Escaping sugar is hard. It’s an ingredient in one form or another in nearly every food we eat.
Most people love sugar, are addicted to it or both. Unfortunately, too much sugar can result in weight gain, increases the chances of getting diabetes and feeds the harmful bacteria in our gut, ultimately reducing the effectiveness of any good bacteria we already have within our gut or are trying to increase through the use of probiotics.
With the holidays upon us, and our often difficult-to-stick-to New Year's resolutions approaching once again, the question many of us are asking is understandable: “How can I reduce or eliminate sugar in my diet?”
According to fitness/health coach Allison Ferguson of BrideBod.com, who has implemented Silver Fern Brand’s ELEVATED plan with her clients, here are a few steps you can take now to make a big difference.
1. Plan ahead — and don’t deny yourself completely. With the myriad holiday parties approaching, foods high in sugar are often difficult to avoid. Add in another child or co-worker’s birthday and the cake placed before you (it would be rude not to share a piece, right?) and all of that sugar adds up quickly. So commit now to only eat sugary sweets on special occasions like these. No last-minute trips through the drive-thru for a milkshake.
Imagine how much less sugar you’d consume if you actually planned it out and stuck to it. “Making plans ahead of time on what you will eat and when, and then not denying yourself completely, makes it so much easier to keep your commitments,” Ferguson said.
2. Fill up with good, high protein foods first. According to Ferguson, three good things happen when you eat a high-protein meal (whether plant or animal proteins) before eating sugar:
Sugar isn’t absorbed as quickly into the blood stream, so your body releases less insulin at once.
You’ll likely consume less sugar because you are already full. This initial success will give you more confidence that you can fight the sugar cravings the next time you’re tempted.
Due to the high protein meal, you will already be producing “fat burning” hormones, which will negate the effects of the hormones released by any sugar you consume.
3. Find time to fast. As microbiologist Kiran Krishnan describes in the ELEVATED plan, intermittent fasting is an eating schedule where you follow an eating window of eight hours (men) or 10 hours (women) and fasting the remainder of the time (with a majority during sleep).
Fasting reduces stress, volume of eating and allows the good gut bacteria to increase. It also raises the human growth hormone (HGH) naturally within the body, helping to burn fat overall and improve muscle mass. HGH is produced in our bodies in large amounts when we’re growing into adulthood, Kiran says, but once we’re grown, the body doesn’t produce much HGG unless we stimulate our body to produce it, and intermittent fasting actually boosts it naturally.
4. Begin consuming quality probiotics. According to Krishnan, studies show that a gut full of bad bacteria can cause a person to be overweight, while one filled with good bacteria can keep them lean.
“Whether found in natural foods or through supplements, a quality probiotic can balance the gut, especially when coupled with a high fiber and low carb diet,” Krishnan said. “It can also boost the metabolism, resulting in weight loss that can be much easier to keep off long-term.”
So how do you find the right probiotic? There are hundreds of probiotics on the market, but they most definitely aren’t all the same. Krishnan recommends looking for probiotics:
- Comprised of strains that can survive through the stomach to support good bacteria and fight off the bad.
- That are DNA verified (meaning they do what they claim).
- And are designed to perform a variety of medical functions.
5. Have good substitutes ready. The first few days of trying to wean off of sugar can be hard. Really hard. Having a few good options to choose from can help get you through some of the tougher days. Eventually those cravings will subside and you won’t be scavenging the kitchen looking for a “fix.”
Here are a couple of suggestions to get you through when you start to feel like you just need “something.”
- Take time to bake some homemade treats made with whole grain flour and sweetened with Stevia or Kakato. Dried fruit can be a great alternative when you are looking for an after-dinner treat. Be careful not to go overboard and make sure there isn’t any added sugar.
- Sugar-free chocolate — you’ll get the feeling of “indulging” without having the sugar crash.
- Herbal tea can sometimes “trick” your brain into thinking it’s getting a treat and will help until the craving subsides.
Follow these simple suggestions and watch your sugar cravings disappear.
Charity Lighten, chief nutritionist for healthy foods company Silver Fern Brand, is a certified plant-based nutritionist, wife, mother of four and lover of food! Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or through her website, www.avibrantlife.me.