Sugar is addicting. It’s pervasive in our food. Most of us just can’t get enough of it. If you have even a fraction of the sweet tooth that I have, you might just consider yourself a sugar addict. I know I was! But that changed when I discovered green smoothies and whole foods.
According to the USDA, the average American consumed 151 pounds of added sugars in 1999. Added sugars include sweeteners and syrups added to foods and beverages, and does not include naturally occurring sugars found in sweet fruits. Thanks to raising awareness, sugar consumption has dropped to 142 pounds in 2005.
We consume added sugars from soda, candy, pastries, cookies and ice cream. “Healthy foods” like yogurt and oatmeal can provide a surprising amount of sugar per serving – anywhere from 20-30 grams! Sugar also hides in unexpected places like ketchup, sauces and even peanut butter.
Recommendations set by the American Heart Association encourages us to limit our daily consumption of added sugars to 7% or less of our daily calorie intake. That’s about 6 teaspoons (100 calories) for women and 9 teaspoons (150 calories) for men.
Does this mean that you have to give up everything in your life that’s sweet? Should you starve your sweet tooth while munching on foods that are bland, bitter and “not fun”? Absolutely not! While refined sweeteners and syrups are bad for you, the natural sugar in fruit is not. Green smoothies and fruits are enough to satisfy your sweet tooth and they can curb cravings for “bad carbs” like cookies and cake.
Fruit provides a much better sugar fix since it contains vitamins, minerals and healthy fiber. The fiber in fruit helps to slowly release sugars into your bloodstream, preventing spikes. Syrups and pure sugar spikes blood sugar and causes your energy to yo-yo.
How To Break Free From Your Sugar Addition
Here are a few steps you can take to break free from your sugar addiction.
Step 1: Identify Where Sugar Hides. The first step is to start reading the labels on everything you eat. Keep in mind that sugar is known by many different names. Look for the following items:
Agave nectar/syrup, barley malt, beet sugar, brown rice syrup, brown sugar, buttered syrup, cane sugar, cane juice, cane juice crystals, carob syrup, confectioner’s sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn sugar, corn syrup solids, crystalized fructose, date sugar, dextran, dextrose, diatase, diastatic malt, evaporated cane juice, fructose fruit juice, fruit juice concentrate, glucose or glucose solids, honey, invert sugar, lactose, malt, maltodextrin, maltose, maple syrup, molasses, refiner’s syrup, sorghum syrup, sucanat, sucrose, sugar, turbinado sugar and yellow sugar.
If you see any of these ingredients listed on a food label, it’s probably best you leave it on the shelf and look for something else. You should also go through your pantry, refrigerator and freezer. If you see any of these ingredients in the foods you have already purchased, toss them. Don’t treat your body like a garbage can for sugar!
Step 2: Replace “Sugar-Enriched” Foods With Sugar Free Alternatives. By sugar-free, I am not talking about chemical sweeteners! Ultimately, you want to get away from sweetening up your foods and fueling your sugar addiction. Instead, look for natural foods that do not contain any added sweeteners. For example, instead of getting a brand of peanut butter that contains sugar, try getting an all natural brand that just has…peanuts!
One of the best ways to avoid added sugars in your diet is to make healthier versions of your favorite sugary foods at home. Try making your own apple sauce or almond milk, this will allow you to make sure your foods do not contain added sugars and that they are the healthiest (and freshest) that they can be.
When it comes to soda, remember you want to eat your calories not drink them. Replace sugary beverages with water flavored with a squeeze of lime or orange juice. Mash 10 or 12 raspberries or blueberries and add them to water or mineral water for a healthy twist on soda/pop. Make whole juices in your blender using sweet fruits and berries.
When you are grocery shopping, never shop when you are hungry. Do your shopping by yourself. When you have your kids with you, you are more likely to impulse buy. Make a list before you get to the store and stick to it.
Step 3: Add A Smoothie To Your Day During “Peak” Craving Times. If you crave something sweet during your afternoon slump, don’t give in to cookie temptations, but don’t deny yourself either. Simply make a delicious green smoothie instead. A great snack that takes the edge off hunger and satisfies a sweet tooth is a smoothie made with 1/2 a banana, 1/2 cup pineapple and 2 handfuls of fresh baby spinach. You can use strawberries, mangoes, oranges or other fruit instead of pineapple. Satisfying your sweet tooth with sweet fruit is enough to keep me from derailing my diet.
Step 4: Add Some Healthy Raw Desserts To You Diet. When I say healthy raw desserts, I’m not taking about raw gourmet “cheesecake” that’s loaded with nuts and “raw” sweeteners like agave nectar. Instead, go for low-fat, fiber-rich and simple recipes that do not contain any added sweeteners. Try my raw vegan ice cream and chocolate pudding recipes! I make raw ice cream almost every day during the summer. I don’t even crave the “real thing” anymore. You can make a large batch and split it in half if you don’t want to eat two bananas and 1 cup of fruit in one sitting. It makes a perfect afternoon or pre-dinner snack. You can also make a mint chocolate chip ice cream if you are really craving something chocolatey.
Step 5: Consume Sufficient Calories And Healthy Carbohydrates. Persistent, hard-to-control cravings for sweets is a common problem for people who are on a diet. I’ve been there and it’s almost impossible to stick to the plan if cookies, cakes, pies and ice cream keep shouting your name! If you are eating a whole foods diet and you are still craving sweets, it most likely means that you are not getting enough calories or carbohydrates in your diet. Severe calorie restriction and low carb diets set you up for failure more than they do for success when it comes to weight loss.
You can still lose weight and maintain abundant health on a high carb, low-fat diet rich in fresh fruits and green smoothies (I lost 40 pounds this way!). Green smoothies and sweet fruits satisfy your sweet tooth so that you don’t crave pure sugar and they fill you up so that you don’t even have an appetite for cookies or cake.
These are just a few of the ways you can break your sugar addiction. Keep in mind that it only takes 21-30 days to break a bad habit and replace it with a new one. I know that might sound like a long time, but when you think about the rest of your (longer, healthier) life, it’s really not that long at all. Try to give up sweets for 21 days and see how you feel. Every time you crave something with added sugars, let yourself indulge in a sweet, fruity green smoothie.
You might even be encouraged by some improvements to your health or weight loss.
Sugar doesn’t have to be your enemy, you just need to find the right kind of sugar. Remember, fruit is your friend.
Tracy Russell is the creator of the Green Smoothie Weight Loss Program, the 30-Day Whole Foods Challenge and founder of Incredible Smoothies. She is passionate about helping people improve their health with green smoothies and a whole foods lifestyle.