Take the 7-Day Sugar Challenge
So how do you start reducing the added sugar in your diet? A good first step is to take our 7-day Sugar Challenge, which will deliver a new strategy each day for cutting added sugar. By the end of the week, you will have adopted several new healthful habits that can put you well on the way to cutting added sugar from your diet for good.
To start, it’s a good idea to cut sugar out of breakfast, which tends to be the sweetest meal of the day. Cutting sugary beverages and eating whole foods rather than packaged foods makes a big dent in your sugar consumption. If you crave dessert, eat fruit instead (skip the grapes, which are mostly sugar), and it’s best to limit other types of dessert to once a week.
And when you read food labels, look for added sugar in disguise. “One should keep in mind that added sugars go by many different names like ‘brown sugar,’ ‘beet sugar,’ ‘agave nectar’ and ‘honey,’” says Dr. Frank Hu, chair of the department of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “But don’t be fooled by these names, because they are all added sugars with similar metabolic effects and extra calories.”
Cutting added sugar isn’t easy. During the first five days of no added sugar, you will probably experience cravings for sweets. And be warned that studies show that many of us are particularly vulnerable to craving sugary snacks in the evening.
But stick with it, and soon the cravings will fade. You’ll start to feel more energetic, more focused and less irritable. You might even lose weight.
While our challenge lasts for seven days, the goal is to change your diet and stick with your new habits for a lifetime of healthful eating. After just 10 days of cutting added sugar, one important study of overweight children has shown improvements in numerous metabolic markers, including blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.
Note that cutting added sugar doesn’t mean you’ll be eliminating sweet foods from your life entirely. If you adopt a standard daily diet of whole foods with no added sugar, you will still be ingesting about 10 percent of your calories from natural sugars. And once you’ve got added sugar under control, the occasional treat of chocolate or dessert won’t derail you. Dr. Lustig recommends three weeks of no added sugar to get your brain’s dopamine system back to normal.
“Then you can introduce something back in,” Dr. Lustig says. “But it’s got to be under your control, not the food industry’s control.”