As we move through the month of December, sugary treats are suddenly everywhere we look. And usually within arm’s length. If you read our last blog, you realize that excess sugar intake can lead to some serious health consequences.  If sugar is, as some experts suggest, a substance as addictive as cocaine, how can we effectively wean ourselves off of it?

The answer: by making small changes that add up over time. Here are some smart solutions to lowering your sugar intake:

  1. Recognize the various aliases for “sugar” used on food packaging. To avoid consuming added sugars, check food labels before you buy.  It will help significantly if you know that food manufacturers use a wide variety of names and aliases for sugar on food labels and packaging.  Some of these include fructose, lactose, maltose, dextrose, glucose, sucrose (most ingredients that end in -ose), maltodextrin, corn syrup and evaporated cane juice – and that’s just a few of them. For a comprehensive list of 56 alternative names for sugar found on packaging, click here.
  2. Stop drinking sugar-sweetened drinks including sodas (a 12-oz can contains up to 12 grams of added sugar) and even smoothies that masquerade as health drinks but often have high levels of added sugar (some smoothies pack as much as 13 teaspoons of the white stuff!). If you’re craving something sweet, enjoy a piece of fruit, which provides the sweet taste of natural fructose with the added health benefit of fiber from the fruit itself.
  3. Start the day with a protein-rich breakfast. A healthy protein-rich breakfast helps stabilize blood sugar levels for hours and can help us make better eating decisions for the remainder of the day. While it seems like skipping a meal would lead to weight loss, the opposite is true: people who skip breakfast are more likely to be obese.
  4. What about cravings? If you have a sugar craving, try one of these techniques to thwart it.
    1. Go for a 15-minute walk before giving in to the craving ─ a walk around the block might remind you that you’re on the road to better health and help you kick that craving. 
    2. Try chewing a piece of (sugar-free) gum, which satisfies the body’s need to chew and provides a little sweetness.
    3. Snack on miniature dill pickles – the satisfying crunch helps stave off cravings. Plus, they are extremely low in calories, with no added sugar!
    4. Finally, don’t set yourself up for failure by waiting too long between healthy meals and snacks ─ when you’re famished, you’re less likely to resist a craving.

Kicking the sugar habit won’t happen overnight, but stick with it. Experts say it takes about a week for your taste buds to reset themselves as they become accustomed to the lower level of sugar intake. Your reward: you’ll reap many health benefits, and when you do enjoy a healthy snack such as a piece of fruit, it will taste all the sweeter!