Quite often I am asked about sugar and how to avoid it and the cravings associated with it. Well, let me start by saying sugar has never had a grip on me. I find it much harder to control myself around a bag of salty potato chips than I do around a box of chocolates. However, I believe the principles of healthy eating and how to avoid excessive sugar consumption are the same as they are for excess salt consumption. (And if you ask my husband whose weakness is sweets – I am sure he would agree!) I face these challenges by following two simple philosophies: avoid processed foods and don’t have the temptations in the house.
Avoid processed foods: Whether it is sugar, fat or salt you are watching, processed foods are loaded with them. One long look at the ingredient and nutrition labels and it is pretty clear that basing a diet on unprocessed, natural, whole, plant-based foods is a phenomenal step in significantly decreasing your consumption of sugar, fat and salt. Simply making the switch to water instead of soft drinks, flavored waters, high energy drinks and fruit juices will also eliminate most excess sugar. Once the overly processed foods are gone, it’s okay to add back in a little bit of sugar, salt or fat in your favorite recipes. Once we made the switch to fresh fruit for deserts instead of cookies and cakes, our sugar consumption plummeted. I will still add a little sugar to fresh strawberries or sautéed pears, but the teaspoon or tablespoon I use is not very much, especially when compared to high fructose corn syrup which finds its way into almost every processed food. I often use a seasoning that my family loves, but it’s fairly high in sodium. I don’t use much of it and I make sure that the rest of the day and the rest of the meal don’t contain much salt. The same holds true with fats and oil. If we want to indulge in a dish with a little extra fat such as guacamole or Brussels sprouts and garlic sautéed in olive oil, then I make sure the rest of the meal doesn’t have any oil in it. This is pretty hard to do with processed foods, because the sugar, fat and salt are “hidden” and we often severely underestimate the amount included. But, if we are adding the ingredients in our own kitchen or at our own table, the amount we add is out in the open and very easy to properly assess.
Don’t have temptations in the house: Okay, you may think I am a little crazy, but if I have any kind of real cheese in the house, I eat it. I just can’t control myself – it’s that addictive to me! I have had cheese in the house to use for “tea sandwiches” I was preparing for my daughter’s ballet presentation, and I nearly had half the package eaten before the day of the performance. I would get up and sneak a bite here and there throughout the day thinking no one would notice and one bite wouldn’t hurt. Next thing I knew, half the cheese was gone! Perhaps you are that way too, or perhaps candy or chocolate is your undoing. Whatever it is, what I learned will work. Since that incident, I absolutely refuse to bring my greatest temptation into the house. I have learned that if I pass it by in the grocery store, no matter how hard that may be, I am done with it. Only once do I need to resist it. However, once it’s in the house, I have to resist the temptation over and over and over again. It’s just not worth it. Every so often, I forget this principle and I’ll “indulge” the family at the grocery store and bring something home we really don’t need. A few days of finding myself giving into the temptation and I am convinced again of the simplicity of leaving it in the store!