Interested in the sugar-free lifestyle but unsure where to start? Here is my list of what to eat and not eat as I follow a sugar-free lifestyle.
I love sweets and I love carbs. I have varied my eating habits over the years and in the past year, I have really developed some bad habits. My normal routine would be wake up, have a few cups of coffee, skip breakfast, grab something quick for lunch, have a snack and then eat again at dinner, all followed by a snack later in the evening.
My energy was drained, I felt tired all the time and the middle of the day was survived by consuming coffee. My body ached and I just felt horrible in general. I have always known that sugar isn't a great option for the body and that it can be very addictive. Once I began to do away with all forms of sugar, amazing things began to happen. I had energy, the brain fog I was under vanished, sleep improved and my body quit aching. Sugar causes inflammation and sugar in any form is still sugar to the body.
How to Start
- Gradually. I wouldn't suggest cutting out all sugar immediately, especially if you regularly consume a lot of it. Start small. Begin by eliminating it from your morning coffee or your condiments, like ketchup, salad dressings, bbq sauce, etc
- Start reading labels! Sugar is in almost everything and it hides under various names. There are over 100 names for sugar and sugar alcohols. Dextrose, brown sugar, cane crystals, cane sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, crystal dextrose, evaporated cane juice, fructose sweetener, fruit juice concentrates, high-fructose corn syrup, liquid fructose, malt syrup, maple syrup, raw sugar, sugar, syrup and white sugar are just a few of the more common names of sugar.
- Understand the labels. Grab a jar of salsa the next time you are in the store and look at the ingredients. You will notice that under the sugar grams it may say 1 gram. Then look at the ingredients. Does it have sugar added or is the sugar coming from the vegetables that are in the salsa? You would want to choose the one without added sugar in the ingredients.
- Cook from scratch. It is going to be almost impossible to use packaged foods and eat a sugar-free lifestyle. Cooking from scratch seems to be a lost art for many people but grab a cookbook and start learning. Eating whole foods provides your body with the vitamins, minerals, and nourishment that it needs. There are several lifestyles currently that follow along with the sugar-free lifestyle pretty closely. One of them is Keto and the other is Paleo and there are a large number of cookbooks that share recipes. I personally have some stricter guidelines for myself being sugar-free but those lifestyles are still great choices.
What Did I Eliminate?
- Eliminated all forms of sugar. This includes corn syrup, honey, agave, coconut sugar, fructose, dextrose (and all other ingredients ending in "-ose", and high fructose corn syrup. See list above for more names
- Eliminated all processed foods. I personally eat nothing that is processed because almost all of it has ingredients that are unacceptable to a sugar-free lifestyle.
- Eliminated grains and legumes. This includes wheat, rice, beans (except green beans), quinoa, and peanuts.
- Eliminated all fruits for the time being. I still use pumpkin, zucchini, and avocado in sweet treats. I will eventually add fruit back into my diet but at this time I don't consume any because it is still very high in sugar, although it is natural sugar.
What Do I Eat?
- Vegetables. Lots of vegetables, except corn and regular potatoes. Both of those are starches and they turn to sugar inside the body. Sweet Potatoes are perfectly acceptable and I share my favorite recipe, Crispy Sweet Potatoes on the blog.
- Greens. Lettuce, arugula, chard, etc.
- Meat. I try to find local sources that are pasture raised, grass-fed or organic. A lot of processed meats have to be avoided because sugar is often added to the ingredients.
- Eggs. I eat a lot of eggs. Mostly they are farm fresh, free range.
- Dairy. I use raw, organic milk products. Cream cheese, butter, sour cream, heavy whipping cream and half and half are all acceptable. However, you must watch the ingredients because many times the ingredients will show that sugar has been added.
- Nuts. Peanuts are the only nuts that I don't eat because they are actually a legume. It is key to purchase raw, organic nuts. I love to use almond butter in place of peanut butter and I will purchase almond butter from our local health food store. I can go in and grind it fresh which is always enjoyable.
- Herbs and Spices. These are key to making your foods taste delicious. There was a time that I cooked everything from a box or a can. When I switched to a healthier lifestyle, I learned how to use spices and herbs to make my food taste great!
- Healthy Oil/Fats. I only use coconut oil, olive oil and butter to cook or bake with. These are my favorite three choices. A lot of people make the mistake of cooking olive oil to a high temperature, however, it will become toxic if heated. A general rule to follow with oils is if it is solid at room temperature then use those oils for cooking. If the oil is a liquid, use for salad dressings, condiments or on your vegetables.
- Broth. Bone broth has amazing healing properties. It contains collagen and gelatin which helps support healing for your body.
- Salt. The only salt that I use is Celtic Salt. It is the only salt that is truly from the ocean that contains the perfect balance of minerals for your body.
- The only sweeteners that I currently use are Stevia and Xylitol. Stevia is up to 300 times stronger than regular sugar and a little bit goes a very long way. Again, look at the ingredients on Stevia because some of it is mixed with Dextrose. Stevia is an herb and is completely natural. On occasion, I use Xylitol but only the kind that is made from Birch Bark.
- Replace rice with cauliflower rice.
- Replace mashed potatoes with mashed cauliflower.
- Replace soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce with coconut aminos.
- Replace flour with almond flour.
- Use stevia sweetened chocolate and cacao in place of regular chocolate and cocoa. Lillys Chocolate Chips are the only ones that I use.
- Avoid starches including arrowroot powder, corn starch, etc.
- Always use a high-quality vanilla extract. Avoid the imitation stuff.
Does it sound overwhelming and completely crazy? I thought so at first! It was hard for the first few weeks and then I adapted. The cravings for sugar will be strong in the first few days and maybe even the first few weeks. However, having easy to grab snacks and even a few delicious chocolate recipes on hand will make the transition much easier. The journey is worth it for your body!
I will be sharing recipes and more ideas for living a sugar-free lifestyle in the coming weeks. Don't forget to subscribe and stay in touch through Facebook and Instagram.