We are just going to say it: sugar is sweet and delicious. But what we are also going to say is that sugar is definitely causing a commotion, specifically with your body. Added sugars in foods and beverages are a huge issue in the world today; our love of all things sweet is doing damage to our overall health.
At The Natural Patch Co., we are all about living a more natural and healthy lifestyle. That includes avoiding chemicals we put on our skin… and the ones we consume.
So, with all of our “new year, new us” resolutions, let’s do something powerful: Cut out unnecessary sugars. We're not saying to cut out sugar cold turkey, but you might be surprised by how much you (and your taste buds) enjoy some sweet substitutes.
What You Need To Know
We are going to tell you how to cut out the sugars, we promise, but first, we're going to cover why a no-sugar diet is totally awesome. Nutritionists and doctors can agree that less than 10% of our daily intake of calories should come from sugars. This means that no more than 200 of your daily calorie (if following a 2,000 calorie diet) intake should be from added sugars, or 50 grams of added sugar a day.
Currently, trends from doctors are reporting about 73 grams in the average daily diet. The World Health Organization has taken this a bit further. They recommended that the ideal sugar intake is no more than 5% a day for optimal health advantages.
A vast variety of health conditions can come from an unhealthy amount of sugar in your diet: diabetes, heart disease, tooth decay, and more. The interesting point is that reducing sugar consumption isn’t just to mitigate obesity-related health concerns. Decreasing sugar is more about living a happier, fuller life. It might seem like a difficult journey, but the road is brighter than you think.
But eating sugar is still eating sugar, even if it’s a smaller amount. Why not take the pledge to a better, healthier you and eliminate sugar (over time) altogether? It’s the best way to guarantee a step toward a healthier, fuller life.
Once you leave sugar in the dust, you’ll forget why you ever took them back all those times they said they’ve changed.
Start With the Basics
Basically, it’s impossible to avoid every sugar in the world, and for a good reason. Natural sugars occur in fruits and vegetables and as a byproduct of certain dairy products.
These are not the sugars that need to be eliminated from your diet, as fruit is a part of a naturally balanced, healthy diet. Added sugars are sweeteners that are put into your food to make it sweeter or “taste better.” As your body consumes more of these sugar additives, your body starts to depend on them, thus creating a sugar addiction.
The Bottom Line: Put a Label On It
Food labels can be confusing to understand and read. Some countries make it mandatory to label added sugars specifically, making informed choices about your food easier.
For now, if the label has one category for sugar, read the ingredients list. It will be an estimate, but it’s better than nothing. Remember this about the ingredients list: ingredients are added in order according to the weighted amount. Meaning the closer to the top of the list, the more sugar you can expect in the product.
Sugar By Any Other Name
However, sugar isn’t always called sugar. So, you’ll also need to know the various names that added sugars hide under on product labeling. These include any word ending in an “ose.” We’re talking corn syrups, high fructose corn syrups, cane/brown sugar, maple/brown rice/dried cane syrup, agave, and honey.
The list is long, but knowing how companies use the word sugar makes it easier to make better choices.
One Foot In Front of the Other
We mean it; one foot in front of the other. This isn’t a sprint to see who can get there first. This is a serious lifestyle change and should be given as much thought as your next haircut. (Probably more than that, but your haircut isn’t a joke either!)
So if there are days that are harder to get through than others, it’s ok. The point of change is to make it last — one step at a time is the best way to go.
A great place to start is taking stock of your food and beverage habits, sort of like a “before.” Start in the morning and log each drink or piece of food you eat (and yes, this does also mean that little treat you sneak every day after lunch).
Look at the nutrition facts for everything you consume and note each of the added sugar values. At the end of the day, tally them up to see exactly how much sugar you consume on a daily basis.
Start Small for a Big Impact
Sugar is hiding in places you might never expect. Fruit juices. Condiments. Even in the salad dressing in your kale salad. Rude.
Seriously they sneak in sugar all over the place. But with this info, you can start to make a plan for your no sugar future. We will repeat it again for the people in the back: baby steps. Start small and grow over time. The more you try to do at once, your body will crash, and you might give up because it will seem too hard.
Start with one food or drink at a time, and don’t move on until you are good to live without that one thing.
Reducing sugar intake is a constant practice, much like dealing with those mosquitoes in your backyard which will just not go away. Just like you empty that standing water in your kid’s jungle gym that always seems to come back, healthy food choices are everyday choices.
What You Drink
Start with the most obvious of choices: soda and sweet drinks. One can of your favorite carbonated beverage could contain more sugar than the recommended daily intake. This means over a week or a few days, and you've gone well over the recommended sugar limits.
If you drink more than one soda a day, your body is in sugar overload. Those numbers will eventually catch up with you.
How To Minimize Soda Intake
So take it slow, but take it seriously. If you drink two or more sodas or glasses of juice a day, decrease one each day for a week. Next week get rid of another one, and so on. You’ll realize over time that your body requires less and less of these sweetened drinks to get you through your day until your body just doesn’t even need it anymore.
Your brain also needs to be on the same page. The process of taking one out more and more over time will help you forget to grab one every time you’re thirsty.
If you have more than a few sodas a week kind of habit, get rid of one sweet drink a week in a similar manner, but the habit should take less time to kick. If you only have to take out one or two sodas a week versus one or two a day, you can follow the same pattern. By the end of a month instead of a few months, you have completely kicked the sugared drink habit.
Flavored Water: A Fun Alternative
A great alternative to soda is flavored water. There are so many brands to choose from that finding flavored water you like should be a lot easier. Plus, this is a great way to make a sugar-free diet for your little ones a fun adventure. You can play "restaurant" by adding a slice of lemon to their water glass or even a delicate sprig of mint.
You could also try an unsweetened tea instead, or simply by adding fresh fruits to your flat water for a little flavor. Unsweetened green tea is also a great way to naturally boost metabolism and burn calories — it’s a win-win!
Also, remember that “diet” or alternatively sweetened drinks with sugar substitutes aren’t always a better option either. Artificial sweeteners can also have lasting effects on your overall weight and body. Be mindful when deciding how to replace your sugary drinks.
Additionally, opt for the unsweetened options when choosing from nut or oat-based milk drinks. These are healthy dairy alternatives, but the sweetened and flavored versions usually have higher added sugar amounts, making these imposters a poor replacement.
How To Treat Yourself: Everything in Moderation
Next, tackle your candy and chocolate habits. Milk and white chocolate have a ton of added sugar that can cause weight gain and tooth decay. If you can’t live without that little bit of chocolate indulgence, replace milk and white chocolates with dark chocolate 70% or higher.
Keep in mind that the higher you go, the more bitter and less sweet the chocolate will be, so opt for chips instead of bars. This way, you will be able to manage the bitterness of the chocolate and still have a sweet fix.
If you like other types of candies, try chewing a piece of sugar-free gum or choose candies in the sugar-free variety. As we’ve said before, sugar-free items still have adverse effects, but replace the sugar options, then slowly phase out sugar-free varieties just like you would with soda or sweet drinks.
The best, and overall goal, should be to eliminate sugary sweets with fresh or baked fruits. You can bake a peach or apples with cinnamon and other spices. The result will be a warm, gooey, naturally sweet treat that you can eat without feeling like you’ve made a bad choice.
Another great health benefit to adding more fresh fruit to your diet is the antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals you get from them. When shopping, keep this in mind: canned fruits and dried fruit options tend to have added sugars or come canned in syrups instead of water. It’s critical to read the labels for these fruit choices if this is what you’re craving.
When You’re Shopping
The same rule applies to all food shopping as does for snacks and drinks: read the label. Avoid sugar-added sauces for main courses or proteins; these can be easy to make in the pan after cooking meats or veggies. Instead of buying bottled versions, try your hand at a new skill. You’ll up your cooking expertise and free up room in your pantry and fridge for healthier foods.
Create Your Custom Flavors
Purchase naturally flavoring oatmeals and yogurts instead of buying varieties that come with flavorings added. Even Greek yogurt flavored with honey or vanilla can have double-digit added sugars. Nuts and fruits can add flavor and sweetening without adding extra or unnatural sugars.
Try adding in spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, or even a dash of ginger (for a little zing!) to your yogurt and oatmeals.
Healthy Fats and Sneaky Sugars
Make sure to stick to the full-fat options for items. Low-fat counterparts of yogurts, nut butters, and other items seem like the healthier choice, but they generally contain more sugar than full-fat options. Try opting for all-natural nut butters instead. Or, get creative with your local all-natural food stores that may have options in-store for making your own nut butter on site.
This is a great alternative to iconic kid-friendly breakfasts like pancakes and maple syrup. In fact, even breakfast cereals are just full of sugar, sugar, and more sugar.
Another great way to add some expert points to your kitchen techniques and cut out unnecessary sugars is to eat whole foods. By replacing canned veggies with fresh options, you can guarantee what flavors your food, from start to finish. If you don’t have a lot of time, frozen veggies are also a great alternative to anything canned and will cook up in a matter of minutes.
Plan, Plan, Plan
We can’t stress enough the idea of planning; if you know that mealtimes come and go quickly and you need more time. The key to producing healthier breakfasts, dinners, and snacks is the iconic meal prep.
You can take a few minutes in the morning to put together the items you’ll need for dinner or use some time on the weekend to get proteins and veggie options ready. You can roast full pans of vegetables and use them throughout the week for different meals.
It might seem like you are adding to your time off on the weekends, but this little bit of time here will save you time all week. If you have your meals ready to go, they just need to be heated or cooked for a few minutes. You won’t have to worry about eating out because you are in a rush.
Sugar Cravings Be Gone!
At The Natural Patch Co., as parents ourselves, we know that preparing meals for our children can be a wonderful way to express our love for them. With a little help, it’s easier than ever to nourish our families in healthier, more natural ways.
That's why we created the CravePatch. Just place these fun stickers on clothes to help avoid those moments in a day when the sugar cravings call your name.
This is another great way to plan ahead for those moments in a day when you start feeling like the only thing that will make your day better is sugar, sugar, and more sugar. Wearing this patch can help you fight off that little devil on your shoulder telling you to eat the high fructose corn syrup.
Your Brain and Body Will Thank You
Over time, implementing these changes will eliminate the sugars you don’t need and make room for foods that your body will thrive on. It might seem like a lot at first, but your brain and body will get used to these changes.
In fact, what seems hard today will end up an organic choice in the long run. Here at The Natural Patch Co., we want you to feel your best and know the natural way is better ten times out of ten!