More of us are now aware how sugar—particularly excessive free sugars not bound by fiber—can detrimentally affect our health. This begs the question: What’s the best way to reduce or eliminate it from your diet?
Reducing or eliminating free sugars may not seem like a simple task, especially since three of four products on our supermarket shelves have added sugar, but giving yourself a workable plan and foundation will make a sugar cleanse not only doable, but enjoyable.
After doing a number of 10-day and 30-day guided sugar detoxes with clients and writing SugarDetoxMe: 100+ Recipes to Curb Cravings and Take Back Your Health, I concluded that certain positive behavioral changes can set you up on a stronger path toward looking and feeling healthy, just in time for summer.
To get started on this sugar-free journey, I'm sharing a 7-day detox guide to eliminate many sugars from your diet. Doing this shortened form of a cleanse is less about giving you an immediate cure-all for sugar cravings and more about instilling a sense of how a few key tweaks can transform your health.
Day 1: Psychologically prepare yourself.
As much as we would like to stave off our sugar cravings immediately or lose that last five pounds, psychologically preparing yourself before you do any dietary change, including a sugar detox, is key to your success.
Before my first sugar cleanse, I mentally prepared myself for months before I officially dove in. This period included setting goals for myself so I knew what I was committing to, and making those goals my mantra.
Day 2: Prep and “clean up” your environment.
Around 80% of our meals are eaten within 5 miles of our homes, and considering that the average American works 8.8 hours a day, 1-2 meal choices are often made on the job. So why not set up both your work and home environments to be more health-centric?
Clean out your kitchen cupboards and refrigerators. Remove any sugary snacks or food items that remain on the countertops and tables and replace them with a giant fruit bowl. If you have candy dishes at work, get rid of them and replace them with healthy snacks. If you have a tendency to rush out the door in the morning, set out your pots and pans on the stovetop or prepare some breakfast items on-the-go; hard-boiled eggs are the perfect solution.
Day 3: Remove sugary beverages.
If you take away ONE task that will help you the most on your sugar detox journey, remove sugary beverages from your diet. According to the USDA, the average American consumes nearly half of her sugar intake through drinks like sugary soda, energy drinks, juices, smoothies and sweetened coffees and teas.
Instead, substitute sugary beverages for sparkling water more flavorful teas like ginger-turmeric or licorice-mint, or try this Apple, Mint and Strawberry Tea from SugarDetoxMe below.
Apple, Mint and Strawberry Tea
⅓ cup green apple, diced
¼ cup strawberries, diced
2–3 sprigs mint leaves
2¼ cups boiling water
1. Place the apple, strawberries, and mint in a teapot. Add the water and let steep for 2 minutes. Enjoy.
Day 4: Find your sugar-free breakfast routine.
I know it’s cliche to say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day but, in terms of sugar, it is. What you eat or drink in the morning will determine your blood sugar throughout the rest of the day.
If you have a breakfast high in sugar—pancakes with syrup, jelly on toast, coffee with two sugars, sugary granola or cereal, flavored yogurt—you’re setting yourself up for a sugar crash in the afternoon, compelling you to want to refill up probably on more sugary foods.
Brussels Sprouts Hash with Mushrooms
1.5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 shallot, diced
1 garlic clove, diced
1 portobello cap
½ lb Brussels sprouts
Pinch of sea salt
2 tablespoons mushroom broth
Squeeze of lemon
1 pastured egg
1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and a chopped shallot in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Saute for 2 minutes or until the shallot is translucent. Add 1 chopped garlic clove and sauté for another minute.
2. Add 1 large portobello mushroom cap, ½ pound of chopped Brussels sprouts, and salt to the skillet. Cover the mixture and sauté for 5 minutes or until mushrooms and Brussels sprouts start to soften. Sprinkle with a couple of tablespoons of mushroom broth and a little lemon juice halfway through and cover.
3. In a separate nonstick skillet, heat the remaining olive oil, then crack the egg into the skillet. Cover the skillet and let the egg steam for 2 to 3 minutes, making sure not to overcook the yolk. To serve, mound the Brussels sprouts and mushroom on a plate and place the egg on top.
Day 5: Snack better.
While you’re continuing on the path of removing sugary beverages and eating a healthy breakfast, start to pay attention to when you’re snacking, what you’re snacking on and why you may be snacking. These are important questions to tackle because perhaps you’re snacking not out of hunger, but out of stress or boredom.
Whatever the case, set yourself up so that you can mindlessly eat better. Use the simple ideas listed below to make your daily grind a bit healthier.
SugarDetoxMe’s 6 Simple Snack Suggestions:
- Easy-to-peel whole oranges or mandarins
- Whole apples with hummus, unsweetened almond butter, or slices of aged gouda
- Handfuls of cashews, almonds or your favorite nut
- Bunch of bananas
- Cucumber slices, lightly salted
- Seaweed snacks
Day 6: Combine everything you’ve learned from day 1-5, but do it with intention.
Once you’ve incorporated all your tactics, you’ll want to repeat the previous day, but this time, make sure that you’re doing the activities with real intention.
If you can find the time, record everything that you eat and drink, marking down how you feel in the process, what your current mindset is, or even where you are while you’re eating or drinking. Research shows that people who record their habits are more likely to succeed in incorporating new behavioral shifts in their life.
Day 7: Reflect.
After completing a third day of eating well, be sure to give yourself at least a half hour to reflect on your experience. Note whether you went through any withdrawal symptoms or, conversely, if you felt better than ever. If you feel compelled to, you may want to continue with your newfound healthy eating skills to the point that they become habitual. Remember: You are your best health adviser.
Part of this discovery of eating better is not necessarily what I, or any other person for that matter, can dictate to you. Sure, there are tactics and best practices you can learn, but in the end, you know what will work best for you. Let these ideas serve as a guide that can provide you with the tools, skills and confidence to be your own best health advocate.