Two of the most common New Year's resolutions people make are to eat better and to lose weight (closely matched with getting more exercise). For many people, that starts with cutting out sugar—or, at least, reducing many common sugar sources.
You’ve likely seen the rise in low carb, low sugar diets over the years. While the “perfect diet” looks a little different for everyone, it’s true that too much sugar is bad for our bodies—it can mess with everything from skin health to metabolism and even increase the chances of heart disease and cancer.
If your goal is cutting out sugar more this year, start with these simple tips.
1. Throw Out Processed Sugars in Your Kitchen
Some of these are pretty obvious: desserts like ice cream, cookies and candy bars are full of sugar. But sugar goes by many names, so check the labels of your packaged products.
Common names for sugar include:
- High fructose corn syrup or corn syrup
- Cane sugar
- Evaporated cane juice
- Agave nectar
- Confectioner’s sugar
- Turbinado sugar
Get rid of anything with sugar as the first ingredient or that lists sugar several times. And the more you can focus on foods that aren’t packaged and/or that don’t contain any listed sugars, the better.
2. Start with Better Alternatives
If you eat a highly processed diet, you’re likely consuming refined sugar in many forms. Instead of going “cold turkey,” start by getting more of your sweetness from better places, especially whole foods. Think sugar alternatives that include:
- Sweet vegetables like sweet potatoes, carrots, onions and squash
- Fruits like blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, kiwis and lemons
- Stevia or monk fruit sweeteners that are natural and contain no sugars
- Sweeteners that also contain some nutrition, like raw honey or blackstrap molasses
Focus on foods, especially whole foods, that provide health benefits along with their sweetness. After a while, you’ll notice your cravings for processed sugars subside and will become more in tune with how they affect you.
3. Eat Enough Healthy Fats and Calories
Sugar is the body’s quickest form of fuel. If you’ve gone too long without eating, or aren’t eating enough healthy foods, your body might crave sugar because it needs more energy—fast!
Instead, we want a steady stream of energy that fuels us and supports our health. That means a balanced diet with healthy fats, proteins, and whole food-based carbs and minimal empty calories.
Make sure you:
- Eat plenty of healthy fats and proteins
- Consume enough calories
- Prioritize whole foods
- Consider vitamins/minerals that support sugar metabolism
- Get enough rest (you might also crave sugar if you’re low on sleep! Make sleep a priority)
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking less calories equals healthier. Eating too little backfires on you and can just cause more sugar cravings. Give your body plenty of fuel from healthy foods when cutting out sugar.
Remember: Progress, Not Perfection When Cutting Out Sugar
Just like with any New Year’s resolution, be kind to yourself. Making changes can be challenging, especially when it involves cutting out sugar from your diet. Focus on the above tips, pay attention to how foods make you feel, and know each step will help you feel better, have more energy, and overall improve your health.