You’ve decided to cut sugar out of your diet to lose weight and gain health. That will work. But sugar seems to be hidden in everything, so now that you gave it up…what is left to eat? This blog post shows you the foods to avoid, the ones to eat in moderation, and the ones to enjoy now that sugar is off the table.
Giving Up Sugar At-A-Glance
- Avoid packaged foods with sugar listed as one of the top three ingredients.
- Eat moderate amounts of fruit, full-fat yogurt, raw nuts and seeds
- Depending on your metabolism and goals, some natural sweeteners (i.e., honey, maple syrup, juice, & dried fruit) and noncaloric sweeteners (i.e., stevia, monk fruit, & diet drinks) can be consumed
- Focus your food choices on meats, fish, eggs, cheese, and non-starchy vegetables.
- Include pure fats in your diet, such as butter, olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil
You Gave Up Sugar…Now What Do You Eat? [Video]
In this video, you’ll learn…
- Why you should avoid sugar.
- Foods that contain sugar and should therefore be eliminated from your diet.
- Foods to enjoy in moderation as well as foods to make a staple of your diet.
Why Sugar is a Problem
Sugar is a problem because foods that contain it cause your blood sugar and insulin levels to go too high. When too much insulin is in your blood, inflammation and fat storage increase – two things you don’t want.
Foods to Avoid
Giving up sugar means different things to different people. For most, it means giving up added sugar. This gives us the obvious culprits, like cookies, cakes, and candies, but also includes some foods you wouldn’t suspect, including salad dressing, beef sticks, and granola. So, if you are eating a packaged food, I recommend turning the package over and seeing if sugar is listed as one of the first three ingredients. If it is, don’t eat it.
Note that sugar goes by different names, such as dextrose, maltodextrin, corn syrup, glucose, fructose, and sucrose. These are different forms of sugar but have the same inflammatory, fat-storing effect as table sugar.
Do those naming tricks complicate things? Absolutely. So another rule for foods to avoid when you go sugar-free is when in doubt, do without. In other words, if you are not sure if a food contains added sugar, don’t eat it.
Foods to Eat in Moderation
Whole foods don’t come in a box, but some contain natural sugar, like fruit, yogurt, and raw nuts and seeds. These unrefined foods have fiber and nutrients that lock in the sugar and slow its absorption into your bloodstream.
They are better choices than processed foods with added sugar, but how much you can consume and still reach your goal is up to your unique metabolism. And, of course, if you are following a low-carb diet, the food’s carb content needs to be considered. Therefore, we will place these foods in the moderate intake column.
Foods in which the natural sugar is isolated or amplified, such as honey, maple syrup, juice, and dried fruits, also fit in this moderation column. However, these high-fructose foods get an asterisk because they are not right for everyone.
First of all, they are intensely sweet and calorie-dense, so they will keep your desire for sugar alive and need to be portion controlled. And if your diet has been poor in the past, these foods may cause you to take in more fructose than your body can handle, overloading your liver and increasing fat production.
Foods sweetened with noncaloric sweeteners also make the moderate intake column with an asterisk. Adding a dash of stevia to plain yogurt is OK. But giving up added sugar only to turn around and buy sweet treats made with noncaloric sugar substitutes is missing the point. Remember that you are avoiding sugar because you want the health and weight loss results. Don’t spin your wheels trying to find “sugar-free” loopholes.
It likely makes sense that chocolate candy is still chocolate candy – even when it is sweetened with noncaloric sugar alcohols, but what about zero-calorie diet drinks, like diet soda? Must you give them up? Ultimately, this decision is up to you, but here are two considerations. First, keeping sweeteners in your diet keeps your taste buds and brain chemistry hooked on sweetness.
You may think they are a perfect solution for cutting calories, when in reality, relying on them is just kicking the can down the road, keeping you addicted to sugar. Another consideration is whether you prefer going cold turkey or weaning yourself off of sweetness.
Getting sugar out of your diet is a change for your body, and it will go through a withdrawal period. During this time, you will feel worse, not better. Fortunately, this is a temporary condition, and I assure you that life is better on the other side of sugar. But to get there, you need to go through this uncomfortable transition. For some of you, it will make more sense to go cold turkey and get all added sweeteners out of your diet overnight.
Others will feel that they need to wean themselves off of sweetness gradually, using diet drinks as a stepping stone. Whichever direction you choose, you’ll be happiest with your overall results if you eventually get sweetness, not just sugar, out of your diet. Once the intensity of sweetened foods no longer hijacks your taste buds, you’ll find that water, coffee, or tea is all you need.
Foods to Enjoy
To get the most satisfaction and success with your sugar-free diet, focus your food choices on whole foods that are high in healthy fats and protein, and have the best fiber-to-carb ratio.
Foods that naturally contain fat, protein, or fiber digest slowly. When you give up sugar, this is what you want because it creates a nice steady rise and fall in blood sugar. What that means to you is that you get a nice sustained level of energy and hunger satisfaction.
Many low carb foods are high in fat and protein, which explains why low carb and keto dieters often report feeling more in control of their eating. Examples of these foods include meat, fish, eggs, and cheese. You can also include cooking fats, like butter, and healthy oils, like olive, avocado, and coconut oil.
You can download a full list of low-carb/high-fat foods from my website.
That list also includes low-carb foods that provide you with fiber. Your best choices being non-starchy vegetables, such as salad greens, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, and zucchini.
In addition to containing fiber, they also provide a lot of volume, so your stomach stays full long after a meal, making it easier to avoid snacking.
I will say again that life is so much better on the other side of sugar. But, no one can convince you of that. You have to experience it yourself, and the only way to do that is to take the plunge and give up sugar for at least one month. I promise you that your body will thank you for your efforts.
Thank you for reading and have a wonderful week!