A few years ago, I started on a quest to eliminate sugar from the family diet. It is still an ongoing struggle as it sneaks into our diet in so many ways. Sugar creates a vicious cycle, the more that you consume it, the more that you crave it. The whole family agrees that we all feel better when we eliminate sugar. We know that too much sugar is very harmful, it leads to a plethora of problems including behavioural issues, diabetes and obesity and we just don’t feel very good when we eat it.
“Sugar is a contributing factor to not just obesity and diabetes, but to almost every long-term, degenerative disease out there, and it gets its hooks in us during childhood” cites Gary Taubes, The Case Against Sugar. Cutting out sugar can be especially tough when it’s hidden in so many products (sauces, dressings, deli meat and almost every processed food), but as more and more health organizations ring alarm bells, many parents are reading labels and reducing sugar to break the cycle.
Here are a few smart tips to reduce and eliminate sugar from the family diet.
AT THE TABLE
Cut out the obvious. Soft drinks, ice cream, pastries, canned fruit, and candy are loaded with high-glycemic sugars. Encourage your kids to stay away from soft drinks. FACT: There is 10 tablespoons of sugar in one can of soft drinks. Empty your pantry of any of these offenders and don’t keep any of them in the house to avoid temptation.
Remove ketchup from the table at every meal; try to get your kids accustomed to eating without it. FACT: There is 1 tablespoon of added sugar in every tablespoon of ketchup.
Establish rules about dessert. For example, if you have dinner after every meal, only have dessert after dinner. Only eat dessert on odd days of the month, or only on weekends, or only at restaurants. Expose your children to fruits like dates and figs, which taste almost like morsels of caramel and also happen to be high in fibre.
Go half and half. Mix half a carton of sweetened yogurt with half a carton of plain yogurt. Mix half a cup of regular juice with half a cup of water or sparkling water . Do this for a couple of weeks, then cut back to one-quarter sweetened to three-quarters unsweetened. Continue until you’re only drinking the unsweetened version.
Eat real food. Eliminate processed foods from your family’s diet and you will see a huge change in a very short period of time. Pick 5 good dinner recipes to make during the week or make a large batch of food on Sundays to eliminate the need to pick up fast food or processed food to serve at dinner time.
AT THE GROCERY STORE
Shop for colour. Choose colourful fruits and vegetables for your shopping basket. The more colour, the better. Increase your consumption of fresh vegetables and low-glycemic fruits such as berries and cherries. Choose seasonal fruits for the best and sweetest kind. Bonus: they are also less expensive and abundant when they are in season.
Become a food detective. Start reading labels. To reduce sugar, you have to know where to find it. A reasonable amount of sugar to aim for is less than 10 grams per serving.
Beware of artificial sweeteners. Unfortunately, these increase cravings for sugar and carbohydrates. They also deplete the body’s stores of chromium, a nutrient crucial for blood-sugar metabolism. Try natural sweeteners like: regular honey, date honey or real maple syrup.
Buy unsweetened cereal or cereal with less grams per serving and more protein. This will help eliminate the sugar cravings throughout the day and protein will keep you fuller longer. Add fresh fruit and honey at home.
Pack a snack. Help them to resist temptation and save money too. There are plenty of opportunities to consume unnecessary sugars when you are out of the house. By bringing a healthy snack, you can stay ahead of the hunger curve and you are less likely to indulge in something sweet and sugary that you will regret later. MTM Family Meals has a great selection of healthy snacks.
Introduce your family to semi-sweet and then dark chocolate and see if they bite … the closer chocolate is to raw cacao, the better it is for your health. My kids love dark chocolate in their trail mix.
Reward yourself. While eating sugar free is not always easy do not feel like you can never have sugar again. Do not feel as though you cannot celebrate. Just take everything in moderation and enjoy the good times.
For more information on cutting out sugar, read my original blog post Get the Sugar out of the Family Diet.