Is sugar the worst thing in the world? No. Can you eat sugar and lose weight or gain muscle? Yes, I’ve done it…for a long time. My issue with sugar isn’t so much the sugar itself, it’s what it does to you (or at least me). If I’m eating high sugar all the time I tend to crave it and those foods that I crave aren’t the right foods for my body to reach the goals that I have. The more sugar I eat, the more bad foods I crave. It’s a never ending cycle and it’s the only “drug” I’ve ever been addicted to…and I know I’m not alone. With that said, I don’t have a cure for this addiction unless maybe I lose my sweet tooth but I’m not sure which tooth that is (and I like my teeth). Here are 10 ways that have helped me limit my sugar intake over the years.
- Cinnamon, cocoa powder, and vanilla extract are 3 ingredients that can add a sugary feel to whatever you’re eating or drinking without all the sugar. Mix and match and you’ll have endless options. A cup of cottage cheese, couple tablespoons of some cocoa powder, and 2 tablespoons of a nut butter is an easy staple craving killer for me!
- Unsweetened over sweetened. This goes for canned items, milk substitutes like almond milk, cocoa powder like we just mentioned, and much more. Sweeten it yourself and save yourself that usually unnecessary added sugar intake.
- Dried fruit is delicious but can also pack more sugar than it should. Why is that you might ask? Well, some companies decide to add more sugar to it…so keep an eye on your labels and cross-check with a calorie app if you need to.
- Not all protein bars are created equal. Nowadays you’ve got more than a handful of options so this shouldn’t be a huge problem but most of the cheaper alternatives are just candy bars with some added protein. Watch your labels and don’t be afraid to try the lower sugar alternatives!
- Go natty…and by natty I mean natural peanut or nut butter. Make sure the stuff you’re buying doesn’t have any added sugar in it. For nut butters, you should usually just have 2 ingredients (the nuts and some salt).
- Use less sugar in recipes. If a recipe calls for 1/2 cup of sugar try using 1/4 cup and if that’s fine then use even less next time. The difference between 1/2 cup and 1/4 cup is 50 grams of sugar…that’s a lot and chances are you’ll be surprised to find out that the difference in taste is usually pretty minimal.
- If you’re making a protein powder dessert and your powder is already pretty sweet then you probably don’t need much sugar or sweetener, if any at all. This is also a great way to change up the flavor of your recipe! Chocolate, birthday cake, vanilla, strawberry, cinnamon bun…you get the idea.
- Use fruit to sweeten your recipes. Outside of being delicious…fruit is also full of fiber and most of us could use more of that! As long as the fruit compliments the recipe you’re making then you should be good to go. One of my favorite ways to sweeten up a recipe is with a mashed up banana!
- Spice up your seltzer. If you’re someone trying to kick soda or just need something more than water and seltzer doesn’t do it for you then try adding some flavors to it. A squirt of lemon or lime juice or even one of those flavor bottles. Think outside the box! While we’re on this topic, what do you guys call it and where are you from? Pop, soda, or something else? Let me know below in the comments!
- Use sugar free or lower sugar sauces and dressings. If you’re not careful here you can up your sugar intake drastically by things like pasta sauce, ketchup, or honey mustard. Keep your eye on the labels for these, make sure the serving sizes are adequate, and understand how big a serving size is. I know for awhile I was eating way more ketchup than I should have been and ketchup is packed with sugar (4 grams per serving). If you can’t find lower sugar alternatives for these then you could also make your own, homemade sauces or dressings are fun to make and super easy!
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I think the biggest struggle with “getting off sugar” is having the mindset that you need to give it up completely. Sure, you might end up never eating sugar again but starting there is tough for most of us. I love sweets…obviously, so that’s not in the books for me. What I’ve done and have always hoped to help you do is to find alternatives for things that you crave. Make it a marathon and not a sprint!