Cakes, decorated cookies, bon bons, candy, yule logs, toffee, peanut brittle, eggnog and more decked America’s tables and counter tops this holiday season. Christmas, New Years, and all the holiday parties before and after and in-between all brought a lot of sugar.
For some a high amount of sugar is part of their daily diet, for others, it is a once in a rare occasion treat that they allow themselves to indulge in during the holidays a few times a year. Now that it is the New Year, how do we get off the sugar bandwagon and committed to all of the New Year’s Resolutions that we have set out in order to be healthy?
Here are 6 tips to slay the sugar dragon:
1. Eat balanced meals and snacks and eat them regularly.
One of the biggest contributors to sugar cravings is low blood sugar. The brain runs on glucose, which all sugar and carbohydrates are turned into as the body’s main source of fuel. The brain and body can be made to burn ketones, but not when you are used to eating sugar. If you have been eating sugar regularly, the pancreas is used to pumping out high amounts of insulin and when you stop eating so much sugar, that can mean that your body takes up and stores the glucose so efficiently that suddenly you get a dramatic drop in circulating glucose that the cells use for fuel and the brain panics. You can’t think straight, you may feel shaky, have a headache, feel dizzy, and feel like you need to eat now! In this situation the body drives us to eat sugar for a quick burning fuel source so we can start to function again, but giving into this sugar craving creates a vicious cycle of blood sugar highs and lows.
What is the remedy then? The remedy is to eat balanced meals and snacks. By balanced, I mean trying to get some protein, fat, and carbs at each meal and snack. Carbohydrates are like kindling for a fire, they burn quickly and are gone. Protein and fat on the other hand are satiating, meaning they satisfy your hunger, and keep you full for longer as they are slower burning fuel.
For breakfast I highly suggest eating dinner leftovers like soup, chili, stir frys with veggies, meat and maybe rice or other starch, or something filled with protein and fat like eggs or sausage and veggies. Skip the breads, oatmeal, waffles, and other heavy carb-based breakfasts. It may seem weird at first, but your body will thank you for not carb-loading and then crashing first thing in the morning. Lunch basically is the same kind of recommendations for meals as breakfast and dinner. For dinner, stay away from pasta meals unless the pasta is really just a side dish, and not the main course. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner with a snack or two as needed in the day will keep your blood sugar better managed.
For snacks, consider meat bars like Epic, Chomps or a nitrate free jerky. Nuts and fruit or cheese is an excellent choice or something like an apple and nut butter. Celery and peanut butter can also be a great choice as fiber is also helpful in filling the belly and slowing the absorption of sugars. Another tip: get your nut butters unsweetened, but salted, and you won’t be getting unnecessary added sugars.
A quick note on fat: Fat is way underrated and feared in our society. The body uses fat in so many ways, that we cannot cut it out and expect to be healthy. Fat is the slowest burning fuel source for energy, which makes it great for managing blood sugar. Our body uses cholesterol to repair arteries that get damaged from inflammation, often from too much sugar, and it also uses that cholesterol to make very much needed hormones in the body. Each one of our cell membranes is made up of a layer of fat called phospholipids that protect the insides of the cell and allows nutrients in and wastes out. Deficiencies in key fatty acids can lead to dry skin, especially in the winter. Plus bile is used to digest fat, so if we aren’t eating fat, our bile gets thick and viscous and causes gallbladder stones to develop and issues to form later on.
The key to fats is choosing the right ones. Stay away from highly refined, gmo vegetable oils like soy oil, canola, and corn oil. Also stay away from fried foods and hydrogenated fats that are toxic. Stick to healthier fats like olive oil, avocado oil, butter, coconut oil and ghee. We offer a great healthy Goat Milk Ghee that is high in Medium Chain Triglycerides, contains CLA, and tastes delicious! It comes from grass-fed goats and is great for cooking veggies or blending in your butter tea or coffee! Check it out here.
2. When you have a craving for sugar or hunger for nothing in particular, stop and drink some water.
Sometimes our brain gets the hunger and thirst signal mixed up, especially if you aren’t used to drinking water. When people only drink flavored, sugared drinks like coffee, soda, or sweetened tea, they are often in a chronic state of dehydration where the body may not give off thirst signals like it should. When you get a sugar craving, first ask yourself if you really are hungry and need a balanced snack, and if that is a no, go drink 8 oz of water and keep your brain busy and off sugar for 15-30 minutes then re-assess.
Some of us just eat out of boredom, so if you aren’t really craving anything in particular, it is a good sign that you just need to go find something to occupy your time and brain.
3. Make sure to include fermented foods and probiotics to get your gut back in balance.
Eating lots of sugar throws our gut out of whack and can give yeast and bad bacteria the upper hand. Once these guys start to take over, they send signals to the body to crave sugar in order to allow their numbers to grow. Don’t give in!
Make sure you get your probiotics in through supplements and fermented foods like sauerkraut to get the balance back! We offer two great probiotics cultured in goat milk with a high count of 61 billion cfu per serving. Caprobiotics Advanced is our travel, shelf-stable probiotic with 7 strains and the key probiotic of Bacillus Coagulans. Caprobiotics Plus is our refrigerated probiotic with 10 strains and the key probiotic being Lactobacillus Acidophilus DDS-1. Make sure you check these out! I personally use the Caprobiotics Plus regularly.
4. Assess your stress levels and keep stress to a minimum to prevent emotional eating.
With stress rampant in many of our lives due to the constant hustle and bustle and demands on us, a lot of us turn to emotional eating when stressed, at least once in a while. When you are feeling overwhelmed, instead of shoving down sugar, take a walk and do some deep breathing. Look at the beauty around you in nature and give yourself a moment to assess what you are feeling and why, and how you can change the situation or your view of it to ease that stress.
5. Clear your cabinets and commit to a healthier lifestyle with a friend or two or a family member.
This one is pretty simple but is worth mentioning. If you don’t want to eat sugar, don’t keep it around! Throw it out and clear the pantry, then don’t buy any more of it. Then find a buddy that you can talk with who wants to go sugar free or at least cut down the sugar too. Encourage each other and keep each other accountable. A quick text with a funny emoji on how you are feeling might be enough to eliminate some stress and refocus you. Part of any problem is simply having the awareness that it exists and having a buddy to talk through the various emotions can be helpful.
6. Be mindful of the restrictions you put on yourself around sugar and how you talk to yourself when slipping.
This one is big for me. Everyone is different, but it seems for me that I have the hardest time quitting sugar (or gluten or whatever) when I put a hard and fast rule on setting a select number of days that I am going to go without it. Something about telling myself I can’t have sugar or xyz for 2 weeks suddenly seems to make it harder to cut that thing out of my life! On the other hand, if I think about how bad it has been making me feel (this is coffee for me lately!) and I think about how I want to feel, I can set a goal to go a week and not feel so much pressure to stick to it. Setting a smaller time frame makes it achievable, and I approach it with the mindset that if I do give in and indulge, I am not going to beat myself up about it, but I will see how it makes me feel and reassess. That happened this past week, I set a goal to go from Thursday of one week to Friday of the next week without coffee. I felt like I needed coffee to get through Thursday, so I gave in a day early. Then I realized how bad I felt drinking it, and reminded myself that it is something I don’t need. So I will continue my coffee fast, learn from the experience, and move on.
Most people beat themselves up when they have a hiccup in a fast from something and then get so frustrated and beaten down, they just give up and continue to indulge. Giving in and having sugar doesn’t have to be the end of your detox from sugar, learn from it and get back into healthy eating and feeling better.
To health and limited sugar in the New Year, Cheers!