66 days to change: Sugar’s bad rap

Sugar is getting a bad rap. First off, it gets tied directly with tripling Canada’s rates of obesity. Didn’t see

Sugar is getting a bad rap. First off, it gets tied directly with tripling Canada’s rates of obesity. Didn’t see that one coming. Then, this week the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that we all cut back our intake to five percent of our daily calories. Five percent?! Seriously? That’s, like, a few of teaspoons of sugar ‘ or a can of pop. Come on! For you healthy types, that is the equivalent one of those fruity Greek yogurts, a granola bar and a bowl of cereal. It is eye-opening to see how much sugar is in everything.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I committed to giving up sugar 66 days ago and it’s still a struggle. I have tried valiantly and I’m pretty sure I’m on par with the WHO guidelines, but it has been tough. I’ve avoided every package of licorice bites, cut out sugar from my coffee, and said no to every lovely baked treat alongside that coffee ‘ because they are full of sugar. I know that not only is sugar bad for us, but it sparks cravings for more. You have to stop the cycle in its tracks.

How? It is tough. But I think after 66 days I’m essentially an expert (she says with her tongue firmly planted in her cheek). Here are my tips:

1. Eat steadily throughout the day. Start your day with complex carbohydrates and protein ‘ steel cut oats, Greek yogurt, eggs and whole grain toast. Try to eat protein with every meal and snack ‘ protein provides you with a feeling of satiety making you less likely to reach for something to pump you up. That something invariably has sugar in it.

2. Make several plans: Meal plans, recipes plans, plans for the 3 p.m. sugar lows. Because even though you ‘plan’ to eat well throughout the day, life will happen. And almonds aren’t always the answer. Branch out with your snacks ‘ keep cottage cheese and a tub of blueberries in the fridge at work.

3. Read every label. It is boring, but it is true. Sugar is in everything. Be especially suspicious of labels that say ‘low sugar’ ‘ what does that mean? Low compared to what? There should be no added sugar whatsoever. Applesauce? Pure apples. Cereal? Wheat. Yogurt? Milk.  And so on.

4. Drink tons of water and herbal tea. Juice? Nope. Wine and beer? What are you, a saint? Of course ‘ but in moderation. And please: If you are working out and bringing anything other than water to the gym think again. True story: one of my spinning students was struggling to lose weight, and she kept bringing an orange-colored beverage to class. I finally asked her why she needed that ‘ because, unless you are exercising for more than 2 hours, you don’t need anything other than water. Her response? She needed the energy. We worked out a plan where she was eating a better breakfast before hand, and she started dropping pounds. 

5. Learn to live by the Glycemic Index. It is simple: there are foods that spike your blood sugars, and foods that raise them slowly. High GI foods ‘ ones that raise your blood sugars fast – increase your risk of Type 2 diabetes. Foods like baked goods, and granola are high on the GI index. Low GI foods raise keep raise your blood sugar slowly, and many also often high in fibre, which helps you stay full. Low GI foods include sweet potatoes, chickpeas and apples.

6. Fruit is fantastic ‘ eat it! But remember it is still sugar. In other words, you can cut out all the ‘refined’ sugar and added sugar, but if you counteract that with eating a massive bag of grapes, 4 apples, 2 mangos, and a bushel of bananas in one day, that gets converted in your body so you are still probably taking in too much sugar. Not that I’ve ever done that.

There are my short and sweet lessons for the day ‘ so that you, too, can live by the WHO guidelines. Because that’s our mission in life, right?

One final point: life would be nothing without treats. If I thought I would never eat a gorgeous slice of flourless chocolate cake again, or make cookies to eat fresh from the oven with my kids, then it wouldn’t be a life worth living.

Just balance it out.

Follow me on Twitter @erinpp

Erin Phelan is a fitness trainer and mom of two. She’s a regular contributor to Best Health and will be blogging here every Tuesday and Friday for the next 66 days.