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One of my favourite ways to hit the “reset” button in January is to complete a three-week sugar challenge. After a month of being out of our usual routine and consuming more sugar and food outside of the home, it is easy to get into the habit of reaching for chocolate, cookies, etc. as a quick snack or to “complete” our meal. Since our taste buds are constantly regenerating and replace themselves every few weeks, one of the quickest ways to reset our palate is to cut out refined sugars for three weeks.

The foods I specifically recommend avoiding include:

  • Pop (regular and diet pop), juice, alcohol, energy drinks, and other sweetened beverages.
  • Cookies, pastries, candy, chocolate (even dark chocolate), granola bars, dried fruit, jam.
  • Sugar (white, brown, cane, beet and coconut sugar), high fructose corn syrup, agave, maple syrup, honey, xylitol and stevia.

Note:

  • All fresh and frozen fruit are allowed during this challenge.
  • Recipes calling for small amounts of honey or maple syrup are allowed.

How to Prepare:

  • Pick your start date a few days in advance (for example, Monday January 6t) to give yourself time to plan and prep some meals and snacks. Be sure each meal and snack contains enough protein, fat and fibre to keep you satisfied and prevent swings in your blood sugar.
  • Remove temptations! Organize your pantry and either freeze left over sweets or get them out of the home.
  • Stock up on healthy food that you can easily grab and go when tight for time. I find it helpful to have the following on hand:
    • Cut up raw veggies
    • A selection of fresh fruit
    • Sugar-free blueberry banana muffins (see recipe below)
    • Trail mix (I like the combination of almonds, cashew, walnuts, pumpkin seeds and coconut strips)
    • Plain (unflavoured) 2-3% fat yogurt
    • Almond butter
    • Hummus
    • Mary’s crackers
    • Hard boiled eggs
    • Mixed greens
    • Can of chickpeas
    • Lemons and/or limes to add to water
  • Drink lots of water, aiming for at least 2L/day. Start your morning with a large glass of water and the squeeze of half a lemon.

Tips to Overcome Cravings:

  • Have a glass of water with lemon or lime. One of the best ways to fight the urge for something sweet is to have something that is sour.
  • Distract yourself for 5 minutes – most cravings will disappear within this time frame. Brainstorm three replacement behaviours in advance that you can distract yourself with, such as going for a walk, cleaning/organizing your desk, listening to music, or calling a friend.
  • Find sweetness in non-food sources, such as sharing a hug with family and friends or treat yourself to a massage. Interpersonal touch has been shown to reduce stress hormones and raise levels of endorphins and oxytocin, two of our “feel good” hormones.

The first three days of taking out sugar are often the toughest. Cravings can be intense; you may experience headaches and feel irritable. Being prepared helps to get through the first few days, and by the second week most people feel better. Supplements such as chromium, magnesium and 5-HTP can help reduce cravings. If you’re looking for more support to overcome your cravings and better balance your blood sugar, please ask at your next appointment!