Sugar, I Think We Need to Break Up


Sleepless nights, stress, cravings, sugar. Rinse, repeat. Give me chocolate, carbs, something sweet!

Sugar, I think we need to break up for a while.

Maybe it is time for a sugar detox. After all, excess added and processed sugars make us tired and cranky. They give us energy dips and even brain fog.

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons (24 grams) of sugar a day for women, 9 teaspoons (36 grams) a day for men, and only 3 teaspoons (12 grams) for kids.

And we’re not just talking about the sugar found in candy bars and cookies. Added sugars are in SO many products and are sometimes hidden by ingredient names that are unrecognizable. Words like “natural” and “healthy” on a package’s label can be misleading.

So, sugar, we are breaking up for a while. 

What is a sugar detox?

For an established period of time, eliminate all added and processed sugars. Remember, that’s added sugars — not natural sugars. The natural sugars found in fruits and vegetables have loads of benefits and contain valuable vitamins and minerals. Added sugars are sugars that are added to foods during processing, cooking, or before eating. (Natural sugars are naturally found in whole, unprocessed foods like fruits.)

So how do we survive the detox? 

For those trying a sugar detox for the first time, start with three or four days and then work up to seven days. Establish your start date. The week prior, plan ahead and stock up on healthy, real, whole foods. Be sure to read the labels of what you put in your shopping cart — you’ll be surprised at how much sugar is added to your typical grocery store items, like pasta sauce, yogurt, granola bars, and condiments like barbeque sauce, mustard, and salad dressings! 

As you begin your sugar detox, you may experience headaches and fatigue, depending upon how much added sugar your body is used to. Hydrate! It will help! You may also experience symptoms such as intense sugar cravings or the urge to eat foods like bread, pasta, chips, and crackers. This is especially true during times of stress and times of ups and downs with anxiety, overwhelm, low mood, and sleepless nights.

When the sugar cravings really hit, recognize that there are other ways to make yourself feel satisfied. By eating more healthy fats, quality protein, and filling fiber, you can be satiated and feel fuller for longer. This can help prevent low energy levels and feelings of hunger as well as help stabilize blood sugar levels. 

Take a mindful break, take a brisk walk, listen to a podcast, work out, meditate, call a friend, read a book. Drink some peppermint tea or any naturally sweet tea such as chai or cinnamon. Brush your teeth after your meal.  

Plan out a few different snacks you can eat whenever you feel a sugar craving come on so you won’t be inclined to give in. Try:

  • a handful of raw nuts/seeds and some mixed organic berries
  • hummus with chilled raw veggies
  • a simple smoothie with water or unsweetened almond milk, greens, ice, protein powder, and a tablespoon of nut butter
  • 100% dark chocolate (no sugar added) dipped in nut butter for a sweet treat (my FAV!)
  • a hard-boiled egg with avocado and/or hummus, nuts, and crackers (read labels!)

When eating out, be sure you ask your server for sauces and dressings on the side. Choose oil and vinegar or lemon juice for salads.  

And, as always, read those labels! Watch out for sneaky sugars in ingredients. The most abundant ingredient is at the top of the list. Sugar can also be hidden by ingredient names that are unrecognizable.

Chart courtesy Lane Community College Nutrition Program.

Don’t sugar detox alone! Ask a friend or family member to join you — doing it together can make a big difference. You’ll both benefit from having an accountability buddy, and you can trade recipes!

Sugar, this breakup will be for the best. And it won’t be forever! But it will give me the skills I need to moderate my intake down the road. And I won’t rely on you for giving me comfort, elevating my mood, and giving me more energy!