New Years is a motivating time to make some changes to our life - and health. So I ran a poll with the moms who follow me and asked what they wanted to change in 2017. Virtually every response fell into two categories:
- I want to be better at meal planning.
- I want to cut out sugar for my family.
I feel you on #1. Meal planning is so rewarding (when you can find the time to do it). Here’s what I have for you:
- To DIY, read this post: How to Meal Plan (with tips for Picky Eaters)
- For help, grab this 5-Day Meal Plan for Families with “Picky Eaters”
- Any check out this Meal Planning Bundle from my friends at Meal Garden too!
I also feel your pain on #2. Sugar. Ugh.
Isn’t it incredible how a substance like this controls so many of us. This holiday, I had a internal debate at every party over whether I should have that Santa-shaped Shortbread Cookie or itsy bitsy slice of Tiramisu. It wasn’t difficult to ryhme up reasons to devour that sugar-laden desserts:
- Why not? Everyone else was eating them
- It was just one small cookie/slice (at least that’s what I told myself. It always ends up being 2)
- I will workout super hard tomorrow
- It’s the holidays and I deserve a cookie!
But of course, being a nutritionist, I knew all the reasons why I should stay the heck away from that Tiramisu.
Why sugar is WORSE than smoking (yup)
Cutting out sugar is one of the hardest resolutions one can make. After all it’s an addictive substance! You and I will need some help.
The hard facts in this article by Mark Hyman will provide some ammunition for you. Just repeat them in your head every time you want to reach for a bite-sized brownie.
- Sugar causes heart attacks. A new study shows that those with the highest sugar intake had a 400% increase in their risk of heart attacks compared to those with the lowest intakes.
- Sugar increases risk of Type 2 Diabetes. Increasing overall calories didn’t increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes, but increasing sugar calories did — dramatically.
- Sugar is addictive. A study by the University of Florida shows that sugary foods can be as addictive as nicotine and cocaine.
- Sugar makes you sluggish. The more sugar that is in the bloodstream, the more insulin released. If your body releases too much insulin, your blood sugar will drop below normal levels. This is called hypoglycemia, or a “sugar crash”. And guess what! You need/want/crave MORE sugar to get your energy (and blood glucose) back up.
- Sugar gives you belly fat. Sugar consists of glucose and fructose. Yet, fructose can only be metabolized by the liver in any significant amount (Source). When we eat loads of refined sugar, the liver gets overloaded with fructose and turn it into fat. Large amounts of fructose can then accumulate as fat in the belly.
P.S. It’s not just the sugar we have to watch for. White flour actually spikes blood glucose more than table sugar.
How much sugar are we eating? A LOT!
- The American Heart Association recommends that our daily caloric consumption of added sugar stays under 5 to 7.5%. Yet, studies show 70% of Americans consume 10% of their daily calories from sugar. One in ten Americans consume 20%.
- The average teenage boy consumes 34 teaspoons of sugar a day.
- The average American consumes about 152 pounds of sugar a year.
Getting back to our resolutions…
For those of you who fell into the 2nd “I want to eliminate sugar” category, you already know why that’s your goal.
The challenge is this:
Research shows 8% of the population stick to their resolutions (and kudos to them)! The other 92% of us dream big but can’t seem to deliver.
So let’s switch gears and talk about how to make this change stick!
5 Ways to Cut Out Sugar - And Be Successful!
I spent time in all the research behind why and how to make people successful with sticking to resolutions. And particulary when dietary changes (like avoiding sugar) are on the list.
If you REALLY want to make this move, and get your family onto a sugar-free path (and ultimately reduce your health risks), here’s what you need to do:
Remind yourself WHY
There’s a reason you want to cut out sugar. It makes you feel like crap. It gives you a mummy tummy. And it’s damaging our heart and our health. Those are pretty darn good reasons. But when we’re in front of the cookie jar, we amazing forget the why. So write them down. Save it as a note on your phone and post it on your cupboard door.
When you’re about to reach for that cookie, remind yourself how you’re going to feel and look because of it (aside from the guilt). Then ask yourself: “Is it worth it?”.
Eat Protein, Fiber and Fat every 3-4 hours
One of the reasons we crave sweets is because our blood sugars are low (see above). We eat starchy carbs or sweets (i.e. cereal, bread or muffins in the morning) and put ourselves on a blood sugar rollercoaster for the rest of the day. Instead, eat some protein, fibre and fat at every meal to keep you satiated longer. No crashes and no spikes, hence no sugar cravings.
- Protein - chicken, eggs, fish, beans, lentils
- Fat - grass-fed butter, oil, avocado, coconut milk, nuts, seeds, nut butter
- Fibre - any non starchy veggie (broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, asparagus, mushrooms…and the list goes on)
Put a reminder in your phone to eat these 3 things every 3-4 hours.
Allow for Cheats (shhh…)
When we make New Years Resolutions we say things like “I’m going to stop eating sugar“. For someone who craves sweets, and enjoys them regularly enough, that is a bold goal. We’re not giving ourselves enough room to trip up, and then get back up again. If we slip and have a bite of a birthday cake we see that as a “fail” and throw our resolution down the toilet. That’s that.
Small, incremental lifestyle changes may feel less sexy, but they have a much greater chance of creating real change. According to Dr. Roberta Anding, a registered dietician and nutrition professor at Baylor College of Medicine, moderating your resolutions could be the difference between giving up in February and creating a lasting lifestyle change.
So what if you said “I want to avoid sugar 5 days of the week”? Or “I am only going to have sugar at birthday parties“. It’s not perfect but you’re a heck of a lot more likely to be successful and see improvements. Once you master that, you can make the next sustainable change - and say “No sugar 6 or 7 days of the week”
Read the Ingredients (closely)
Sugar is everywhere. Seriously. You’ll even find it lingering in unsuspecting foods. The tricky part is that it may not be labelled “sugar” straight up. For example, there’s corn syrup in pasta sauce.
Most of us don’t know that a serving of tomato sauce has more sugar than a serving of Oreo cookies, or that fruit yogurt has more sugar than a Coke, or that most breakfast cereals — even those made with whole grain — are 75 percent sugar. That’s not breakfast, it’s dessert! - Source
Other terms used are: demerara, evaporated cane juice, evaporated cane juice solids, fruit-juice concentrates, dextrose, fructose, lactose, and a number of other terms ending in “-ose”.
And get this! Even green juices and green drinks are sugar bombs. Some contain 44 grams of sugar (more than a can of coke!). So take a look at the nutrition labels before you happily pass one to your kids. Or drink up yourself.
Do it for 30 Days
You can do anything for 30 days if you really really want to. And that ‘anything’ is something you can actually do. Studies show that when we keep changes (and New Years Resolutions) small and sustainable we are more successful - especially if we do it for THIRTY DAYS. Have a quick listen to this TED Talks on why 30 Day Challenges are so effective. As he says:
These 30 days are going to pass whether we like it or not. So let’s do something we really want to.
Like cut out sugar!
So once you determine how much you’re going to reduce your sugar intake. Do it for a month consistently. Once you achieve that, take on the next challenge - to cut it out more or completely.
Who’s ready to take on the challenge and ACTUALLY stick with it?
Leave a comment below and share your small and sustainable change for a healthier year.