Before I start talking about what I did to get rid of sugar cravings, I must make a confession. I’ve always been extremely fond of dessert. Pies, pastries, cakes… I had a real sweet-tooth issue. And when I’d meet those people (rare, but they exist) who said they didn’t like sweets, I used to be so jealous… ‘Wouldn’t it be great to have the same ‘gift’ and never crave desserts? I would feel a lot better, be healthier and in better shape”.
The wish of a lifetime became an effortless reality one rainy night during the Fall of 2013, when I was in Aix in Provence, France, with Alec. We decided to stay in our hotel room and watch a documentary that we’d been meaning to see for a long time. The morning after, walking by the gorgeous displays of the many French pastry shops wasn’t as tempting as it used to be, and both of us stopped eating sugar altogether.
The documentary that made this change possible was The Secrets of Sugar, an in-depth investigative report published by the Canadian program The Fifth Estate, that clearly showed how sugar consumption is linked to rising obesity rates and a host of other diseases, such as cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
We started wanting to learn more. We watched other documentaries – such as Sweet Misery and Sweet Remedy – and went through many pages of eye-opening reads and medical research that proved how sugar makes us sick, weakens our immune system and can lead to all sorts of diseases.
I remember being shocked when I learned that sugar is as addictive as cocaine and that it stimulates the release of dopamine in our brain, a substance that makes us feel pleasure and therefore makes us crave more. I couldn’t believe that lab studies showed that rats that binged on sugar had brain changes like those of getting off drugs!
Learning all these things was a game changer in making me reconsider my eating habits. And I invite you to watch that documentary too. Once we know something, we cannot ignore it anymore. And nothing more than awareness can give us motivation to make changes.
Now that I shared with you WHY I was inspired to get out of my sugar addiction, you might wonder HOW I did it how HARD it was. The good news is: it wasn’t hard at all. It was easy, tasty and fun! And I didn’t have to give up sweets to get rid of sugar cravings!
Ever since my body cleared up from its sugar addiction, I have hardly craved a treat containing refined sugars. And the times I fell into temptation, I wasn’t able to get past the first few bites without immediately feeling a headache. Isn’t it amazing the way our body communicates, telling us what it needs? We just need to learn how to listen to it.
HOW TO DITCH SUGAR FOR GOOD:
Here are the five steps I followed to get rid of sugar cravings and cut down on unnecessary sugars from my diet and find a way to replace the indulgent sweets I used crave with their refined sugar free alternative!
1. Ditch Sugar for 14 Days
14 days. It only takes that long for your taste buds to re-set and help you get rid of sugar cravings. After two weeks with no refined sugar, your palate will retune the way it perceives most sweets… and all the treats you used to enjoy will simply taste too sickly sweet!
TRY THIS: A 14 day sugar fast is the best way to get off sugar. Simply get rid of it. NO sodas, sugary snacks, sweet treats. No traces of sugar related ingredients on your food’s labels. Yes, you might experience headache and some kind of withdrawal symptoms such as strong cravings for sugary treats, but that’s even better! Because they will make you more aware of the addictive properties of sugar and the level to which it is pervasive in our diet.
If you don’t feel ready for such a substantial step, you can opt for transitioning your palate from ‘really sweet’ to ‘not so sweet’ and eventually ‘sugar free’ in a more progressive yet long lasting way that will lead you to ditch sugar for good!
Start by making small changes: less sugar in your coffee, half the amount of cookies, unsweetened teas. Keep reducing the amount of sweetness from your diet little by little. Your taste buds will slowly adapt and will make you feel ready for a substantial change.
2. Learn to Spot the Hidden Sugar(s)
Sugar is everywhere. And I am not talking about the obvious ice cream, Frappuccino and cakes. Refined sugar is in yogurt and ketchup, dressings and bread, it’s even added in canned beans and applesauce!
That’s why learning how to check labels is so important! In order to keep sugar away from your plate, you need to be well aware of the numerous way sugar hides in our food, with all sorts of different names and shapes (including those artificial sugars like sucralose, saccharin and aspartame that are extremely dangerous for our health).
Here are the most common processed foods containing refined sugar:
- Baked Goods (cookies, cakes, muffins, bars)
- Breakfast Cereals (such as granola, corn flakes, rice crisps)
- Canned Fruit
- Canned Soups and Tomatoes
- Condiments (such as dressings, sauces, salsas),
- Chocolate Bars (unless they’re above 95%)
- Gums and Candies
- Yogurts and Ice Creams (not just regular but also plant based products)
- Sweetened Drinks (such as sodas, fruit juices, coffee based drinks, plant based milks)
TRY THIS: Start from your house. As a first step, remove the sugar from your pantry (from cane sugar to high-fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners, from maple syrup to agave nectar). Then take all the processed foods and drinks out of your cabinets and start reading. Once you identified all the refined sugars, get rid of those items (you can donate them to a food bank) and replenish your kitchen with whole, fresh ingredients instead.
There’s nothing harder than eating sugar when we don’t have it! And I believe this is the most important step to ditch sugar for good.
3. Stay Away From Sugar When Eating Out
In order to get rid of sugar cravings, you need to be vigilant about what you put on your plate especially when you aren’t the one who prepares the food. First of all, let’s be specific: eating out doesn’t mean ‘fast food’ (unless it’s a healthy kind). That is simply a place that needs to disappear from your map. Forever.
Going to a restaurant though can still be an enjoyable experience for the sugar free eater. Your best arm is to ask a lot of questions, just like you do when you need to stay away from gluten. We know that sugar is commonly added to entrees, pasta sauces, dressings… even savory barbecue foods are covered with brown sugar!!
TRY THIS: Grab your menu and spot those items that are more unlikely to contain sugar. Then ask your waiter, just to make sure. If the answer is “yes” ask if it’s possible to get a sugar free version; if not, change. I am sure that if more people did this, restaurants would probably start lowering the amount of sugar they use.
Here are some MORE TIPS to get you going:
- Always ask for NO dressing on your salad. Lemon juice, olive oil and balsamic vinegar have all the flavor you need.
- “Teriyaki glazed” means “covered in sugar”.
- Gravies and cranberry sauces are just another way to call an unnecessary and unhealthy amount of sugar on our food. Stay away from them!
- ‘Caramelized’ usually means ‘simmered with sugar’. Skip the items described as such.
- Just because it has the word ‘fruit’ in it, it doesn’t mean it’s healthy! Fruit jams, marmalades and compotes have an insane amount of added sugar. Skip them.
- In most restaurants, the word ‘dessert’ equals ‘sugar’. If you feel like something sweet after your meal, order some fresh fruit (specify you don’t want any sugar on it) or, like I often do, bring a homemade sugar-free treat with you or a piece of 90% dark chocolate, and eat after you leave the restaurant!
4. Get Rid of Sugar in Your Drinks!
Looking out for what we eat is not enough. A can of soft drink, on average, contains the equivalent of 7 teaspoons of sugar! But the good news is that we can have all the same hot and cold drinks we love in a healthier and tasty way. To prove it to you, I created a list (with recipes) of 20 healthy drinks that are paleo and AIP compliant as well. But to get you started on your transition to sugar free drinks:
TRY THIS: Switch sugar for flavor! Start by reducing the sugar you add to your hot drinks. Go from 2 to 1 teaspoons and eventually to 0, by replacing the calories with flavor.
HOW? Simply by adding fresh squeezed lemon juice to your tea, by sprinkling sweet spices (such as anise, nutmeg, cinnamon and cardamom) into your herbal infusions, by sweetening your coffee with a splash of home made nut milk.
GET CREATIVE! When you feel like a sweet hot drink, enjoy a fruity herbal tea or prepare a delicious, all natural latte (simply blend your coffee with some homemade nut milk and a date or a dried apricot and you’ll be blown away by how good it tastes!)
If a cold drink is what you feel like, enjoy a fresh squeezed juice (I prefer a mix of fruit and vegetables in mine, more nutrients and ½ the amount of fructose). Infused waters are also tasty and refreshing. Simply soak overnight some citrus fruit, cucumber slices and berries in a big bottle of water. The morning after you’ll have a refreshing beverage to sip on during the day. And don’t forget about coconut water!!
5. Learn to Make Sugar Free Treats
When the desire of eating an actual dessert arises… the easiest way to reset your taste buds is to keep on having the same treats you are craving…. but with no refined sugar! And if you check out all the sugar free desserts I collected in my recipe section, you’ll get a chance to taste delicious treats that won’t interfere with your goal of getting rid of sugar carvings.
And if you are short in time, here’s some QUICK TRICKS that will soothe your cravings:
- Nibble on some frozen fruit: blueberries are my favorite to snack on. Bananas are the best to blend and quickly whip up a ‘banana ice cream’.
- Mix some mashed oven baked yam or sweet potatoes with pumpkin pie spice. They are deliciously sweet and filling!
- Stuff a date or a dried apricot with piece of 90% dark chocolate and a couple of cashew nuts. It’s so satisfying you will be completely happy with it.
- Slice a piece of fruit (like peach, apple or pear) and spread with some almond or hazelnut butter. Sweet, healthy and extremely tasty!
- Combine some unsweetened coconut yogurt with some chopped strawberries and puffed millet and you have a delicious (and quick) sugar free dessert bowl ready in seconds.
I hope you found this guide to get rid of sugar cravings useful and that will help you quit sugar for good without needing to sacrifice your love for healthy treats. Share this information with others who may need to hear it, on Instagram and Facebook, save it on your favorite Pinterest board and subscribe to my weekly newsletter so that you never miss a post!!
And if you have other tips on how YOU got rid of sugar cravings, please share that in a comment below!
Lots of love and ciao!