This is part 2 of our guide to sugar-free eating! Check out Part 1 if you missed it!
We’ve covered how to get started eating sugar-free. Let’s talk about why!
We’ve heard it said that the greatest gift we can give our children and loved ones is our own health. A naturally sweet lifestyle contributes to better health for our futures.
Here are some benefits that we’ve personally seen from eating a natural diet with low to no sugar:
- more energy
- more patience
- a happier attitude
- less stress
- weight loss and weight management
- less common colds and illnesses
- less tiredness in the afternoons
- changing taste buds
- healthier skin
- better sleep habits
- less bad cravings and more good ones!
When we remove white sugar from our diets, we begin to see how many other wonderful healthy foods there are to eat and we begin to see natural side-effects to eating healthier. One of the most amazing benefits is our taste buds changing. We love pure foods and natural ingredients now that our bodies are not jammed with high fructose corn syrup and artificial sodas. This means that we like more fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds.
If you read some of our tips from Part 1, you know that you can start however as slowly or as quickly as you’d like. For lasting change, it’s best to adapt changes slowly but one fast way to start is to remove the sugar around you. Get it out of the house. If you have a bad craving and want to bend the rule, you’ll have to at least go out and buy the sugar/treat, which may deter you! When you are without sugar, you’ll have to work harder to get it OR you’ll work harder to find a substitute.
If you are not a huge baker, kicking your regular sugar habits may be a little harder, but it is possible! You just need other tools. When you are out all day, working late or make last-minute plans for day trips or travels, natural, store-bought, packaged treats will help you resist sugar temptations!
We love these store-bought snacks and treats:
- Pure Fruit Leather (at Costco and Trader Joe’s)
- Trader Joe’s Honey Mints (at Trader Joe’s)
- Healthy Granola Bars (at Trader Joes, Costco and Whole Foods)
- Peanut Butter Covered Pretzels (at Natural Health Food Stores and bulk bin items)
- Naturally Sweetened Chocolates (at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s & Natural Health Foods Stores)
- Dried Fruit (at any grocery store)
- SO delicious Coconut Milk Ice Cream (natural food stores, Whole Foods & natural sections at regular grocery stores)
- Natural Fig Newtons (Bulk Bin Item at Natural Food Stores or Regular Grocery Stores)
- Honey Caramels (at Natural Food Stores and Whole Foods)
- Zevia Sodas (at Whole Foods and natural food stores)
- Carob Covered Nuts (Bulk Bin Item at Natural Foods Stores and regular grocery store)
- Annie’s Brand Crackers & Chips (at natural health food stores, Trader Joe’s and natural sections at regular grocery stores)
- Natural Fruit Popsicles (at Whole Foods)
- Back to Nature’s Peanut Butter Creme Cookies (Found at natural food stores)
Not all packaged or processed treats are as healthy as others. Everyone can judge what they feel is best for them. We think choosing products that are sweetened with brown rice syrup instead of high fructose corn syrup is a lot healthier and a step in the right direction. Whatever natural product you buy, it will most likely be a million times healthier than going with the Doritos or Oreos!
Aside from stocking our kitchens with natural sugars and having store-bought goodies for busy times, sometimes sugar cravings still hit, and we are not prepared. Or we just really, really want that (fill in the blank). Here are some tips that help us stay sugar-free.
Drink lots of water. It’s surprising how many simple ailments can be omitted by keeping ourselves hydrated! If a craving hits, drink some water. Add some sliced fruit or lemon if you need more sweetness.
Eating lots of leafy greens and veggies can really eliminate cravings. They can help curb stress and low energy levels which also promote cravings or stress eating. Try our Green Guzzler or Raspberry Green Drink with Mint for tasty and healthy ways to beat those cravings!
Indulging in healthy desserts helps us enjoy/fulfills cravings but doesn’t lead to excessive eating. Many natural sweeteners taste better than white sugar because they contain nutrients that our bodies may have been craving and our bodies appreciate them as real food!
Be willing to experiment with that new natural sweetener. It’s the risks that help us discover things that work and things that we love!
Eat often. Do not let yourself get super hungry… especially when you are running errands or away from home!
Be positive with yourself. Having a positive attitude is one of the biggest factors to attaining health or weight-loss. If we believe we can change, we can! If you slip up and eat that delicious dessert, enjoy it and find ways to do better tomorrow.
Make healthy food easily accessible to you. If it’s convenient to eat healthy foods, you will eat them. Wash your produce when you get back from the store. Have fruits and veggies already cut and easily accessible in the fridge. Have crackers, hummus, nuts and dried fruit on hand. These foods fill you with important nutrients and help with sugar cravings.
Have naturally sweetened desserts and treats stored in the freezer for a rainy day. There have been days where we resisted the urge to eat a sugar-y treat just because we remembered that golden healthy dessert in the freezer!
Try decreasing regular white sugar in your baking. Cut the sugar in half. Or try to sub out a little of the sugar with applesauce, honey or another natural sweetener.
Stock your kitchen/car/desk with some of the natural store-bought treats mentioned earlier in this post to give yourself lots of options. Find natural alternatives to your favorite foods.
Eat a well-balanced diet. We have found that when we eat lots of fruits and veggies, get enough protein, drink healthy green drinks and plenty of water, our sugar cravings decrease. Decreased cravings will help you stay on track!
What about holidays, birthdays and special events?
When possible, we prepare for those events with natural sweet recipes. If we can’t control the food available or bringing our dishes isn’t an option, we decide if cheating will be worth it or not. If it’s not, than we eat before the event or just make good choices when there (not eat dessert). If cheating will definitely be worth it – we don’t worry! We aren’t perfect and life is to be enjoyed. Sometimes there are days that are not “sugar-free”. The important thing is that we try hard at avoiding sugar when we can and make good judgments when we can’t. For example: Annie isn’t going to stop making her husband’s favorite long-time childhood birthday cake just because it has sugar and butter in it. She also isn’t going to feel guilty if she chooses to enjoy it. We all have favorite traditions and recipes. We have family members that appreciate and love certain treats. We make healthier changes where we can (like these favorite Linzer cookies) and let the favorite “sugar-filled, 3-pound butter-full chocolate and vanilla birthday cake” be. However, this does not mean we need to eat every birthday cake, wedding cake, baby shower cake or graduation cake that we encounter. There are always “special” occasions going on in our lives and sugar indulgences are available whenever we want them.
Now for one of the biggest concerns of all: How in the world do you get your husband/wife/boyfriend/kids/grandchildren/friends on-board with letting go of the sugar?
The best thing to do is to introduce changes slowly and casually. We began experimenting with natural sugars and shared our tastiest experiments with our family. We were excited that we made desserts sugar-free so we’d happily proclaim that news. But you may not want to do it that way. Try things out and see how they like it. If they don’t like them, ask why. Get feedback and try again. Some people simply do not like the taste of xylitol or maple syrup and they have told us that. That’s okay. Your family may never like certain natural sweeteners or certain recipes. The great thing is that there are tons of sugar-free options! If you start out slow, listen to their feedback and learn together, chances are your family members are going to like some of the tasty creations.
We’ve found that as we happily share healthy treats, people are happy to try them. As they try more and more, they are open to more and more recipes. Now, many of the recipes we have shared on this blog are some family members favorite desserts. Meaning, they prefer our naturally sweetened recipe to the regular sugar versions!
We continue sharing our recipes and make things healthy because we feel it is important and we enjoy it. But we are not going to put our diet above our relationships. If other people want to make healthier choices, we can share our knowledge and experience. Food is meant to make us happy and bring people together, not cause tension! Cutting off all unhealthy foods when your family isn’t ready is not going to bring about the positive effects you desire.
Now that you want to eat naturally sweet, we would suggest building up your natural sweetener collection. Take a look at our Natural Sweetener Guide for lots of healthy sugar alternatives to try! Once we obtained a natural sweetener collection (with recipes!), baking sugar-free became easy!
Where to buy these great natural sweeteners?
One of our favorite places is amazon.com. On the sidebar of our site, we have linked some of our favorite natural products. You will be surprised at how many sweeteners you can find online. We also like vitacost.com and iherb.com.
Any natural food store will have most of these sweeteners. Xylitol and coconut sugar can be found any natural food store. If you check out your natural food or health food stores often, you will find these often go on sale. Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are also wonderful. Sweeteners like maple syrup and honey and even stevia and agave and xylitol can be found at regular grocery stores. Be sure to look at Costoc, WalMart, online, health magazines and catalogs and local markets to see what healthy products they sell.
The extra cost and research for these sweeteners will be worth it. For more ideas on how we eat sugar-free as inexpensively as possible, see our post on tips for eating healthy on a budget.
Best of luck to any beginner taking the plunge into a naturally sweet lifestyle! It’s worth it and you can do it! If you have any suggestions to add, leave them in the comments below!