4) Eat Plenty of Fats
We know, this goes completely against the grain here; for years, you were told that fats make you fat. Quite simply, this isn't true. In fact, fats can help you lose weight. You see, fats help you to stay feeling full, which means you won't feel the urge to grab the chocolate biscuits. A great fat to try is coconut oil - as a medium fatty chain acid, your body uses it for an instant energy boost, rather than storing it away as fat. Simply add to your favourite foods and go.
5) Quit Processed Foods
From tomato ketchup to pasta sauces, shop-bought yoghurts and cereals, the foods you find on the supermarket shelves are often loaded with sugar. Terrifying really, especially when many of these foods target your health-conscious dieter. Our advice? Make everything from scratch! If you cook for yourself, you can not only rustle up some incredibly healthy, tasty foods (we are huge fans of good, honest stews in winter), but you also know that you're not adding any unnecessary sugars to your diet.
6) Always Check the Labels
Many of the foods you buy that you think are good for you are often high in sugar, meaning you'll put on weight rather than lose it. If you are unable to cook from scratch, then read the labels first - and also look for hidden sugars in the ingredients. Beware of anything ending in “ se" and the following ingredients are also names for sugar: Cane juice, Dehydrated cane juice, Cane juice solids, Cane juice crystals, Dextrin, Maltodextrin, Dextran, Barley malt, Beet sugar, Corn syrup, Corn syrup solids, Caramel, Buttered syrup, Carob syrup, Brown sugar, Date sugar, Malt syrup, Diatase, Diatastic malt, Fruit juice, Fruit juice concentrate, Dehydrated fruit juice, Fruit juice crystals, Golden syrup, Turbinado, Sorghum syrup, Refiner's syrup, Ethyl maltol, Maple syrup, Yellow sugar.
7) Don't Juice
Juicing is just another way of mainlining sugar, so try to avoid fruit juices, however good for you they might sound. Instead, make a smoothie, which contains the fibrous skins, and aim to make it using more veggies instead of 100% fruits. And rather than knocking back endless juices, make the most of your Infruition bottle - infuse lovely, hydrating water with slices of citrus fruit, fresh mint or berries.
8) Rethink Your Snacks
Always wondered why you weren't losing weight? Check your snack drawer! Many of the snacks you thought were healthy - granolas, cereal bars, dried fruits - are actually full of sugars. Cut back and try snacking on avocado, nut butters or handfuls of nuts instead. In the same way, beware of ODing on fruit. While fruit is packed full of wonderful vitamins and minerals, it’s still high in fructose. Aim to eat just two portions of fruit a day, and pack in the rest of your 5-a-day (better yet, your 8 or 10-a-day) with veggies!
Sam, Editor of The Nourished Naturally http://thenourishednaturally.co.uk/
Health journalist, recipe developer and freelance writer