When my husband and I got married, I walked away from the aisle with dreams of our lives rolling from one blissful day to the next while we basked in our love for one another. Unfortunately those dreams didn’t last long before reality set in.
We started to have disagreements on topics I didn’t think would ever be an issue.
Diet was a big one. Our attitudes on sugar could not have been more different. My husband took the more is better approach, and practiced it religiously. I, on the other hand, was going to school to get my degree in nutrition and saw it as ‘the great white killer’.
I thought that any self-respecting nutritionist was not supposed to like, want, or eat anything with added sugar. Having anything sweet in my home filled me with guilt and made me feel like a traitor to my chosen profession.
So naturally I felt like I had to wage war with the sweet stuff that was in my own home and that is exactly what I did. When it was my turn to go grocery shopping, I just wouldn’t buy the things on the list I didn’t want my husband to eat. I gave him a look of disapproval as he poured his sugary breakfast cereal, while being careful not to breath in the cloud of sugar dust rising from the cereal bowl. I also took the joy out of dessert by trying to sneak in as many healthy ingredients as possible.
I think that I felt justified because I was doing it for a good cause; it was to make him healthier after all. But the only thing I accomplished was to start an argument and remove the pleasure from anything sweet for either of us.
It turns out that my experience with my husband wasn’t unique. There are a lot of sugar lovers out there and it seems to be increasing dramatically. To give an idea of just how much our sugar consumption has gone up, in 1822 we ate the amount of added sugar in one 12 ounce can of soda every five days, while today we eat that much sugar every seven hours!
This is all coming with a severe price as a growing body of research is connecting sugar consumption to a laundry list of health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, tooth decay, obesity, fatty liver, and cancer.
But after 11 years of marriage to a man with a seemingly insatiable sweet tooth, I have come to recognize that scaring him with all this research or taking an all-or-nothing approach to dealing with sugar intake has rarely, if ever, worked to change his diet.
With time, and a lot of trial and error, we were able to find a way that we both could build a healthy and enjoyable relationship to the sweet stuff and with each other too.
So, to save you the time and unnecessary heartache my husband and I went through, I am sharing with you the three best tricks I learned to build a healthy attitude about sugar.
Get rid of ALL the added sugar in everyday foods and drinks
Added sugar is hidden everywhere and in just about everything and it does not need to be. With a little effort there are usually equally good choices with much less sugar or none at all. Founder of Passionate Nutrition, Jennifer Adler, recommends that if sugar is one of the top five ingredients, don’t get it.
Look at your breads, cereal, sauces, dips, snacks, drinks, everything. You will be surprised at where sugar pops up.
So what is the big deal if there is added sugar in your yogurt or you like to drink something sweet? Over time we build a tolerance to sugar and it takes more to experience the same sweet sensation. When you get rid of the sugar in everyday foods not only will you be reducing the amount you eat during the day, but it will take less sugar to satisfy your sweet tooth.
While you may be able do this all at once, chances are it will take time. Be patient, it will pay off. Start with one or two things at a time. For us it started when I ‘couldn’t afford’ to buy my husband’s favorite yogurt for a few weeks. He found a substitute and when I bought it again, it seemed too sweet. When he saw that the yogurt he had been eating had more sugar per serving than ice cream, he decided he would rather just save that extra sugar for ice cream.
Have a consistent time each day when you have a small ‘treat’
It may seem counterintuitive, but having a set time each day to enjoy a little treat can do a lot to reduce the overall amount of sugar you consume. Think of it like a sugar addict’s nicotine patch.
Knowing that you can expect to have something each day keeps you from feeling deprived and allows a time you can enjoy something sweet without the guilt.
The trick is to keep everyday treats simple and to remember portion size.
In our family it has become a post dinner ritual that we all look forward to. Sometimes it is sliced fruit with a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream or a little bit of chocolate.
Once a week or every other week make or get something ‘special’ that you can enjoy without placing limits.
Ellyn Satter, an internationally recognized nutritionist and author, recommends that you set a regular time every week or so to make a batch of cookies or go out and buy something you can enjoy without placing any limits on yourself. This could be a fun time to share with family or friends.
At first, not placing a limit on yourself may feel like a shock and you may eat a larger amount, but my experience has shown that over time just knowing you can have more if you want it, or that there will be more next week, reduces the need to gorge and you can be satisfied with a normal serving.
This is a trick that manages two issues. First, it gives a time and place where those really good treats can be enjoyed without guilt so you are not deprived. Second, it allows for you to listen more to internal cues to understand how much you really crave rather than external cues that can sometimes motivate the treats you are eating.
We do not take these special treat moments lightly in our family. When it is time for our dessert we make sure to make it good. We have been known to drive 45 miles just to eat our favorite doughnuts, plan day trips around ice cream shops, and have devoted a good deal of time to perfecting our favorite dessert recipes. Since we know it is going to be occasional, we don’t mess around.
As you follow these three tricks not only will your overall diet improve, but you will notice that the amount of sweets you crave will go down too. These tricks worked wonders in our home and have turned dessert time into a time that is enjoyed rather than a time of disagreement and guilt. Finally, there is a way to have your cake and eat it too!
Do you have any tricks that have worked for you? Please share them in the comments section below!