Are you going sugar-free? Use The Ultimate Guide to Going Sugar-Free with tips and tricks to avoid common mistakes and survive the dreaded detox!
I went sugar-free a few years ago and I won’t lie, it SUCKED!!! At first, I had headaches and cravings that could have taken out a small animal. It was hard because I didn’t know how to manage my cravings or headaches and I didn’t know where to find help.
I’ve fallen off the sugar-free wagon a few times but have gotten back on every time. Each time the sugar detox has gotten easier because of the things I’ve learned along the way. So I am sharing the tips, tricks, and recipes that have helped me to successfully kick sugar to the curb and not hate the process.
Which ones to avoid and which ones to use
How to manage cravings and headaches
What do You Eat & Drink Now? Recipe Round-Up
Finding the recipes and foods that will help you sustain a sugar-free lifestyle
Finding a healthy sugar replacement that you love is so important to be able to maintain a sugar-free lifestyle, which is why it’s first on the list. I went through a lot of trial and error on this and have finally settled on two sugar replacements that are amazing and taste great.
Before I get into the ones I love, let me first tell you which ones I do not recommend. I am not a doctor obviously so this information is just based on experience and some research so do what you will with it.
Scientists have been studying the effects fake sugars such as aspartame (Nutra Sweet and Equal), sucralose (Splenda), saccharin (Sweet’N Low), and many others have on blood sugar and gut health. There is still so much research that needs to be done but there’s enough information to determine that the effects these fake sugars can have on your body may have the opposite of the desired effect.
Some studies have shown that artificial sweeteners can decrease the levels of good bacteria in your gut and one thing that has become pretty clear is that your gut is the epicenter for overall body health. In short, if your gut ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!
A few other undesirable effects of chemical-based sweeteners are the need for more sugar and a complete aversion to less sweet foods. Because chemical sweeteners are so much sweeter than sugar, your body ends up craving more sugar! That’s not helpful! Now all your body wants is more sugar, so when you eat healthy more nutrient-dense foods they can seem downright awful! Check out this article from Harvard Medical School for more in-depth info on how fake sugars can affect your health – Artificial sweeteners: sugar-free, but at what cost?
Above are the sweeteners I use most often. I have tried others but these are my favorites. I am a pastry chef so baking is a big part of my life. As you might imagine, finding a sugar replacement that bakes and tastes like real sugar was quite the task.
After many many rounds of trial and error, my selection for the best sugar replacement is…drum roll please…..Gentle Sweet by Trim Healthy Mama. It’s a blend of stevia and 2 sugar alcohols Xylitol & Erythritol.
Stevia is a natural sweetener that is derived from a plant, xylitol is a sugar alcohol that has shown to have a positive effect on dental health and erythritol is another sugar alcohol that is made by combining natural sweeteners. Each one of these sweeteners has a very low glycemic impact and does not spike your blood sugar or insulin levels.
I know not everyone is willing to order their products online so my other choice for favorite sugar replacement is one you can buy in almost every grocery store in America. Truvia. Truvia is basically the same thing as gentle sweet but not done as well as Gentle Sweet in my opinion. Truvia is more granulated where Gentle Sweet is more finely ground. Pro-Tip: If you have a Costco membership you can buy a huge box of Truvia packets very inexpensively.
I love to use Truvia in my coffee and tea but I do not use it to bake. Truvia dissolves when it’s in liquid but when it’s in baked goods, it tends not to dissolve and you get crunchy products. No one likes a crunchy muffin! That’s why I always use Gentle Sweet when baking.
Listen, I’m not going to lie to you, the detox sucks!!! The first sugar detox I ever put my body through was the WORST by a long shot. I had a migraine that could have killed a small animal. I couldn’t even open my eyes. I was cranky and exhausted.
Your body goes into panic mode trying to get you to put sugar in your body. Without processed white sugar your body will need a few days to regroup. It needs to start pulling fuels from somewhere else which usually results in weight loss.
Here are my top 5 tips for reducing detox symptoms:
- Drink lots of water, preferably with electrolytes. Keeping your body hydrated is very important.
- Snack on fresh fruits. Fruits with naturally occurring sugar are best. Those will greatly help with headaches.
- Get plenty of sleep. Depriving your body of restorative rest will exacerbate your symptoms.
- Eat plenty of protein and fiber. Both help your body recover.
- These are the last resort but make sure you have some headache medicine and anti-diarrheal on hand. If the fruit doesn’t help you with your headache take some medicine to see if that will make it more tolerable. Also, TMI alert, your body is going through extreme changes. You are giving it a chance to get rid of some pretty gnarly stuff. If you get diarrhea and can handle it without taking medicine, do it. Like I said your body is getting rid of some crazy stuff but if necessary you have the medicine on hand. In my experience, it only lasts about 2-3 days with day one being the worst and progressively improving from there.
In my experience, depending on your body’s level of addiction to sugar, detox takes about 3 days. So if you’re planning to go sugar-free, don’t make any big plans for the first week or so.
What Do You Eat & Drink Now?
Enough with the science stuff, on to the fun stuff! When I cut sugar out of my diet I found one fact to be universally true every time: If you hate what you’re eating and do not look forward to making or eating it, your lifestyle change is sunk before it ever left the dock!
I have spent the last few years converting my favorite foods into sugar-free recipes because I know what I like to eat! I was so tired of trying to find new recipes when I had a bunch I already loved. Not only loved but craved!!!
Along the way, as I was replacing the sugar, I found it was also easy to make these recipes lower in carbs and as a result, they are mostly gluten-free. One easy change led to another and now I am in the habit of cooking and baking with these products that I love and I don’t really have to think about how to convert recipes anymore. It’s becoming second nature.
I want to take a few sentences to say that you need to show yourself grace!!! Coming from a die-hard perfectionist, this has been the hardest lesson for me personally. In my mind, if I can’t do something perfectly there’s no sense in even doing it. There is no grace in that mindset.
As I said in the beginning, I have fallen off the wagon plenty of times, where I ate something with sugar in it because I couldn’t handle the detox headache anymore or was invited to someone’s house for dinner and it would have been rude to refuse the food. It happens, that is life. Pick yourself up and show yourself grace!!
Remember, it’s a choice. Not a huge life-altering, New Year’s resolution that will magically change the path of your life forever. It’s all the much smaller pieces that make up the big picture. It’s minute by minute opportunities to make the right choice. One by one, little by little, until one day you look back and you are somewhere you never thought you could be!! You can do this!
We are so blessed to have the ability to hope. Have you ever thought of what your life would be like without hope? Miserable! That’s why we get all fired up about New Year’s resolutions because for a few glorious minutes you are hoping for what you want, imagining what getting something you’ve always dreamed of would be like and all the ways it would transform your life.
Picturing yourself crossing the finish line with a smile on your face and confetti cannons raining down because you’ve achieved the hardest thing you never thought you could do. That’s a fun thing to do filled with hope and so much motivation. The problem and the reason we fail to cross the finish line is that in picturing those moments, we don’t picture the work, the decisions, and discomfort. We anticipate the prize and ignore the work.
In the moments that you know you have to make a choice and you’re mad at 12 am because you want a drumstick, remember the hope you had, remember the goal, and the finish line. When I do this, the sugar I want becomes not worth it. My goals are more important.
With all that said, it all comes down to having a plan and following through. Make a plan for your week with a menu, a day of the week where you can shop and prep for the rest of the week. I have put together a list of all the store-bought products and recipes that have helped me stay on track as well as some replacements for common hang-ups like soda & coffee.
When I talk to people about going sugar-free and how easy it can be the #1 thing they say is, “I could NEVER give up soda and/or coffee.” It is impossible to believe that there could be anything to replace these two drinks. Well, let me be the first to say, it’s possible.
Believe it or not, the soda is super easy to replace. People looking to go sugar-free right now are so much more fortunate than people who did it many years ago. There are a lot of sugar-free products but they replace the sugar with the fake sugars that we talked about above. It wasn’t until very recently that brands started replacing sugar with stevia.
My favorite stevia-sweetened soda is Zevia by a long shot. It has 5 simple and natural ingredients with nothing artificial. There are so many flavor options that you’re bound to find something you like. My favorite flavor is Dr. Zevia that tastes similar to Dr. Pepper. You can buy them here on Amazon or find them at Sprouts, Whole Foods, and even some Wal-Marts.
Now on to the coffee. I know most people don’t have Dutch Bros Coffee, it’s a west coast thing but giving up that delicious iced coffee was so hard!! My solution was to make super simple 4-5 ingredient coffee syrups. I use these with some heavy cream or half & half to make the most delicious sugar-free coffee in the morning. One other awesome thing about these coffee syrups is that I don’t have to leave my house or pay $5 for my morning coffee.
Here is a link to all of the current sugar-free coffee syrup flavors on my blog right now. Make sure you subscribe to the blog for more flavors. I have a huge list so there are a lot more coming!
- Sugar-Free Vanilla Coffee Syrup
- Sugar-Free Salted Caramel Coffee Syrup
- Sugar-Free Hazelnut Coffee Syrup
- Sugar-Free Pumpkin Spice Coffee Syrup
Let’s skip all the other meals for now and get right on down to desserts because I know that’s what y’all are concerned about now. Don’t worry it’s all going to be okay I got a little bit of something for everyone. Let’s start with my personal favorite, cheesecake, followed by some other classics.
- Easy Cheesecake Recipe
- Perfect Chocolate Cake
- Easy Buttercream
- Chocolate Truffle Cake Pops
- Edible Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
- Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles
- Peanut Butter Cookies
- Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Chocolate Peanut Clusters
- Chocolate Covered Almond
- Chocolate Covered Strawberries (Sugar & Gluten-Free)
I don’t know about you but snacks are my jam! For me, not having snacks on hand is the quickest way to get off track making them essential. I have a few of my favorite snack recipes listed below but most are so easy they don’t require a recipe.
In my house, there is always fresh fruit on hand as well as cut-up veggies and ranch. A few other store-bought things I cannot live without is canned black olives, sugar-free beef jerky, and the White Cheddar flavor of Skinny Pop. Oh my goodness that Skinny Pop! So delicious! Here is a list of a few other homemade snacks we always have on hand:
Meals are pretty interchangeable for me. Often times lunch is what we had for dinner the night before. I try to make extra at dinner so I don’t have to cook twice. No one needs more work to do and it means I always give myself the opportunity to make the right choice.
Some of my family’s favorite meals are in the Trim Healthy Mama Cookbooks which you can check out by clicking the link. Other meals are so easy that like the snacks, don’t need a blog post like tacos, grilled chicken salads, BLTs, and spaghetti. All of those meals have sugar-free options at the grocery store that don’t have chemical sweeteners in them.
One thing I always stock up on is Mission Carb Balance Tortillas. You can use those things for ANYTHING! Wraps, tortilla chips, pizzas, cinnamon & “sugar” tortillas, endless possibilities.
Below you’ll find a link to some of my favorite meals:
- Easy Crockpot Pozole
- Cajun Chicken & Sausage Casserole
- Pepperoni & Pepperoncini Pizza
- Buffalo Chicken Pizza
- BBQ Chicken Pizza
So there it is, some of the tips, tricks, and meals that help me live this sugar-free life. I hope this helps you no matter if you’re just starting or years down the road. There is a comment section below so please feel free to let me know if you have any questions or advice that might help someone just starting out. I would love to hear from you guys on this and learn some new things to help me stay on track!
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