By minimizing sugar, we can experience fewer sick days, healthy body weight, focus and clarity, positive attitudes, freedom from cravings, and a better night’s sleep to name a few. The benefits of a low-sugar diet are bountiful! But it’s not easy to avoid; sugar can be hidden in everything from yogurt to tomato sauce to bread to lunch meat… Here are five ways to reduce refined sugar in the diet:
- Start your day with a balanced breakfast: A balanced breakfast including protein, healthy fat, and colorful carbohydrates balances blood sugar and provides long-lasting energy. This helps us avoid cravings and the afternoon lows that bring about the need for a sugary pick-me-up. Try a breakfast burrito bowl with two scrambled eggs, brown rice, and sautéed bell peppers and zucchini, topped with cheddar cheese, avocado and salsa.
- Make it yourself: This gives you control over how much and what type of sugar goes into your recipe. Not all sugar is created equally. White sugar is different than raw honey both in nutrients and the effect on blood sugar levels. White sugar is often made from genetically modified sugar beets and can contain pesticide and herbicide residue. In the manufacturing process, all other nutrients are stripped away, leaving only sucrose behind. Raw honey, molasses, grade B maple syrup, and dried fruit on the other hand contain minerals and enzymes that help the body process the sugar, reducing negative effects on blood sugar. Make your own cupcake frosting using honey, coconut oil, and creamy almond butter. Stir up homemade granola with dried fruit, maple syrup, and cinnamon.
- Avoid juices, sports drinks, and soda: Beverages have sweet tastes, but sour effects on the body! For example, 8 oz of raspberry apple juice contains almost 30 grams of sugar! Even though it’s 100% juice, the processing and pasteurization destroys most of the fruit’s healthy properties. You’re left with a beverage that has just as much sugar as soda! Sports drinks and prepared iced teas also have added refined sugar, not to mention food coloring and other unnecessary artificial flavorings. Try making your own iced herbal tea for a refreshing treat. You can sweeten it with licorice root, dates, maple syrup, or honey. See the recipe below for date ginger tea.
- Add sweetness by adding fresh fruit: Fresh fruit is a great way to satisfy the sweet tooth! Fruit contains vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber that work together to deliver nutrients and stabilize blood sugar. It’s a whole-food and 100% pure goodness. Remember to balance it with some protein and fat to avoid blood sugar spikes. Add a handful of nuts, chunked cheese, or a little coconut cream to a fruit salad.
- Be a sugar detective: Become aware of what products contain added sugar and find alternatives that have less or, or better yet, none at all. Keep in mind that some foods have natural sugars, like the tomatoes in tomato sauce, so check the ingredient list. Watch out for the following: sugar, maltose, malt, maltodextrin, dextrin, glucose, dextrose, sucrose, fructose, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup (many added sugars end in “ose”). Look at portion size and the amount of sugar per serving. Remember if one slice of bread has 9 grams of sugar, you’re getting 18 grams in a whole sandwich, just from the bread alone (over 4 teaspoons).
Here is a nice lightly-sweetened summer beverage to quench your thirst. Sweetened with date sugar, this sweet tea alternative contains minerals and antioxidants. Enjoy!
- 6 cups purified water
- 6 dates, pitted and cut in half
- 1 large ginger root, sliced (about 12-14 slices
- 4 organic lemons, juiced, peel reserved
- 1 bottle natural sparkling mineral water, chilled
- fresh mint leaves (optional)
2. Strain the liquid into a bowl and allow to cool completely. Reserve the dates for another use (such as oatmeal or breakfast rice).
3. Once the beverage has cooled, add the lemon juice and sparkling water. Add the water a little at a time and keep tasting until it has reached the desired flavor, depending on desired strength. Put a spring of fresh mint at the bottom of each serving glass and pour in the spritzer. Serve chilled or with ice.