Sugar is addictive, and linked to some of the most prevalent chronic diseases in North America, like diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Sugar is also responsible for pesky daily symptoms you might experience, like low energy, interrupted sleep, belly fat, hormone imbalances and more.
Why is it so difficult to quit the sweet stuff? Research shows that sugar releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that controls the brain’s reward and pleasure centres. So it can be really difficult to get rid of cravings and get through the day without thinking about what sweet treat you’re going to indulge in next.
That’s why we’ve created the League Sugar Reduction Program, so that you can kick your sugar habit, feel more energized, and possibly shed a few excess pounds while you’re at it.
As a Holistic Nutritionist, this program is the exact protocol I ask my clients to follow, and I’m confident that, like them, you will feel amazing by the end of the program.
What’s involved in the Sugar Reduction Program?
Week 1: We’ll get you all set up and we’ll also educate you on where to look out for sugar. (Hint: It’s lurking in everything.)
Week 2: This week, we will guide you through what foods to eat to balance your blood sugar (which is key to preventing sugar cravings).
Week 3: Finally, we’ll share with you specific craving busters, as well as other non-food related techniques and strategies to help keep sugar out of your life beyond the 3-week program.
This program works best with the sugar-free meal plans and recipes that were created specifically for this program. You can find these in the League Marketplace.
Reading labels & hidden sugars
Did you know that many common foods that are marketed as healthy are actually quite high in sugar? Look out for added sugar in the following foods:
- Any store bought salad dressing or marinade
- Almond, coconut, or cashew milk that is not unsweetened
- Dried cranberries that are often further sweetened
- Most granola bars and packaged snacks
- Non-plain yogurt
- A large portion of restaurant sauces
Sugar goes by a number of different code names, but here are the major ones to watch out for when reading labels:
Corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrates, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, invert sugar, lactose, maltose, malt syrup, raw sugar, sucrose, sugar syrup, cane crystals, cane sugar, crystalline fructose, evaporated cane juice, corn syrup solids, malt syrup
Note that, for this program, we are not asking you to refrain from eating honey or maple syrup. However, it’s important to understand that metabolically, they do have a similar impact on your body as the sugars listed above.
Eat lots of the good stuff
Consuming protein at every meal—especially breakfast—is critical to kicking your sugar habit. Typical breakfast foods like cereal, toast and granola tend to be high in starch and sugar, and low in protein, setting you up for a blood sugar crash later in the day. This sort of crash results in low energy and can lead to further sugar cravings. Some great high-protein breakfast options include protein smoothies, yogurt and eggs.
Healthy fats also work to balance your blood sugar. Why? Because they help keep you full and satisfied after a meal. Some good examples of healthy fats include avocados, olives, and coconut oils, grass-fed butter, along with whole foods like fatty seafood (salmon, sardines, mackerel), and unsalted, unroasted nuts and seeds.
Pro Tip! Once opened, remember to store your nuts and seeds in the freezer as they can go rancid.
Both soluble and insoluble fibre play an important role in digestion, weight management, blood sugar levels and cholesterol levels. Most importantly, fibre keeps you full, reducing those sugar cravings! Some good sources of fibre include a number of fruits and vegetables, particularly artichokes, raspberries, broccoli, brussels sprouts, avocados, pears and peas, as well as legumes, ground flax and chia seeds, and whole grains like oatmeal.
Sugar-free snack ideas
This savoury trail mix recipe only takes five minutes to prep. A few other quick, sugar-free snacks include:
- Avocado slices wrapped with smoked salmon
- Hummus with raw or roasted vegetables for dipping
- A piece of fruit with a tablespoon of nut butter
Meal texture & taste
In order to make meals more satisfying for your brain (and reduce the desire for dessert), make sure each meal has a variety of tastes and textures. As a general rule, each recipe should have a combination of sweet, salty and bitter. If you’re thinking about making a salad, this could be a pinch of tamari (or salt) in the dressing, some fresh berries on top, and some apple cider vinegar in the dressing. Here are two recipes that contain a nice mixture of textures and flavours:
Other factors that affect sugar cravings
While you will get immense rewards from positive changes to your diet alone, kicking those sugar cravings is not as simple as just eating better. Sleep, stress and movement also play a part in cravings too!
Sleeping less than 7 hours a night, even just for one night, can increase a hormone called ghrelin. Ghrelin is one of your hunger hormones, and it tells your body you are hungry (even if you might not be) and can cause sugar cravings.
Sugar cravings are also often linked to stress. So next time you’re feeling stressed, acknowledge what you are feeling rather than reaching for the sweets. This simple act, followed by some deep breaths, will really help reduce your stress. Even better, work a 10-minute meditation into your daily routine.
Pro Tip! If you find yourself giving in to cravings when you’re depressed or anxious, you may want to try out this 7-step process to avoid emotional eating.
Quitting sugar is not always pleasant in those first few days. Don’t be surprised if you experience some ‘detox’ symptoms, like lower energy, fatigue, moodiness, irritability or even headaches. It gets better, though, we promise! Just give yourself some time to adapt, and stick with the program’s daily challenges to power through the tough stuff.