The New Year's Switch-Up: Sugar
Many of my patients have taken on detox diets to try and erase the sins of the season, and start the year off with clean eating. One of my patients is even doing a 30 day ‘no sugar’ challenge.
And while I love to see people taking positive steps towards healthy living, I'm also always thinking long term.
Eating healthy shouldn’t just be something you do out of guilt in January, it should be something you can easily maintain all year long. The see-saw of complete indulgence and then harsh restriction (when we start to cleanse or detox in the new year) isn't just unpleasent: it can be unnecessarily hard on the body. And THEN there's all the research that proves what we all know in our hearts: diets don't work. Only changing your lifestyle will give you the health (and waistline) results you're after.
Now, I don't mean to be a party pooper, and as I've mentioned, this is a great time of year to set yourself up for health and wellness in the new year. But why not make some shifts now that you can carry on past the end of January?
Over the next few weeks I'm going to be providing some tips for kick-starting your healthy new year (and avoiding the all-or-nothing thinking that's destined to see you in the same boat next year).
It can taste soooo good, but it's so bad for you: too many refined sugars in our diets can cause diabetes, metabolic syndrome, inflammation, weight gain, fatigue, stress of the liver and kidneys and so on. Ugh.
If you can do a 30-day sugar cleanse (or better yet, longer than that) I applaud you!
Unfortunately for most of my patients who have hectic lives juggling jobs, kids and family responsibilities, staying away from refined sugar can be a real challenge. It's just too easy to grab a cookie from the coffee shop, or a chocolate bar from the vending machine, when you're sleep-deprived or stressed.
Now here's my disclaimer for all those with a sweet-tooth (including myself): sugar doesn’t have to be all bad. It’s the types of sugars that you consume that are the worst. So you can definitely go ahead and do that strict 30-day sugar cleanse this month, then binge on muffins and chocolates by the time Valentine's Day comes around. Or, you can try integrating some of these substitutions in your day-to-day life, and maintain these new habits for the rest of the year:
1. Go for fruit
Fruit sugars (blueberries, pear, kiwi, apple) that are in their natural forms are the easiest for the body to consume, and having 2-3 servings of fruit per day is very healthy for you.
- Cut up some apple and add a dollop of almond butter and a sprinkle of coconut for your after-dinner snack, instead of setting out a plate of cookies
2. Watch for those sneaky hidden sugars
Flavoured yogurts, ketchup, pasta sauces, and fruit juices are just a few places sugar can hide out in otherwise relatively healthy foods. So read your labels! And do your best to make what you can from scratch.
The Switch Up:
- Buy plain, organic yogurt and add blueberries for breakfast
- Toss your pasta with crushed tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil
- Have water with lemon in place of fruit juice in the morning
3. PUT DOWN THE CARAMEL MACCHIATO!
Enjoying a hot chocolate as a treat once every couple of weeks is ok, enjoying one every evening is a little excessive for your blood sugar balance. The same goes for flavoured lattes - the syrup that most coffee shops use is riddled with refined sugar. Again, an occasional vanilla latte is a sweet treat - but don't kid yourself about how much sugar you're ingesting.
The Switch Up:
- Try a tea misto (tea with steamed milk) instead of a flavoured latte
- Go back to basics with a plain, skinny latte
- Try dandelion root tea blended with a bit of raw cacao, one date, and some coconut oil for a refined-sugar-free hot drink
4. Bake your own
I always encourage my patients to bake their own treats. That way you can control how much sugar goes into the recipe, and can choose different, healthier kinds of sugar.
The Switch Up:
- Coconut sugar is an excellent substitute for white sugar
- Try using half the sugar a recipe calls for - most recipes go too heavy on the sugar, anyway