Everyone likes a bit of sweetness now and then, it is a popular ingredient in many of our favourite foods and drinks. However, if your diet is constantly filled with sugar, then you may be putting yourself at risk of a number of common illnesses; such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay. If you think your daily intake of sugar is higher than it should be then you may want to take part in the Sugar Free February initiative set by Cancer Research UK.
To help you, we’ve created Sugar Free February Top Tips and useful advice that you can take on board to help you cut down on the sugar and experience the benefits of better health.
Take the challenge at your pace
Sugar Free February shouldn’t mean you cut out sugar entirely, this is almost impossible as most foods contain processed and naturally occurring sugars. For the 28 days, you set the targets and reach the diet goal you want to achieve. If you can make it to the end of the month with even a small amount of sugar cut out of your diet then you should be proud, You control how much sugar you want this February!
Avoid artificial sugars
Artificial sweeteners like sorbitol and stevia offer the same level of sweetness as traditional sugar while being far lower in calories, or completely calorie-free. This is good for those who regularly drink hot drinks like tea and coffee as it can cut down on the amount of sugar being used without losing the taste. Sweeteners may be looking like a good option for cutting down, but the health benefits of artificial sugars are in question. Testing suggests that sweeteners have an impact on our appetite, making us crave sugar even more.
If you are taking part in Sugar-free Feb then it is best to avoid artificial sugars unless you can easily fight the cravings.
Read your ingredients and your product labels
By law, foods are required to include a nutrition facts label to show the amount of fat, sugar, salt and other nutrients that are inside the food item. A green, amber and red coding system is a quick and simple way to see what is in your food. Sugar is often hidden away in reduced-fat foods, healthy fast food options and condiments like ketchup and salad dressings.
Avoid food that has a red colour code, as these are usually very high in fat or sugar – this is especially true of pre-packaged meals and other packaged items. If you have to have one of these dishes, then it is best to go for the one with the highest number of green and amber labels.
Avoid sugary drinks
Fizzy drinks and juice cordial contain a high amount of sugar due to both the natural fruit flavourings and added sugar by the manufacturer, which is no good if you are cutting sugar from your diet. Store-bought coffees are more often than not sold with added flavourings like syrups and vanilla extract to give you a sweeter, frothier coffee. You might be shocked to find that some coffees and energy drinks contain upwards of 25 teaspoons of sugar per cup/can. Creating a drink at home allows you to control the amount of sugar you put in, you could replace sugary drinks with more beneficial options – like black tea & coffee, fruit tea and good old fashioned water.
Plan ahead – breakfast, lunch, dinner and your snacks
Like any diet, sticking to a weekly food plan is key to keep you from slipping into snacking and eating the wrong things. If you plan your meals down to the ingredients and the time you will be eating both day and night, you’ll be less likely to snack in between meals.
Beating sugar cravings – have a positive mindset
Slipping into cravings affects almost all of us, one way to change your mindset is to be strict with yourself, ask yourself – do I really need this? What else could I be eating instead? Ask yourself what you should have instead of what you could have. Keeping yourself active and drinking plenty of water helps you stay focused on healthier options when cravings strike, drinking water keeps you feeling full and refreshed, always carry a bottle with you to trick your brain into forgetting the cravings were even there.
Be adventurous, try something new
Cutting down on sugar allows you to try new types of food and drink. See the month as 29 days of new, exciting and exotic food. Not only will it keep your mind off the cravings but may help find a new favourite food.
Focus on the health benefits
Sugar-free Feb should be a positive experience, if you are ever feeling down then you must remember – this is benefiting my health and my willpower. Not only will you be feeling great, but you’ll be experiencing new foods, maintaining a healthy weight and challenging your relationship with unhealthy food.
If you are taking part this February, good luck and make a positive difference to your health. If you would like more information on how to lose weight well, check out our 5 tips to help you lose weight.