Thursday, December 18, 2008

Tips on How to Quit Sugar

Here are tips for those of you who would like to quit sugar for a month, a year, or forever. I find it hard to make forever plans, so I take things one year at a time. I'll probably do this forever.

So, you want to quit white, refined sugar. Maybe you've tried before, maybe you think it's impossible. Maybe you don't want to quit, but you are still curious what the process of quitting looks like. Maybe you need a year to think about quitting. For me it's cold turkey or I won't do it. I realize this isn't the tactic for everyone, but even if you quit sugar slowly, weaning yourself from the addiction day by day, I think these pointers will work for you, as well. If you have any pointers of your own or suggestions or comments, please let me know, as I will most likely re-post on New Year's Eve. What works for you? Do share!

* * * How to Quit Sugar * * *
  • Make a grocery list and visit a local health food store. If you don't have a health food store in the area, try to find these items anyway, or do some online ordering.
  • Stock your kitchen with all kinds of naturally sweetened goodies. Here are some examples for when that sweet tooth comes a'callin:
  • 100% fruit juice (I'm not a wine snob, I'm a grape juice snob. I drink R.W. Knudsen)
  • Dried fruit, fresh fruit, frozen fruit (smoothies)
  • Naturally sweetened cookies and ice cream
  • Ingredients to bake with: natural sweeteners, grain-sweetened chocolate chips, pure cocoa, unsweetened almond or rice milk, honey, molasses, agave, brown rice syrup, etc.
  • Buy some flavored tea that you wouldn't normally get. Get cream and make sure you have honey. You won't believe how wonderful some of those hot teas are with a drop of cream and a spoonful of honey. My favorites are the spicy flavors and the vanilla/nut flavors. Buy plenty. Treat yourself. Spend more money than you normally would on tea. This may be what it takes to keep off of sugar. It sure beats the price of hypnosis.
  • Make sure you buy naturally sweetened breads, chips, crackers, salad dressings, etc. These normally have hidden sugars and you don't want to cheat just because all of your salad dressings have sugar, do you? Also, remember to get cereals and other snacky foods that are naturally sweetened. If you don't have a health food store, there is one huge commercial brand of cereal that consistently keeps sugar out of its ingredients: Post Grape Nuts.
  • Double-check your kitchen. Is it stocked? Make sure it's full of naturally sweetened goodies.
  • Keep junk food in your kitchen. Yes, you read that right. It's good practice to have junk food available, because then you can practice turning it down and choosing something healthier. I was going to throw out all of our junk food last year, but not only was that not fair to Jeff, but if I didn't see junk food on a daily basis, how would I react when I did see it? You'll have to think about this. Even if you live alone, you want to have junk food available to your guests, right? You still want to have visitors, and they certainly want their junk food. They don't want to go on your sugar-free diet! However, if you are an excellent cook, it is possible to make naturally sweetened goodies for your guests, but keep in mind that it usually takes white sugar to satisfy the sweet tooth of those on a white sugar diet. Honey will not satisfy. It takes a couple of months to change your palate and train your sweet tooth to like natural sweeteners. If you know yourself well enough to know that you will sneak treats if they're around, then by all means, clean out your kitchen. Just ask guests to bring their own goodies.
  • Do not buy "Sugar Free!" labeled goodies. These are tricky gimmicks usually found in the regular cookie aisle, and they are sweetened with a laxative otherwise known as Maltitol. It's the worst sugar substitute I've ever experienced. If you read the fine print on the label, there will be a disclosure statement warning against eating too many. Well, I don't want to worry about a laxative affect. Sometimes I just want to eat the whole box of cookies, thank you very much. Anyway, name brands like Oreos will have a "Sugar Free" variety of their product right next to the original variety. Beware, I have checked the labels and they contain maltitol.
  • Do buy "naturally sweetened" and "No Sugar Added", as these terms usually mean what they say. Read the label to be safe, but these are terms that usually identify good products.
  • Check for "Sucralose" which is a generic term for Splenda. You can make your own decision about Splenda. I don't touch it.
  • Decide how dedicated you are to eating sugar free--are you focused mainly on quitting desserts? Drinks with sugar? Breads and cereals? If you are just trying to stay away from "sweets", that's one thing. It is another issue to go without white sugar entirely, because it is included in so many ingredients. Now, before you start, is a good time to decide how far you are going to take this. Keep in mind that sugar is in just about everything packaged and hidden in foods at restaurants. If taking your goal to this extreme seems too hard, don't give up. Start with sweets/cookies/obvious no-nos. Consider going 100% sugar free later. You have to find your starting point. Something that is realistic. For me, because I had practiced going weeks at a time without sugar, it wasn't a huge deal to do it again for a year.
  • Set a realistic starting point/goal for yourself!


suziam said...

Love your blog. Is wine a natural sugar source? Not for sweetening of course, but for drinking. It's "empty calories" for sure, but does it fall outside the REFINE SUGAR category?

My Year Without said...

You ask a great question!

I have a theory about wine and beer, but since you asked, I have decided to look for the answer. I may even have to contact a winery/brewery for a run down on how it works.

My theory is that sugar is used as food for the yeast or fermentation process and in the end, there is no trace of white refined sugar, even though the liquid itself is sweet. To my knowledge neither wine-makers nor brewers add sugar to the finished product, but I am going to find out for sure. Excellent question. Thanks for asking!

My Year Without said...

I did some research yesterday, and here is what I found out: sugar and yeast make a chemical reaction producing two products: carbon dioxide and ethanol. No more sugar and no more yeast.

Are there companies who add sugar to their otherwise final product? I don't know. The plan is to talk to a couple of different breweries to find out what the common process involves.

princess rose said...

I like how you mention deciding on how dedicated you are. Last night was another holiday party and I had brought 3 different homemade naturally sweetened desserts with me. I wasn't picky with the salad and entree (if there was sugar, it was probably in the dried cranberries and in the salad dressing and bread roll), but I definitely passed on the desserts and drank the tea while everyone feasted on the desserts. I ate my desserts during the dancing part of the evening. But I think from now on, my focus will be desserts. Just wondering though if you went to any pizza/pasta places this year and how you handled those. Because I know those foods are sometimes made with sugar. Thanks again!

My Year Without said...

How I handle pastas/pizzas is to be a big pain in the butt. Sometimes I ask the server if they would mind asking the cook if sugar is an ingredient in the sauce. I don't think it's ever NOT been an ingredient. They always come back to my table looking like they have bad news to bear.

What I've done is order cheese pizza or a salad with no dressing or with cheese. Also, pesto isn't made with sugar, and it's so good on pasta. I've had to be pretty detailed this year when it comes to ingredients--it is up to each person to decide how far they want to take it.

I'm sure quitting desserts would be hard enough, but a great start to cutting out sugar!

Jolie said...

I just found your blog, and I love it (even added it to my favorites)! I recently gave up meat, and am trying to really change the way I look at food, and the things I put in my body. You mentioned putting cream in your tea. Are you talking ....heavy cream...or half and half (creamer)?

Wonderworking Words said...

Oh wow. I just wrote a post about this earlier this week, and I had the opposite advice. I discovered that it's significantly harder to give up sugar if my palette gets a "fix" of it somewhat regularly. If I instead just nix the sugar cold turkey, I have about a week of withdrawal and then I start to notice the natural sweetness inherent in things like corn, beans, and milk. Suddenly sugar tastes disgustingly sweet, and voila! Sugar-habit kicked (mostly). You must be far more disciplined than me if you could quit gradually!

Love your blog, and thanks for participating in today's carnival! Please try to leave a link back to today's Fight Back Fridays post so that your readers can discover all the other super-encouraging things the other carnival participants are sharing.

(AKA FoodRenegade, AKA WonderWorking Words)

amyk said...

I really enjoy reading this blog. I am a super sugar addict and your quitting sugar has inspired me to quit sugar too. My goal is to quit sugar for the entire year of 2010 starting tomorrow (a little bit late for New Years, but oh well). Thanks for the helpful information.