After all that feasting through our new year festivities, a diet is almost top of everyone’s mind. Sometimes when you're on a diet, feeling deprived is your biggest enemy. The biggest culprit could be sugar that is creating that craving. Some researches have found that when you consume sugar, it releases dopamine in the same area of our brain that responds to addictive drugs. Simply put - sugar addiction is real.
In fact some sugar cravings can be due to a lack of certain micronutrients. If you crave chocolate, it could be your body telling you it needs magnesium. Pay attention to what type of sugary foods you crave, and you might figure out what your body needs.
When it comes to sugar intake, men on average should eat no more than 25g of total added sugars per day (that's 6 teaspoons or 100 calories), while women should limit their intake to about 19g per day (5 teaspoons or about 75 calories).
We’ve compiled 30 tips to easily manage a low-sugar diet as you head into the year.
1) One teaspoon of sugar equals 16 calories. That's roughly the same as a candy bar, so if you drink a soda with lunch, you might as well have eaten a whole candy bar afterward, too. Try to cut back on all sweet drinks. Save them for special occasions or stick to no more than one per day - and be sure it's 100 percent fruit juice that contains no added sugars at all.
2) If your breakfast cereal has more than 7g of sugar per serving (about 2 teaspoons), put it down and pick another brand. The same goes for yogurt: opt for low-fat varieties instead of regular full-fat choices, which tend to pack in the added sugar.
3) When at a restaurant, ask the waiter how the dish is prepared. A simple request for your dish to be cooked without added sugar could save you from eating a sugary dish without realizing it.
4) Scan food labels for ingredients listed as sugar (rather than just looking at the nutritional information). Sugar shows up in all kinds of surprising places, including sauces, dairy products and even some brands of low-fat yogurt.
5) When baking at home, replace half of the white or brown sugar called for in a recipe with an equal amount of honey (careful it's not syrup or sugar-fed bee honey). This cuts out lots of added sugars without compromising flavor.
6) Choose snacks like nuts and dried fruit, which have just a little natural sugar but lots of healthy fats that will help you feel full longer.
7) Baking? Reduce the amount of sugar in your recipe by one-quarter to one-third, then add a half teaspoon of ground cinnamon for every cup of sugar you would have used. Cinnamon makes treats taste sweet without having to add tons of extra calories.
8) If you love bread, opt for 100 percent whole wheat varieties whenever possible , which tend to have less added sugar than refined white breads. In general, choose breads 3g or less per slice.
9) Veggies are more important than ever once you start eating low sugar. They're packed with diabetes-friendly nutrients and fiber that will help to keep diabetes risk low while keeping hunger at bay.
10) If a recipe calls for sugar, try substituting half the amount with honey - it packs a diabetes-friendly punch that will only enhance the dish's flavor. If you're out of honey, 1 tablespoon of white or brown sugar contains 16 calories. In contrast, 1 tablespoon of maple syrup contains 52 calories, so use it sparingly.
11) Make your own salad dressings using grapeseed or olive oil , which have no added sugars and diabetes-friendly unsaturated fats instead. If you still crave something creamy, mix plain yogurt with a drop of stevia for a low-sugar dressing that won't disrupt diabetes prevention efforts.
12) Don't be afraid to experiment with diabetes-friendly spices like cumin, cinnamon, and chili powder.
13) If you're craving something creamy, mix plain yogurt with a drop of stevia for a low-sugar dressing that won't disrupt diabetes prevention efforts.
14) Swap out pasta sauces made with sugar in favor of diabetes-friendly tomato sauce or marinara , which can elevate the flavor without adding extra sugars. Try to avoid jarred pasta sauces altogether - they typically have added sugars that aren't worth the convenience.
15) Make sure your favorite canned or dried beans are unsweetened when possible. This way you can load up on diabetes-friendly nutrients without worrying about eating too much extra sugar.
16) Make an effort to avoid processed snacks like chips and cookies since the vast majority contain added sugars that can sabotage your sugar reduction plan. Snack on fresh veggies instead.
17) Use stevia or other herbs instead of sugar when making hot tea, coffee, or cocoa. However, do not drink more than four cups per day - caffeine intake may be too great and contribute to diabetes risk. The same goes for black teas: try limiting yourself to just one cup per day since they contain slightly more caffeine than green and white varieties.
18) Mix diabetes-friendly lemonade with seltzer water instead of sugar-packed soda or fruit juice. A low-sugar diet can still include the occasional refreshing carbonated soft drink if need be - just limit yourself to one 12 ounce serving per day.
19) Instead of reaching for chocolate bars loaded with refined sugars, try eating some dark chocolate instead since it contains less insulin disrupting ingredients and more diabetes protection. Just make sure it's at least 70% cocoa, and limit such treats to a single ounce per day - that's only 100 calories, which is much better than the average sugar-loaded candy bar.
20) Try making diabetes-friendly rice pudding with eggs and vanilla extract instead of buying it already prepared at the store if you must have a diabetes disrupting meal or snack. Just make sure you keep servings to just three whole egg and sugar filled desserts per day since diabetes prevention efforts aren't exactly perfect when it comes to low calorie carbohydrates like rice grains.
21) If you're craving something sweet but want diabetes prevention benefits, try hot milk with your favorite tea leaves and low-sugar sweetener instead of diabetes disrupting commercial hot cocoa.
22) If you must have ice cream, keep pureed or cut fruits in the freezer and take them out when you have a craving instead of buying those sugar laden tubs at the store. Just limit them to just one per day since they still have some carbohydrates that can disrupt insulin levels.
23) You can make diabetes-friendly granola bars with whole grains and honey if you must eat something sweet on the go. Don't eat more than three per day though - even though they're diabetes friendly, too much carbohydrate is bad for your blood sugar control.
24) Keep low-sugar honey on hand if you need a quick fix for your sweet tooth. Just don't eat more than three servings per day and keep diabetes prevention efforts in check with these beverages, too.
25) Low calorie pasta can be made by replacing carbohydrates in recipes with healthy whole grains. Don't eat more than one serving per day since that's all your body needs and too much carbohydrate can leave you feeling troubled.
26) Plan ahead to avoid cravings for candy, cookies or other unhealthy foods at work, on the road or in a restaurant. Keep diabetes-safe snacks like fresh fruit on hand so you won't be tempted to indulge in impulsive snacking when you get hungry.
27) If you're at a worksite where it's hard to take time off to eat lunch, keep low-sugar fruits and vegetables in your desk drawer and refrigerator for healthy snacking throughout the day.
28) When eating out, split your meal with your dinner companion - and order an appetizer instead of an entree to reduce how many calories and carbohydrates you're eating throughout the day.
29) There are always healthy distractions to keep your mind away from thinking about another sugary snack or that after dinner dessert. Try taking a brisk walk or call a friend you haven't spoken to in a while to catch up.
30) How to distract oneself from diabetes-promoting food when hungry? Try throwing a ball against the wall or playing with your pet to burn up some excess energy you might be using towards thinking about unhealthy snacks.
There should be more than enough ways you can take away from here to help with your low-sugar diet or diabetes prevention plan. It does take a bit of effort but it's not impossible. Before you know it, your diabetes risk will start to be reduced and you'll wonder how did I do that? Or you soon realize those skinny jeans fit again! Low-sugar diets are often seen as being unbearable but with these diabetes prevention efforts, its more bearable than diabetes treatment options.