First of all, let me say that I don't think it is a good idea to cut out any God-given foods for any length of time. Man-made foods are a whole different matter. I try to severely limit processed foods, and make a lots of things from scratch using whole, all natural, fresh ingredients. Kind of like living in a Whole Foods Restaurant. Except I do the cooking. And the cleaning. And the aren't any servers. Except me. I serve. But I digress.
There are a host of fad diets out there that involve cutting things out forever. No carb diets, grapefruit only diets, baby food diets (Really. Apparently some model or actress somewhere lost a ton of weight eating baby food and blam. Instant diet sensation.) I can see cutting out a food group for a short period of time to jump start a program, but anything past two weeks, and I believe you are running a risk. The Bible teaches us to have moderation in all things. That includes our diets. A diet that allows nothing but lettuce and water is not moderate. Just saying...
One more thing before I launch into my 3-part plan. I trust you to use good judgement, do your own research and follow your heart concerning anything you do with your family's health. If you have a health condition, you may need to make changes more gradually than I did. Please consult your health care provider. My 3-part Game Plan for Kicking the Sugar Habit 1. Deny
I know. What an awful thing to start out with, right? But we are kidding ourselves if we think we can stop a sugar habit without saying no to something we want -- at least at the beginning. But that is the great thing about this plan. At least for me, it stopped my sugar cravings. I really don't want it anymore. Case in point: Today, I made the kidlets a big pan of from-scratch brownies. They smelled heavenly. But I really didn't care if I didn't get any. I didn't even lick the bowl. If you knew me before, you would be picking yourself up off the floor right now. Go ahead. I'll give you a minute.
To begin my plan, I went very low glycemic for about 10 days. What do I mean by that? Well, I did not allow myself to have foods with a medium or high glycemic index. This cut out a lot of God-given foods that He meant for us to enjoy, like potatoes, carrots, all fruit, breads, pastas, and other starches (even the whole grain ones), and the like. Of course, I cut out all sweeteners, including natural ones like honey, maple syrup, molasses, cane sugar. I had already stopped eating high fructose corn syrup and fake sweeteners a long time ago. I stopped eating white flour products and even greatly limited whole grain products for a short time. I did not intend for this to be a life long choice, but rather, a jumpstart.
Cutting those foods and only eating low glycemic foods for a couple weeks gives your body a chance to clean itself out and reboot, for lack of a better word. If you have a Candida overgrowth, you will be starving that bacteria because it feeds on sugar and starch. You will likely experience a "die-off" which will make you feel terrible. You may experience headaches, fatigue and feel like you have the flu. Don't be alarmed. This is actually a good thing and will pass in a few days. Your body is responding to the die off of too much Candida and cleaning it all out of there. You will feel better than ever very soon. Be sure to drink lots of water and get some extra rest to help you through it. Also, eating an unsweetened yogurt with live cultures or taking a probiotic will help. (Why would you want to kill off excess Candida? Do a quick google search and you will find a host of information.)
The first 3 days are the hardest. After that, you start to feel better and the cravings begin to diminish. Stick with it a little longer and give your body a chance to reset itself.
So, to recap, no sugar, sugar substitutes (except stevia), honey, maple syrup, molasses, high fructose corn syrup, fruit, white flour. And no processed foods. At all. None. Eat only low glycemic foods for about 10 days (you can google "glycemic index" and get lots of sites with a listing).
So if you cut out all those foods, what on earth are you going to eat!?! One thing that can contribute to cravings is a body that isn't getting the proper nutrients. It will begin to crave things, but not always the right things. I've heard there are people who crave salads. Before I did this, I was not one of them. (On another note, did you know that people with food allergies often crave the very thing they are allergic to. Weird, but true.) I knew that I was eating a lot of my sugar instead of the things I should be eating. I also knew I wasn't getting nearly enough good fats. Perhaps I will do a post on fats in the future, but a low fat diet is simply not good for you. But eating any old fat is also not good for you. Do some research and see for yourself. So I purposed during this 10 day period that I was not going to count calories or limit my intake of really good healthy foods. (I lost weight anyway).
Here is a list of what kinds of things I ate (and still eat):
Lots of water -- 60-80 oz. of good clean water Rooibos tea (sweetened with 2-3 drops of Stevia -- the only sweetener I allowed myself. Now I have 1/2 tsp honey in my tea, because I don't really care to ruin my tea with an aftertaste, thank you. I'm kind of funny about my tea.) Lots of fresh vegetables. Asparagus, brussels sprouts, lots of different lettuces (not iceberg), etc Beans and Legumes Lean meats, preferably organic, grass-fed Chia Seed and/or Ground Flax Seed (great sources of Omega 3)
For oil, I use Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Coconut Oil. Coconut oil has lots of wonderful properties and is a fantastic oil to cook with. Do some research -- it doesn't deserve the bad rap it used to have. It is becoming the oil of choice in a lot of circles.
Brussel Sprouts are absolutely addictive (even if you are not a Brussels spout fan) when you get good, fresh ones, and drizzle them with olive oil in an oven safe dish. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and roast at 400 degrees for about 50 minutes, giving it a stir occasionally. Try them, and you might just find out you really like them.
I saute asparagus, zucchini, summer squash or what ever sounds good, with a drizzle of olive oil and some sea salt and pepper. For protein, I will throw some beans or nuts in there. This is often my lunch of choice. It only takes a few of minutes and I am giving my body lots of good things.
I allowed myself a small serving of brown rice, quinoa, whole oats, spelt or other completely whole grain food at dinner, but I kept it very moderate.
I knew it would only be a matter of time before I was going to cave to my sweet tooth, so I began looking for replacement recipes. This is the recipe I made myself nearly every night until I could add fruit back into my diet.
Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding
1 cup skim milk
1 tsp real vanilla extract
2 tsp cocoa powder
stevia drops to taste
3 tablespoons chia seeds
Whir it all up with a stick blender ( or regular blender). Refrigerate until it gets thick, 30 minutes - 1hour (I could never wait that long, and the pudding police never came to arrest me, so I think you will be okay).
Chocolate Covered Katie is an awesome blog with lots of healthy desserts. There are a few that are sweetened with stevia and will work during this first couple of weeks. A number of them are sweetened with raisins, dates or bananas. I use these now that I have added fruit back into my diet.
The first three days of my Sugar Detox were the most difficult. I felt like I had the flu and I wanted sugar so bad my children were in danger if they happened to walk by with a candy bar. I might have fought them for it. (I'm kidding, but you knew that, right?) Days 4-8 were so much better. I had good energy and my cravings had virtually stopped. I could tell I was feeding my body the foods it needed to run well. Days 9-10 became difficult again. My energy levels plummeted. I wasn't taking in enough carbs to fuel my body. (If you decide to try this, please listen to your body. It is telling you more than you might realize.) When this happened, I added back in the fruits, potatoes, carrots, and upped my whole grains. I was not trying to stay on a low glycemic diet. I just wanted to kick my cravings to the curb and clean up my diet.
I still like sweets, but now I sweeten things with fruits. I use a little honey in my tea. I drastically limit my intake of processed foods and things containing white flour. My diet contains lots of vegetables, legumes, nuts, and whole grains, and I drink a lot of water. I lost 7 pounds as a side benefit of my 10 day no sugar plan and I feel so much better. Welcome to a long, healthy life!