It’s the sweetest of drugs: refined white crystals that get all of us sugar high and happy. As humans we’re wired to enjoy sweet things: breast milk is sweet, and sweetness denotes ripeness in fruit.
The problem is the vast abundance of sugar in today’s world. From regular sucrose to high fructose corn syrup, we all eat far more than is healthy. But breaking your sugar addiction and giving it up is hard. Here are some ways you can at least limit your consumption:
1. Ditch fizzy drinks
You’d shrink from putting ten sugars in your tea of coffee. But when you’re thirsty, and down a can of coke in less than a minute, that’s exactly what you’ve just consumed. Sweet drinks are a fast track to sugar excess, and not a particularly satisfying one.Either drink water, or choose sugar-free options.
2. Avoid fruit juice
Peel and eating eight oranges in single sitting seems absurd. However that’s exactly what’s in the average large orange juice – and with none of the pulp and fibre of the whole fruit. One study found that that a single 250ml serving of white grape juice contained as much sugar as four Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts. At the very least, water your juice down.
3. Check every label
Sugar lurks under a range of deceptive names. Watch out for fructose (fruit sugar), sucrose (white refined table sugar), dextrose, glucose, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, maltodextrin, sorbitol, fruit juice concentrate, xylitol, mannitol, galactose, lactose and polydextrose. Remember that something promoted as “low fat” may well have soaringly high sugar levels.
4. Limit artificial sweeteners
While sweeteners are better than real sugar, they won’t help reeducate your tastebuds. There’s also some evidence that they may have a similar impact to sugar in some people, by tricking the brain into thinking that a sugar load is coming.
5. Pack healthy snacks
Don’t risk feeling hungry when you’re out or at work, when the sugary stuff sings its sweetest song. Prepare by taking healthier, low sugar snacks: nuts, cheese sticks, even an avocado.
6. Change your route.
If a particular bakery or convenience store presents a regular temptation to splurge on sweet things, find a different route. Even if it means a longer route – which is extra beneficial in terms of exercise.
7. Go less sweet
Swap your ultra-sweet vices for more moderate ones. Sugary milk chocolate can be switched for a high quality dark chocolate: you’ll buy less as it’s more expensive, and likely eat less as it’s richer. Halve the amount of sugar you take in coffee or tea. Better still, find a drink that you can enjoy without sugar. It may be that you need to switch from your double espresso to a cappuccino: whatever works for you.
8. Learn to love sour
Most of the fruits we eat today are a long way from their origins – the much smaller, sourer wild fruits such as crab apples, wild strawberries or tiny damson plums. Native Australian fruits are good examples of plants nearer their original form. As you wean yourself off sugar, you’ll find sourer foods become more palatable as your tongue starts to detect their more subtle sweetness. Swap sweet, sugar-packed sauces for a splash of tangy Tabasco or relish. Ditch jam and honey for vegemite. Dress salads with oil and lemon juice or regular vinegar, rather than super-sweet balsamic.
9. Clear your larder
Go through your larder and be ruthless: ditch those sugary snacks and condiments. If you need to keep sugar for recipes, put it in an airtight jar on a high shelf, so it’s not in easy reach when you make a hot drink. Once you’ve done this, fill up your fridge with healthy, savoury snacks such as no-sugar pickles and olives.
10. Go cold turkey
One of the most effective ways to “reset” your sweet tooth is to cut out all sugar and refined carbs for a time – a minimum of two weeks, and longer if you can manage it. If you have the discipline to do this, you’ll find that when you re-introduce sugar, old favourites now seem unbearably sickly sweet.
As a bonus tip: get out of the house. Sitting inside you’ll eat for boredom or comfort as you sit in front of the TV, and grabbing sugary food from the kitchen is all too easy. Push yourself to go for a walk, which will also raise your mood. Studies have shown that sugar cravings are linked to depression, so look for natural mood-boosters to escape this trap.
Also be disciplined about dipping into your kids’ candy. When they come back laden with goodie bags at Hallowe’en or deluged with chocolates at Christmas, it’s all too easy to have a share.
Chloe Quin is wellness expert with online health insurance provider Health.com.au, whose mission is to help Australians access affordable healthcare that’s easy to understand. Also a qualified yoga instructor, Chloe is passionate about empowering women to boost their health and fitness in fun, family-friendly ways.