I have the biggest sweet tooth and I know I’m not alone! But as much as I love my cookies and cakes, I’ve simply come to point where I want to make better decisions about my overall health. Eating too much sugar has many harmful effects on metabolism and contribute to all sorts of diseases.
The average American consumes a whopping 152 pounds of sugar each year. Research has shown that sugar is biologically addictive, which means the more sugar you eat, the more you also crave. But the good news is that anyone can break the sugar addiction by making smarter food choices to eat less sugar and lose weight without feeling deprived.
About a month ago, I decided to make it a personal goal to cut down on eating sugar. I’ll still never turn down dessert for a celebration, but my goal was to make it a habit to take bulk of the unnecessary sugar and bad carbs out of my diet on a day-to-day basis.
So here’s my 4 week plan on how to stop sugar cravings and how my honest feelings while I was going through the process of it.
Understanding Sugar and Where it’s Hiding in your Food
Before we get into the 4 step plan, I thought it was important to understand more about sugar…
Sugar comes in many forms—including honey, brown rice syrup, corn syrup, and molasses. You want to limit all of them, but especially high-fructose corn syrup and fructose, because it actually stimulates appetite and causes us to eat more.
Understanding the composition of the food you eat is important to helping you eat the right foods that are good for your body. Take the time to read the ingredient label to determine how much added sugar is in your foods and try to choose products with the least amount of added sugar. A rule of thumb is, if the food serving labels has less than 3% of your daily value intake it has a small amount of sugar, and anything with 15% or more of your daily value intake has a large amount of sugar and not a great idea for you to have a on daily basis.
It is also important to limit “empty calorie” foods that are high in sugars, but provide few nutrients. Soft drinks, sweetened fruit juices, sugary cereals, frozen dinners, flavoured yogurts, white bread, boxed desserts and condiments usually fall into this category and typically considered to be high in sugar.
Instead, choose similar foods that are low in added sugar such as vegetables, fruit, water, plain oats, whole grain breads and plain yogurt. This will help reduce the amount of added sugar you eat or drink.
How to Stop Sugar Cravings in 4 Steps
Now you understand a little more about sugar and where it’s hiding, let’s get into a plan to curbing those sugar craving for good. For me, going cold turkey never works. Diet plans and food restrictions done with sudden change usually cause you to bounce back just as quickly. My goal with this gradual 4-week plan to cut down on sugar is to create it a good eating habits that can be sustainable for the long term.
Week 1: Cutting Down on Portion of Sugar
For the first week, the plan is to still allow myself all the regular eating that I’m used to, but to simply restrict myself to a single serving portion amount. So instead of eating 10 cookies, I would eat just 1 or 2.
Also, I made sure I had 3-4 healthy, nutrient filled meals a day that included proteins like eggs, fish, chicken, and grass-fed meats, and healthy fats like Omega-3 fatty acids found in avocados, seeds nuts, and fish.
Making sure I had my solid meals would keep me full throughout the day and prevented me from wanting to snack on sugary treats.
How I felt about week 1 of cutting down on sugar
This week was certainly good practice for my self control. A few times, I did eat an extra cookie, but I didn’t let myself over indulge either. Learning self control was much more difficult than I thought, but it was a good lesson to learn and put into practice.
Week 2: Stop Eating Sweet Treats All Together
During the second week, I planned to start cutting out obvious sugar culprits such as cookies, pop, candy etc. from my diet. If I was having a bad sugar craving, the plan was to eat fruit instead, so at least I would get the sensation of something sweet and still benefit from eating something nutritious for my body. Like the first week, keeping a regular schedule 3-4 solid meals a day is important.
How I felt about week 2 – No More Sweet Treats
Overall, I felt pretty good this week. I had some good momentum from week 1, and I really didn’t have any cravings for junk food at all to be honest. It felt really good to be eating solid meals and snacking on fruits.
Week 3: Cutting Down on Hidden Sugar
Now that I’ve already cut out obvious sugar culprits, the next step is to cut out the hidden sugars. These are sugars and bad carbohydrates are hiding in so many foods such a cereals, pastas, breads, and even many foods that we believe to be healthy, such as juices, dried fruit, granola bars, and fruit yogurt. This week the plan was to cut down and try avoid all these items as well.
How I felt about week 3: – Avoiding Foods with Hidden Sugars
This week had been a busy one for me, and I didn’t have a chance to plan out my 3-4 meals as the previous 2 weeks. This created a big downfall for me, but also taught me the value of having my proper meals.
Several times throughout the week I noticed I felt hungry and grumpy, with cravings for candy and junk food. I caved a few to the temptations and though I wasn’t proud of myself, I know it’s also part of the process for developing new habits.
Week 4: Building a Habit to Eat Less Sugar and More Healthy Foods
This week I planned to continue to eat with minimal sugar in my diet, but also try to find the right balance to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Whether that be pasta once a week, or cake only for a celebration, I firmly believe finding the right balance is important, so you can find enjoyment your life and be healthy as well.
How I felt about week 4: Finding Balance and Eating a Low Sugar Diet On a Regular Basis
I found week 4 was a lot better than the previous week. Learning how important it was to have good meals to keep me full throughout the day was a good lesson to learn. and I made sure to get back on top of my 3 meals a day, and as well as stock up on fresh fruit for when I did have some sugar craving.
So this week, it was pretty easy for me to stick to the program and eat well. I came to realize that a big part of eating well, is being able to plan what you’ll be eating. I felt when I didn’t plan my meals, I was tempted just to got for convenient foods that tended to be sugary or unhealthy.
Overall Review of My 4-Week Plan to Reduce Sugar
I actually feel really great about eating less sugar in my regular diet. When I started to reduce the amount of sugar I ate, I started to crave it less as well. I loss a few pounds as well and noticed my jeans feeling a little looser and the results were encouraging! Overall, I felt better about my health, and in the process I learned a lot about eating well and the nutrients in foods.
No Sugar 8-Week Update
After sticking to a low sugar diet for 8 weeks, I honest felt really great. Not only did I rarely have cravings, I noticed a change in my energy levels, attention span, clarity in thoughts, reduction in acne, and overall well-being!
Eating a low-sugar diet has also lead me create overall healthier habits, such as to doing more physical activity in the form of walking and running, as well as enjoying cooking instead of eating out so much.
When you get used to eating fewer super-sweet things, you crave them less, and in turn be satisfied with less sweet things. And when you do indulge, you have no reason to be guilty!
Cutting down on sugar is something I would suggest everyone give it try. It never hurts to eat healthier or take better care of your body.
Additional Tips To Help Break Your Sugar Habit
Here are some helpful tips that I found useful in my journey on cutting down on sugar:
Out of sight, out of mind! Don’t tempt yourself by keeping candy, cookies, and other high-sugar foods in your cupboards and fridge, as a substitute for sugary sweets, keep fruit around instead and reach for that when you have a craving.
Sweeten foods yourself. Start with unsweetened iced tea, plain yogurt, and unflavored oatmeal. Then add your own sweetener. No matter how much sweetener you add, you probably won’t put in as much as the manufacturer would have and you can choose healthier sugar alternatives like natural honey, agave nectar, or coconut sugar.
Eat a filling healthy breakfast. Starting out your day with a filling, nutritious meal will provide you with the energy you need to start your day as well as make it less likely for you to give in to cravings. Steel-cut oatmeal, eggs, and fruit are all good breakfast choices. Also check out my post here with 20 easy, low sugar breakfasts to start your day off right.
Watch out for hidden sugars in foods. Be wary of foods where sugar tends to hide, including reduced-fat products. When manufacturers take out fat in foods, they often add most of the calories back in sugars. Avoid products that list sugar as the first ingredient or that contain several different types of sugar (brown sugar, cane nectar, etc.)—it’s one way manufacturers avoid having sugar listed as the first ingredient.
Have any great health tips to cut down on sugar to share?
Let me know in the comments below!
This post was originally published on September 18, 2014, and updated January 8, 2020.