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When you hear the words, “sugar-free,” do you immediately think of All Bran buds, plain crackers and dry-as-sawdust desserts? The moment that someone shares that they are cutting out sugar someone always says, “that must be so boring! What are you going to eat?” Cutting out sugar is anything but boring, there are so many healthy alternatives to give you the sweetness you are looking for, without the roller coaster ride for your blood sugar levels.
Sugar, also known by 56 other names, can be disguised in products that you wouldn’t expect it to hide. Take pickles, condiments, yogurt, bread, pasta sauces and salad dressings for example. Wait, what? Sugar is in everything nowadays - it's basically a part-time job trying to find foods that are free of it. Sugar is a common additive to food products because of its contribution to something called ‘The Bliss Point.’ This is the perfect combination of salt, sugar and fat that when consumed, lights up the dopamine receptors in our brain and leads us to craving more of it. In other words, it is the final piece of the puzzle that leads us to wanting more and eating more of that pleasurable food. Sadly, our bodies do not respond to sugar the same way they do proteins and healthy fats. With those, our brain sends a signal to our body to stop eating because we are full. Sugar, on the other hand, disrupts our hunger signals and sends the signal later… usually after we have eaten too much of it. This can lead to a cycle of overeating on sugar, craving more of it to give you an energy spike and then crashing shortly after.
Well, we’re going to help you break the cycle! Gone are the days of putting on excess weight, feelings of tiredness, fatigue, lack of motivation and intense sugar cravings. We’re sharing our 5 best tips to help you shake sugar, for good!
Tip #1: Avoid artificial sweeteners
The first thing many people do when they quit sugar is try to go cold turkey. They last a day, turn to their favorite sweet treat and then they’re back to square one. The second time around, they usually stock up on alternatives that help them combat the craving. These are usually artificial sweeteners to give them the taste of sweetness, but without the calories or sugar. Artificial sweeteners disrupt the body’s ability to regulate calorie intake, misinterpret hunger signals and deal with cravings. Take sucralose for example, this alternative is 600 times sweeter than sugar! Just like consuming conventional sugar, overtime you build up a tolerance and need to increase the amount to get the same high. So, the next time you go to consume a dessert containing sugar, you will probably find it not to be sweet at all because you have adjusted to the sweetness of sucralose. Stay away from the artificial sweeteners and instead stick to the natural alternatives such as monk fruit sweetener, stevia (in moderation) erythritol or xylitol that do not spike your blood sugar! Erythritol – a natural tree alcohol sugar – and stevia are the natural sweeteners in Ener-C’s delicious sugar-free formulas. You’ll notice the taste is slightlysweeter than our original, low-sugar multivitamin formulas, but they are made with natural sweeteners that are safe for diabetics and won’t cause the disruption to your body’s ability to regulate caloric intake.
Tip #2: Eat more protein
You don’t have to work out to eat more protein! Protein can be a mixture of plant-based and/or animal-based. Either way, it’ll help to shunt your sugar cravings! Consuming protein causes our bodies to release leptin, our appetite suppressing hormone that sends a signal to our brain that we are full. This signal prevents us from overeating and helps to control our blood sugar levels. It does all that and keeps us full for hours! Gone are the days of having breakfast at 7 am, only to be craving sugar by 9. Eat protein packed meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner and we promise you that you’ll be one step closer to breaking your addiction to sugar!
Tip #3: Calm down
Exam season, tax season or whatever “busy season” you experience is coming up. Your sleep is cut in half, you are scrambling trying to fit everything in and you somehow manage to end up with a desk covered in candy wrappers, chocolate and/or ice cream… Sugar and stress go together like peanut butter and jelly. If we think back to the sugar and cocaine example, our releases a rush of dopamine and serotonin when we consume it, so naturally we’d crave this during times of stress and chaos. Do your best to keep your stress levels in check - go for walks, exercise, practice yoga, meditation or deep breathing. The lower your stress levels, the weaker your sugar cravings will be!
Tip # 4: Eat fruit
Ahh, nature’s candy! Fruit contains natural sugars, along with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. The vitamins and minerals help our bodies perform its vast number of functions, while the antioxidants help to combat toxins and free radicals and the fiber helps to slow down the absorption of sugar. If you are working on making a change in the amount of sugar in your diet, berries are a great choice as they are lower in sugar. If you feel like a sweet treat, reach for a piece of fruit combined with a healthy fat (apples and almond butter make a perfect pair) to help with the absorption of vitamins and to slow down the uptake of sugar in your bloodstream.
Tip #5: Sleep
Think back to the last time you got a bad night's sleep. Do you remember what you ate the next day? Probably not the best choice of food… Our bodies require 7-8 hours of high-quality sleep every single night to function at its optimal level. When we short ourselves of sleep, we set ourselves up to crave all things sugary, salty and well, high palatable. When we’re tired, we usually reach for sugar because we receive an immediate energy boost that is sustained if, and only if, we continue to eat sugar in one of its hundreds of forms throughout the day. Before you take the leap to cut out sugar, start with your schedule. Give yourself the opportunity to obtain a full 8-hour sleep each night by giving yourself a bedtime. Turn the screens off by a certain hour, set an alarm for the morning and then do your best to stick to a sleep routine. Over time your body will start to crave sleep more often than sugar and you will find yourself to have more control when it comes to choosing what to eat throughout the day when you are fully rested!
There you have it, 5 easy-to-implement tips to help you curb your sugar cravings for good! When in doubt, drink water, eat whole foods, get a good night's sleep, and try to choose naturally sweetened options like Ener-C Sugar-Free. You’ll feel like a new person who has full control over their relationship with sugar in no time!
-By Lindsay Mustard. Lindsay is a Holistic Nutritionist, firefighter-in-training and recipe-wizard with a burning passion for health and fitness. In her nutrition practice, Lindsay works with clients to craft a unique plan that is tailored to their specific health goals using a natural, whole food and supplement approach.