1. Read food labels
You’ll quickly realise just how often sugar is added to foods when you look for it on ingredients lists. Ingredients are listed in order of how much exists in the product, so if sugar’s near the top (i.e. one of the first three ingredients listed), that’s a red flag.
“Even things that you don’t think are sweet, like tomato sauce, crackers, condiments, and salad dressings can be packed with sugar,” says certified nutrition consultant Diane Sanfilippo.
2. Beware of hidden sugars
Sugar can be written in a number of different ways on the food label, says nutritionist Caitlin Reid. Some of the common ones include: dextrin, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, honey, invert sugar maltose, lactose, mannitol, maple syrup, molasses, raw sugar, sorbitol and xylitol.
Seemingly healthy yogurt and cereal, may contain three or four different types of sweetener.
3. Swap refined carbs for more wholegrain options
Glycemic index (GI) refers to the rate that carbohydrates are broken down and released as glucose into the bloodstream). Foods with a lower GI are more slowly digested by the body, which helps sustain blood sugar levels. Eating fewer refined, high GI foods and more unprocessed low GI carbohydrates such as wholegrain breads and cereals helps control energy levels and reduces the likelihood of reaching for sugary, processed foods for a quick fix.
READ MORE: 6 Really Easy No-Prep Breakfast Ideas For Those Busy Mornings
4. Keep track of what and when you eat
Write down all the foods and drinks you consume as well as your mood and activity you were doing when you at. This can help you identify the triggers that cause you to increase your sugar intake. Awareness around your habits makes it easier to change.
5. Know your limits
Most of us need only half of what we’re currently eating. The average woman who needs 8000kJ each day can afford to eat 50g or 12.5 teaspoons of sugar, which provides 800kJ of energy. Eat wisely as an orange has 10.5g of sugar, a medium-sized apple has 17.3g of sugar, and a bowl of cereal with half a glass of low fat milk can have 17g of sugar.
6. Opt for no sugar or unsweetened foods
You’ll find unsweetened versions of these common foods in most grocery stories: non-dairy milk like almond and soy, nut butters (look for those made with only nuts and salt), applesauce, oatmeal, and canned fruit (they should be packed in juice—not syrup).
7. Don’t cut sugar off completely
Going cold turkey on sugar isn’t realistic for most people. If you normally put two packets of sugar in your coffee, for instance, try one for a week, then half, and finally add only a splash of milk. For your yogurt, mix half a serving of sweetened yogurt with half a serving of plain, and eventually move on to adding natural sweetness with fresh fruit.
READ MORE: Can’t Give Up Coffee? Here Are 7 Little Tricks To Make Your Daily Brew Healthier
8. Avoid artificial sweeteners
When you’re reducing your sugar intake, you may be tempted to switch to sweeteners for your sweet fix. But resist reaching for the diet soda, sugar-free candy, and packets of sugar substitute in your latte. Artificial sweeteners have been associated with weight gain—not loss, according to a 2010 review in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine.
9. Go through your pantry
Don’t tempt yourself by having easy access to sugar snacks at home or work. Spend an hour getting rid of all the sugary foods from your pantry and fridge. Having easy access to sugary foods will only exacerbate your cravings, making the habit even harder to break. Food out of sight is also out of mind.
READ MORE: The 10 Things Healthy People Always Have In Their Fridge
10. Use natural flavours
You can try adding vanilla bean and vanilla extract, spices, and citrus zests to foods without having to use sugar—and for zero calories. Order an unsweetened latte and add flavour with cocoa or vanilla powder. Skip the flavoured oatmeal and add a sweet kick with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. According to the Journal of Medicinal Food, cinnamon has been shown to naturally regulate blood sugar, which helps control your appetite.
11. Eat regularly
Skipping meals causes your blood sugar levels to drop, increasing the likelihood of binge eating on sugar foods to help crush your cravings. Eat three meals a day and include low-GI, protein-containing snacks if you need them.
12. Say NO to sweet drinks
Avoiding soda is a good idea, but that’s not the only sugar-packed drink out there. Even drinks that are considered healthy can contain more of the sweet stuff than you’re supposed to have in an entire day. Example, bottled iced teas (more than nine teaspoons of sugar per bottle), energy drinks (almost seven teaspoons per can), etc.
READ MORE: 7 Reasons Why You Should Say No To Fizzy Drinks
13. Drink more water
Dehydration can trigger sugar cravings, so make sure you drink adequate amounts of water. When a sugar craving hits, drink two glasses of water first and then re-evaluate whether you need any sugar.
14. Enjoy the occasional dessert
The idea here is to avoid wasting your daily sugar quota on non-dessert foods like cereals, ketchup, and bread. To avoid overdoing it, set specific rules about when you may enjoy dessert: only after dinner on the weekends or at restaurants as a special treat.
15. Go for a walk
Stepping outside for a 15-minute walk can crush your cravings, says research published in the journal Appetite. In the study, 25 regular chocolate eaters were asked to go without chocolate for three days and then to either complete a 15-minute brisk walk or rest. They then took part in activities that would normally induce chocolate cravings, including opening a chocolate bar. Those who exercised reported reductions in cravings, which persisted for 10 minutes after the walk. So next time those cravings hit, step outside for some fresh air.
16. Distract yourself in other ways
Most of your cravings are in your head instead of being a physiological response to hunger. Most cravings pass within 20 minutes so take your mind off the cravings by doing other things such as exercising, calling a friend or having a relaxing bath. If you’re still thinking about food after 20 minutes, there’s a good chance you’re hungry, so grab a low-GI, high-protein snack such as reduced-fat cheese with wholegrain crackers, natural yoghurt with berries or a small handful of almonds and dried apricots.
READ MORE: 10 Healthy Snacks To Keep In Your Office
17. Get enough sleep
Not getting enough sleep affects hunger levels and how efficiently your body burns kilojoules. Inadequate sleep increases levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin, which increases our desire for snack with a higher carbohydrate content the following day3.