(Another tip: mini muffins are a great snack. These millet zucchini muffins aren’t even sweetened at all!).
Many of you are still signing up for the Sugar Cleanse Challenge, starting next Monday. I am excited to start. Today, I wanted to share ten tips in how to ensure success in the upcoming two weeks. I’d love for you to share you own tips as well.
1. Join forces with a friend.
A big part of the reason I have the challenge is because once you have publicly declared that you are going to remove sugar from your diet, you have a sense of accountability. At least, I know I do! Way back in High School, my best friend and I decided to do a sugar fast. We were going to a wedding shower together, and there were a lot of delicious desserts. But because we had made a commitment together to do a sugar fast, it was much easier to resist temptation.
So, even if you’ve put your name down in the challenge, asking a friend to do it with you can be really helpful. (To make it less awkward to ask, you can always share a link to the challenge -I’ll take the blame for the idea!- and ask if they are willing to join you). You can even make it fun by sharing recipes or baking treats together. Or, sharing a delicious, nutrient-dense meal that doesn’t include sweets.
2. Remove temptation
It’s really important that you don’t have cookies, cakes, or other sweets staring you in the face when cravings strike. Throw or giveaway what’s in the cupboards.You can also freeze many desserts.
3. Have naturally sweet things on hand
For those doing “category 1” of the challenge, having naturally sweetened desserts (check out my dessert section for ideas) and fruits around can help you make the transition easier. For those doing “category 2” keeping to 2 teaspoons a day, a bit of sweetener in a cup of tea is nice. This recipe for Chai hot cocoa follows the guidelines and you could even make truffles and still fit within the guidelines! It’s also easy to make muffins that fit within the 2 teaspoon guideline. For those in “category 3” a bit of stevia sweetened tea, hot cocoa or lemonade is nice ( I think that stevia should fine, since it’s an herb, for category 3). If you are having fruit, you have many naturally sweet options available.
Now, some may ask, isn’t sugar sugar? Yes, and no. If you have yeast issues, sugar is sugar and limiting the amount of sugar you have is very important no matter what. Sugar found in fruit is also paired with fiber and other nutrients that ease the natural sugars into your body with less stress. Low sugar fruits include many berries, which are also high in antioxidants. Unfortunately, we aren’t in berry season right now. But a handful of frozen blueberries is a delicious, sweet snack.
For a “sweet” taste without as much natural sugars, winter squash, slow roasted onions, carrots, and beets are naturally sweet vegetables.
4. Plain yogurt, raw apple cider vinegar drink, kombucha, kefir
Perhaps an even better strategy is doing the opposite of eating something sweet. I often find that when I eat a lacto-fermented food or drink product that is sour, rather than sweet, it takes away my cravings. I am not sure what is happening biologically, but it works for me. Plus, all of the healthy probiotics in the lacto-fermented foods or drinks help fight against yeast which cause cravings. So it’s a doubly good practice!
5. Consider supplementing to help with cravings
There are various supplements that do help with sugar cravings. The list includes vitamin C, B vitamins, zinc, and certain amino acids and minerals. In the book, The Mood Cure, the Julia Ross recommends taking two supplements to help with sugar and carb cravings.
“The mineral chromium helps keep blood sugar level stable, but it gets used up by a high-carb diet. Putting more back into your body as a supplement restores blood sugar stability (even more diabetics). It also eases the cravings for carbs that erupt during blood sugar drops….. Glutamine is an amino acid that your brain can use an am emergency substiitude fuel when you haven’t eaten recently or have been eating too many carbs and your blood sugar level is too low. This glucose stand in stops the impulse to ran to the candy machine when it’s low blood sugar time. This, of course, saves your adrenals from overworking. L-glutamine can stop carb cravings and get you feeling steady and even within ten minutes (less if you open a capsule and place the contents under your tongue. “
She recommends taking 500-1500 mgn of l-gulutamine on awakening, in the midmorning and in the midafternoon and taking 200 mg of chronmium with breakfast, lunch, dinner and at bedtime.
You can consider supplementing (with your health care providers oversight, if needed) to help deal with sugar cravings.
6. Consider why you emotionally want sweets
Many of us eat sweets not because we have something physical going on, but emotionally. Do we use sweets to buffer us from a stressful world? Do we eat mindlessly when we are stressed? When your hand is reaching for the cookie jar, ask yourself why you want to eat that cookie. It might not be hunger, or sugar cravings, but comfort cravings instead. We have associated sugar with comfort since we were babies. And I don’t think our desire for a sweet taste is bad either! But in our world of large amounts of refined sugar in just about everything, that desire can take over.
Look for comfort in a cup of tea, a hug from a friend, a good (happy) book, a walk, a delicious bowl of comforting soup, (if you are a Christian) reading the Bible, or whatever you find comforting. Also, try start dealing with the deeper issues at hand, whether it’s grief, stress, or bad self image. I am no expert in these areas, so find one!
7. Eat lots of protein and vegetables (and start the day out with protein)
If you eat a high protein and mineral rich diet that include high quality protein( likes eggs and pastured meats and dairy) vegetables ( and fruits, in moderation, if you are eating them), and whole grains and homemade bone broths, your body will be much better nourished. A better nourished body is less likely to have cravings. It’s very important to start the day out with a nourishing, filling breakfast. Otherwise, you will be starving and willing to eat just about anything later in the day. It’s not just about taking sugar out, it’s about adding good food into your diet.
8.Eat more fat (and carbs too! )
I find that if I am craving sugars, I am actually craving one of two things: Fat (or calories) or carbohydrates. When I’ve eaten a “paleo” breakfast and lunch, for example, I find that I am dreaming of cookies by 3:30 in the afternoon. Eating a bowl of quinoa with a pat of butter satisfies me and reduces cravings. A baked potato with sour cream or butter would do the same. Now, for those on low-carb diets, if this is what works best for you, go for it! Some find that just fat by itself (like a spoonful of coconut butter) works great. Another mostly “fat” idea is making tea with a generous amount of coconut milk or cream in it.
9. Go have Fun!
As long as you have food in your stomach, life is not all about what you can and cannot eat. In some ways, it’s kind of sad that we think we are so extreme in taking out desserts when people all around the world don’t have enough food to eat period (talking to self here!). Take a walk and enjoy nature, go to the park with your kids, read a good book. In other words, enjoy life. Really, you can enjoy it without sugar. I promise.
10. Enjoy all of the wonderful foods you do have to eat
Along the same lines, there is no need to mourn the loss of sweets when there is such beautiful food to eat. Make hearty stews and soups, roast a chicken, make a beautiful main dish salad, roast squash, toast nuts, enjoy a good yogurt. There are so many amazing foods to enjoy. So enjoy them.
In other words, make this challenge not about deprivation, but about enjoyment. Use it to heighten your sense of enjoyment in things other than sweets. We have been given so much. Let’s enjoy it.