Hey, guys! So, as I type this I’m eating a giant candy bar…just kidding! I gave that stuff up (or, should I say I’m trying to…)
I recently challenged myself to eliminate all sugary sweets from my daily food intake, in order to curb the sugar cravings that were taking over my life. And what I am about to explain is a very non-conventional method of how I attempted to detox from sugar. This method does not confine you to eating nothing but vegetables for the next few weeks, and I wouldn’t be writing about it unless it had successfully worked for me. (Unlike those strict sugar detox methods I’ve tried in the past, which were so tough to stick to I failed within the first few days.)
And now for a small disclaimer: This detox was not for weight loss purposes or even to have a healthier diet. It was about freeing myself from my addiction to sugar.
If you are like me, you know what being addicted to sugar feels like. You constantly crave sweets, and once you have a little bit, you just keep wanting more and more. Nothing satisfies you. It may hold you over for a couple of hours, but then there you are again, craving that giant bowl of ice cream or those hot-out-of-the-oven chocolate chip cookies. I mean, who can resist those, am I right?!
Well, you can! (But not, like, forever. Only ’til the constant sugar cravings go away – don’t worry!)
I am currently in the process of maintaining a low sugar diet, but prior to this I would eat many, many calories worth of sugar per day. I’m talking in excess of 800+ calories a day from pure sugary sweets. No bueno.
Each day I would wake up and eat a couple of sugary cookies or maybe some chocolate for breakfast. Not a lot of it, but a couple pieces here or there. I mean, I know chocolate for breakfast sounds like a dream for most people, but looking back, it’s just so unhealthy.
Throughout the day I would alternate between eating sugary snacks (more cookies, chocolate, etc) and savory healthy meals like salad with grilled chicken or a turkey sandwich. Other than sugar, my diet is exceptionally good, which is probably why I’ve never experienced major weight gain. The other thing I actually crave is healthy, good food including lots of vegetables. So, that’s a bonus.
After dinner every night I would also have a generous bowl of ice cream and probably some more chocolate after that, too. And this was every.single.night. I mean, typing this right now it sounds so ridiculous!
I was not the type of girl to skip dessert, ever.
Anyway, today I am going to share the steps I’ve taken to reduce my sugar intake and pretty much eliminate the cravings for tons of sugary sweets. I’m not saying I don’t get the urge to bite into an ooey gooey brownie every now and then, but the majority of my daily sugar binges are gone.
So, Step 1. Back away from the cookie…
How to Detox from Sugar: Step 1
Go Cold Turkey
For the first week I cut out sugar cold turkey. Now, this is admittedly very hard. You will probably eat lots and lots of food and still feel like you’re starving and like there’s something missing from your stomach that is making you feel not quite full and satisfied. But, there is some good news here.
Since I gave up sugar, I gave myself permission to eat any other “satisfying” snacks I wanted in place of those sugary sweets. So, if I felt like having potato chips, I didn’t hold back! (I stick to plain chips, the ones with just potatoes, oil and salt ingredients – no weird flavored ones because those can secretly be loaded with sugars, and not to mention weird chemicals and even MSG). Read the labels, people.
But, the point is that for the first week or so I allowed myself to “detox” from sugar by fueling my cravings with another comfort-like food. I’m sure most experts would not agree with me here, and I’m not saying to do this forever, but I wanted to be truthful in what helped me in the first initial weeks to curb the cravings.
Plus, these salty snacks are not the ones I have a tendency to overdo. Again, you have to do what’s best for you. If you’re the type of person who eats a whole bag of chips at a time, then yeah, you should probably stay away from those, too.
I know that during a “traditional” sugar detox you’re supposed to eliminate all carbs, bread, etc. But I have tried that and failed many, many times. I just can’t live without some sustenance.
So instead, during the first few weeks I cut back on most “carby” things. By “carby” things I mean things like pasta, breads, rice, etc. (Obviously, potato chips are not included, HA). I did not eliminate them completely though because that would be too much like a strict diet and I knew I would never be able to stick to it.
I still am in complete amazement of how people can thrive on no-carb diets. I’ve actually attempted it and the longest I’ve lasted is like maybe 12 hours. So, I’ve got that going for me…
Now, if you typically eat a very unhealthy diet filled with fast food, fried dishes, and pre-packaged meals, then yes, I would advise that you take a step back and eliminate some of those foods as well. But, as I said earlier, my diet is extremely healthy, minus the sugar. I do not eat any fast food, and hardly any fried food, red meat, creamy high-fat sauces, etc. For no other reason than I have learned that my body does not feel good when I eat these foods, so I just skip them.
During the first few weeks of sugar detox, I did allow myself to have pizza (occasionally – maybe once a week, if that) or bread on a sandwich, for example. Or if I felt like veggies and protein wasn’t enough for dinner I would mix in some rice or have a small piece of bread with my salad.
I basically just ate my normal diet (sans sugar) while simultaneously cutting back on the carbs, but not eliminating them completely. Again, this wasn’t about making my diet healthier, it was only about trying to eliminate the sugar cravings. And as long as the carbs didn’t trigger cravings, I figured it was fine.
Anyway, whatever I did has worked! The intense sugar cravings were pretty much gone by the end of Week 2. And, although I did not do this for weight loss, I almost immediately noticed a flatter stomach. I’m talking like within the first 2-3 days. Pretty crazy, huh? I also ended up losing a couple of pounds, too. All while still eating pizza and potato chips.
So, hopefully now you can see how much sugar can negatively impact and secretly sabotage all your dieting efforts. Like I said, I’ve done a sugar detox in the past, but the results weren’t nearly as successful as they were this time. Previously, the cravings never went away completely because I was still eating foods that were triggering the need for sugar.
Keep on reading to see the exact foods I avoided and some tips & tricks I used during my sugar detox to keep those cravings at bay.
How to Detox from Sugar: Step 2
Eat these Foods to Keep Cravings at Bay
I know, I know. Fruit is packed with sugar, right? Yes, it is. But this is not the type of sugar I crave. I am a Skittle-popping maniac over here. Eating an orange is not replacing the sugar that’s in a bag of Skittles. So, go ahead and have some fruit.
For some weird reason, if I was craving sugar I would eat a slice of cheese and maybe a cracker and feel OK about not having that bag of gummy bears. (Notice I said A CRACKER – not the whole box. Carby things, ya know?)
Always try to buy natural, organic nut butters when possible and make sure they have no added sugars. One of my favorite treats to curb the cravings is sliced banana with a spoonful of crunchy peanut butter and sprinkled with cinnamon. As an added bonus, the nut butters contain healthy fats so it makes you feel fuller longer.
Ugh, I know, how boringgg. But seriously, make sure you drink plenty of water. Freshen it up with a slice of lemon or lime, or add in some fresh basil leaves or cucumber. Water is great for flushing the system of toxins, too.
Flavored Sparkling Water
During my cleanse I drank nothing but water or tea. Having a flavored water option was a lifesaver. I’m not talking about the ones you see at Walmart with artificial sweetners added. I’m talking about the carbonated waters with natural flavors, brands such as La Croix, Poland Spring Sparklers, and Polar Seltzer. Polar makes some amazing flavors such as Orange Vanilla (that tastes like a Creamsicle) and seasonal flavors such as Blueberry Lemonade – if you’ve never had these you need to try them! Add some fresh fruit and you’ll have yourself a delicious and refreshing treat.
Freeze Dried Fruit
Freeze dried fruit is my #1 secret trick to cutting the added sugars out of your diet. If you’ve never had it, freeze dried fruit is almost like candy. It’s real fruit that’s been hardened into little fluffy bites and the taste is heavenly. It has that satisfying crunch that tricks your brain into thinking you’re eating something more substantial than it really is. Which is why it was my #1 go-to for satisfying my sweet tooth during my detox.
If you buy it in the grocery store freeze dried fruit can be very expensive, but my favorites (banana here and mango here) are a great buy – almost half the price of grocery store brands like Welch’s. The best part is that these have no sugar or preservatives added – just plain ol’ fruit. Eat freeze dried fruit sparingly and try to save it as a treat for when the cravings really hit.
And below are some tricky foods that surprisingly contain tons of hidden sugar. I avoided all of these foods because for me, they were definite triggers to craving more sweets.
How to Detox from Sugar: Step 3
Avoid these Foods to Prevent Cravings
Although granola has the stigma of being a healthy food, it’s usually loaded with sugar and tons of carbs. Just not worth the splurge, in my opinion.
Milk (cow’s milk)
This sneaky beverage is loaded with hidden sugars. Read the label and see for yourself. Almond milk is OK, as long as it’s unsweetened.
Honey & Agave
I know these are naturally derived sugars, but I avoided them, too. Because, for me, one taste of that sweet, sweet nectar and I would be fiending for something more.
Surprisingly, yogurts are very high in sugars. Even plain, non-fat Greek yogurt has a relatively high amount of sugar. I always wondered why I never felt full after eating yogurt for breakfast, and now I have my answer. Try some scrambled or hard boiled eggs for breakfast instead.
This one should be a no-brainer, but most cereals have tons of sugar. If you do find one that’s not loaded with sugar (maybe Grape Nuts or Shredded Wheat?), have it with unsweetened almond or soy milk, but only as an occasional snack since they also contain tons of carbs.
Even though these are made from fruit, juices are super concentrated and many have sugar added. Stick to calorie-free naturally flavored sparkling waters with a slice of lemon or lime instead.
Jelly & Jams
Since these are made from fruit some people may think they are OK, but these actually contain tons of sugar. The varieties that contain fruit only (nothing else added) are a bit better, but I’d advise to stay away from those as well, just in order to keep those cravings at bay.
Salad Dressing & Sauces
Another tricky little item here. Many salad dressings have tons of sugar (the ones with fruit flavors like Raspberry Vinaigrette are the worst offenders). Also, ketchup and BBQ sauce are surprisingly high in sugars. I did allow myself to still have these though, because who wants to eat grilled chicken without a yummy sauce to dip it in? (And it’s not like I’m going to eat an entire bottle of BBQ sauce. Come on now!)
Diet Sodas & Anything with Artificial Sweetners
I am not a soda drinker at all, so this was not tough for me. But anything with artificial sweetners should not be consumed during the sugar detox. Even though it may not be adding any calories to your intake, your brain still senses the sweet sensation. This is usually enough to trigger the craving for more sugars, so if you’re looking to kick those to the curb I would avoid these altogether. Plus, artificial sweetners=gross!
Alcohol & Wine
Sorry to be the party pooper here. But alcohol is loaded with sugar, guys. And I’m sure you probably already knew this. If you are at an event where you need to have alcohol (HA, we’ve all been there), opt for clear liquors like vodka or gin.
How to Detox from Sugar: Step 4
Find Activities that Distract
I found that adding in a daily workout helped to not think about the sugar that I wasn’t eating. It doesn’t have to be an epic workout, just a short 30 min workout video or a quick run around the block will do. But, if you work out super hard (for example, my personal fave: the Focus T25 workouts which are only 25 mins a day) you should feel like heaving and not eating, so that’s a bonus. (I’m obviously kidding here, but those of you who do rigorous cardio with weights know that feeling I’m talking about).
The first initial weeks of my sugar cleanse happened to be very busy ones at work, so I was fortunate in that way. Keeping my mind busy on tasks and deadlines gave me less time to worry about when my next snack was coming.
If your work schedule doesn’t have you staying busy, plan a date with a friend. You could try going for a walk or a workout out together, giving you a double shot of distractions.
Just kidding! You don’t have to avoid Pinterest, but try to stay away from looking up recipes for those double fudge peanut butter caramel cheesecake brownies. Just seeing sweets made me crave them even more and I know Pinterest is chock full of delicious temptations. Trust me, it will be easier if you don’t look.
Eliminate Sugar from your Home
I did not do this prior to kicking my sugar habit, but as it turns out, I didn’t need to. Through some divine miracle that I will never know, my willpower was strong enough to not be temped by the multiple candy jars that were still hanging around these parts. I told you I was determined, didn’t I?
But, it’s totally normal to be tempted by things that are right in front of your nose. So, if possible, do a clean sweep of your pantry and shelves before attempting to detox.
So, in summary, now that I am currently several weeks into this sugar detox challenge, I find to be less hungry overall during the day. And when I do eat a meal I stay fuller longer. Whereas before I would be reaching for a sugary treat every couple of hours (and always after a meal), I now stay full until the next meal time. Pretty crazy, huh? Like, I almost can’t believe this is actually me right now.
And if I can do it, I have no doubt that you’ll be able to give sugar the heave-ho, too. While this isn’t a lifestyle I plan on doing forever (can you imagine never eating another cupcake?), and definitely not while on vacation, it’s nice to know how to detox from sugar if I feel like my cravings are getting out of control.
The absolute worst part was feeling like I did not have control of my body, so it’s nice to be back in charge.
I will slowly be adding in some foods that contain sugar, just to see if the intense cravings come back. I will keep you updated and edit this post on what I find! Update: Click here to see my 30-day sugar detox progress report! Find out what happened to my weight, my appetite, and my energy levels after giving sugar the boot!
So, to sum it up:
How to detox from sugar: Summary
- Go cold turkey
- Find a “comfort food” to substitute when cravings hit (but only for the first week!)
- Try to cut back on carby foods in your daily diet (pasta, breads, rice, etc)
- Eat foods like fruit, nut butters, flavored waters, herbal teas, and freeze dried fruit to help curb cravings
- Avoid foods such as milk, yogurt, alcohol, juice, diet sodas, granola, and honey
- Participate in activities and stay busy to keep distracted
So, hopefully some of these tips will work for you in kicking the sugar habit. Again, you have to find what works for you, but I wanted to share what specifically worked for me. And if you’re trying to eat a healthier diet in general, eliminating sugar is a great first step.
So, now I want to hear from you. Have you ever tried to overcome sugar addiction? Do you have any additional questions on how to detox from sugar? What tips have worked for you? I would love to hear about your journey so leave me a comment below!
Some items that helped me during my sugar detox: