When it comes to cutting back on sugar, it’s important to have a plan. If you’ve ever tried to quit cold turkey, you’ve probably figured out that avoiding sugar altogether is stressful, unsustainable, and leaves you craving it more than you ever did before -- none of which is good for your mental health or resolve. Learn how to create your own sugar strategy and end your battle with the white stuff, for good.

How (and Why) to Create a Sugar Strategy

When it comes to cutting back on sugar, it’s important to have a plan. If you’ve ever tried to quit cold turkey, you’ve probably figured out that avoiding sugar altogether is stressful, unsustainable, and leaves you craving it more than you ever did before -- none of which is good for your mental health or resolve. Learn how to create your own sugar strategy and end your battle with the white stuff, for good.

When it comes to cutting back on sugar, it’s important to have a plan. If you’ve ever tried to quit cold turkey, you know first hand that avoiding sugar altogether is stressful, unsustainable, and leaves you craving it more than you ever did before — none of which is good for your mental health or resolve. At the same time, eating too much sugar is one of the main culprits in the manifestation of chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and metabolic syndrome.

So, how do you strike a balance? By creating a sugar strategy.

I like to define a sugar strategy as a personal policy for how, when, and why you eat sugar. First and foremost, your strategy has to be sustainable long-term — and this means it has to be reasonable and meaningful. Telling yourself you’ll never eat sugar again is not a policy. It’s a recipe for rebellion that will leave you knee deep in jelly donuts before you even get started.

The most effective sugar strategy is one that allows for a natural intake of sugar. Anything that feels too forced or restrictive will likely backfire and lead to bingeing, regret, guilt and shame.

Creating a sugar strategy is not one-size-fits-all and I can’t create it for you. It has to be meaningful and motivating to YOU. It also requires you to do some inner work first to figure out the reasons behind your desire for sugar and sweet foods, and why you overeat them.

Here’s how you do it: 

1. Get Triggered

Figuring out the triggers behind your desire for sugar and the situations in which you find yourself craving and overeating sugar is the first step towards creating a successful sugar strategy. Beating a sugar craving requires being mindful of your triggers. Have you set up your life so that sugar is “the answer” to your problems? Whether it’s stress, boredom, procrastination, fatigue, sadness, pain, fear (or another emotion you don’t want to feel) is sugar your go-to to drown out unwanted emotions? For many, sugar cravings are a response to being triggered by an emotion. Seeing yourself react in this way is a great opportunity to understand yourself better. Noticing, for example, that after every Friday team meeting, you “crave” a sweet snack from the vending machine. Or after dinner, when you’re watching TV, how you suddenly “need” a sweet snack. Or after every call with your mom you find yourself craving a Starbucks frappucino. These moments that trigger you are a window into what’s behind your desire for sugar, so take note.

2. Ask Yourself This Question

Now that you’ve become more aware of your sugar triggers, you’re one step closer to changing your relationship with sugar. Once you get used to noticing how often you reach for a sweet, you’ll begin to break your impulsive reaction to cravings. So when you hear yourself saying “I want something sweet,” you know you’ve tripped your silent alarm. The mindful work starts right after your alarm goes off, and this tends to be the hardest part for my clients. When you hear the alarm, ask yourself: what am I really needing right now? Hint: it’s not sugar…in fact, it’s likely not food-related at all. If you’re open to understanding yourself better, the answer will be right there, bubbling at the surface.

3. Make it Count

What if you just want something sweet? Yes, it happens! Here’s where it really helps to have standards. For me, I make my sugary snacks count. Go big or go home, right? I recommend you choose something you will truly enjoy. If you’re going to indulge, make it be the most enjoyable, high-quality treat you can muster up and really take the time to savor it. There’s little satisfaction in scarfing down a cheap chocolate bar just to get the sugar rush (see 1 and 2 above). Instead, savor a square of really nice dark chocolate and enjoy its flavor and quality. Or plan to have your favorite decadent dessert on Friday night. By consciously choosing higher quality sweets that truly satisfy, you’re far less likely to give into a sugar craving at the vending machine or gas station. Make your sweets count!

4. Decide on Frequency

Another principle I’ve found helps many people is to limit yourself to one sugary snack per day. Most of us realize that having all the sugary snacks we want, anytime we want them, isn’t going to end well. However, when you’ve planned for a square of chocolate or a small scoop of ice cream for dessert, it’s a lot easier to skip out on those mid-morning or afternoon temptations without feeling deprived or restricted. Deciding when you will have your snack early on will make sweets far more enjoyable, as no guilt or shame is attached to a planned snack. It will also help you to treat sugar with respect, as you learn to appreciate and look forward to what you’ve chosen.

5. Focus on Natural Sugar

Another way to get a handle on your sugar intake is to opt for natural sugars. This way you can still fulfill a sweet tooth, but in a much healthier way. Even though the sugar found in fruit is still sugar, it’s found naturally alongside fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. That’s a much better deal than added sugars, which pack on grams of sugar without adding any nutritional value. Satisfying your sugar cravings with fruit is a fantastic way to limit excess sugar while upping your produce intake – something that’s long been associated with healthy body weight and lower cardiovascular risk.

6. Don’t Get Weird

I love my veggies as much as the next gal, but I also love a little sugar in my life. Keeping it realistic is my goal and cutting out all sugar in your diet isn’t normal. It’s also unrealistic, unsustainable and most of all, unnecessary. In other words, stop being weird about sugar. It makes sense for there to be a moderate amount of added sugar in some packaged foods (think granola and energy bars, marinades, and salad dressing). Eating something that is made infinitely better with the addition of 1-2 grams of sugar isn’t going to hurt you and it’s not the end of the world. As soon as you start getting crazy about this, you’ve missed the point entirely. A few grams of sugar in your bbq sauce is not the same thing as eating a jelly donut for breakfast everyday with a Big Gulp on the side.

Putting It All Together

If you want to go from being in a battle with sugar to being in a relationship, cutting it out completely and denying yourself isn’t the answer. You can have your cake and eat it, too – just choose a cake you truly enjoy. Savor the flavor and the company it comes with. And then, my friends, let..it…go. Don’t make it mean anything about you, your resolve, your will power, or your weight. Instead, try it my way: recognize your cravings as triggers, create new responses to those triggers, set reasonable limits on your intake, and focus on quality.

Good luck!

My Favorite Kitchen Tools for Healthy Cooking

Now that you’ve created a meal plan and shopping list full of healthy food — fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, nuts/seeds, healthy fats, and lean protein — it’s time to get serious about your kitchen tools. I believe having a well-stocked kitchen (both with food and cooking tools) makes healthy cooking much more enjoyable (and easier)!

Below are a few of my go-to kitchen tools for healthy cooking:

Spiralizer

Turning veggies into “noodles” using a spiralizer is such a fun way to boost your veggie intake. Making veggie “noodle” dishes like my Sauteed Asparagus with Zucchini Noodles and Spinach Pesto or splitting regular noodle dishes with some veggie noodles is a great way to add extra veggies, especially for kids!

Blender

I use my Vitamix nearly every day for making green smoothies! Blending up fruits and veggies makes boosting the produce in your diet super easy. Check out some of my favorite blenderized recipes: Chia Fresca with Pineapple and Turmeric, Clean Eating Cauliflower Soup, and Tarragon Berry Smoothie.

Grater/Zester

I use my zester all the time to add fresh lemon zest and grated garlic into dishes – it brightens up dishes like my Quinoa Salad Formula Meals, Lima Bean Saute with Basmati Rice, and Energy Ball Formula Meals without adding any fat, salt, or calories.

Mason Jars

Mason jars make it easy to portion-control things like yogurt or smoothies, and are great vessels for storing overnight oats, chia pudding, and anything else that needs to sit overnight. I like assembling my Banana Chia Pudding with Almond Crumb Topping and Chia and Oatmeal Breakfast Bowl with Cherries in mason jars to have for breakfast on the go the next morning. I also use Mason jars to shake up salad dressing and other sauces.

Cast Iron Skillet

Cooking in a seasoned cast-iron skillet means you don’t need to pour in as much oil to keep things like eggs and veggies from sticking. I have a few pans, a mini one for my Wild Blueberry Skillet Pancakes and an 8-inch pan that’s perfect for making sautes like my favorite Asparagus and White Bean Saute and these amazingly delicious Tempeh Skillet Enchiladas.  You can also make casserole type dishes in your cast iron skillet, like my take on scalloped potatoes.

Avo Saver

Nobody likes a brown avocado, right? I’ve had my avo saver since 2009 and have used it almost every day. It’s not only super sturdy, it does exactly what it’s supposed to do: it keeps my unused avocado fresh! This little gadget is a must-have if you love avocados as much as I do!

Citrus Juicer

This one seems kind of indulgent, but I use it ALL THE TIME! I get so much more juice out of my lemons and limes than if I squeezed them myself, plus my hands stay clean. When I do cooking demonstrations, my lemon squeezer is the number one tool I’m asked about.

Fitted Bowl Covers

I know what you’re thinking. Are those shower caps? Yup, they sure are (at least they look like it).  I love these bowl covers! They come in handy all the time when I’m storing food in bowls that have no lids. They’re perfect for my daughter — who always seems to leave 3 bites of food in every bowl. They’re also great for storing leftover batter, mixes, and sauces. The best part is that they’re reusable, I just rinse them off and let them air dry overnight. They say you can microwave with them, but I never microwave plastic anything!  

Steamer Basket

I love turning my favorite Le Creuset sauce pan into a steamer! Although perfect for steaming veggies, I mostly use my steamer basket when I’m cooking with tempeh. Steaming the tempeh for a few minutes softens it and removes any bitterness. It also makes it super moist and delicious. Tempeh is one of my favorite meat substitutes and perfect for healthing up dishes like Tempeh Taco Salad and Kung Pao Tempeh.

How Hidden Food Sensitivities Can Affect Weight Loss

 

If you're suffering from bloat, gas, and gut discomfort after eating and you're unable to lose weight, find out if you have any undiagnosed food sensitivities.

You’re doing everything right – eating clean, cooking at home, exercising – and somehow, you’re still not losing weight. If it feels like sometimes your body is working against you…it just might be.

Unknown food sensitivities could be affecting your weight loss. Here’s how.

Eating food that your sensitive or intolerant to causes inflammation in your body. Similar to a virus or bacteria, food sensitivities signal an immune system response during digestion that leads to gut damage and hormone imbalances.

Eating foods you’re sensitive to every day, multiple times per day (like dairy or gluten, for example) causes a powerful chain reaction that starts with inflammation. Inflammation is regulated in part by the hormone cortisol. Excess cortisol production keeps your blood sugar running high and causes an overload of insulin production. Too much insulin production has the potential to cause insulin resistance and down the line, Diabetes. In addition, cortisol released during the inflammatory process may affect fat metabolism, causing your body to store more fat…particularly belly fat. Yikes!

Eating foods you have trouble digesting also wreaks havoc on your gut. Let’s look at what could happen with an undiagnosed gluten sensitivity. You eat a bowl of gluten-containing pasta. Your immune system reacts to the gluten by producing inflammatory chemicals in your gut. Over time, inflammation causes an imbalance in the bacteria in your digestive tract and this affects the lining of your intestines, causing  it to weaken and become even more prone to food reactions.  This inflammatory cycle creates a fire in your gut that results in discomfort and weight gain.

If you’re suffering from bloat, gas, and gut discomfort after eating and you’re unable to lose weight, find out if you have any undiagnosed food sensitivities. One way to figure this out is to go dairy and gluten free for a few weeks. Dairy and gluten are the most common allergy triggers and removing them not only allows you to notice if you feel better, it also gives your inflamed gut some time to heal. I don’t want you to do this forever if you don’t have to (there’s no benefit in doing that), but taking a temporarily break can provide you with useful information about how these foods are affecting your weight, your gut, and how you feel.

My 21-Day Nourish program can help you do this as well, all the while eating a variety of anti-inflammatory (and delicious!) food, and getting expert advice from a registered dietitian (me!).

In Nourish, you’ll also learn:

+ Why gut health is so important to your overall wellness
+ How to incorporate fermented foods into your diet
+ What to look out for when reading food labels
+ Most importantly – which foods fuel your unique body chemistry

If you’re ready to make some dietary changes with the guided support of a Dietitian and with an awesome community of like-minded eaters, join us! The next session starts May 1.