Sugar is one part in a much bigger puzzle. Review this checklist and see how many of these fundamental behaviors you do well and consistently. That means every day, or most days:
Keep your alcohol intake moderate.
Eat slowly and mindfully.
Eat enough lean protein.
Eat 5+ servings of fruit and/or veggies per day, ideally colorful ones.
Eat some healthy fats.
Get some movement for at least 20-30 minutes a day.
Get 7-9 hours of good-quality sleep every night.
Spend time with people you love, and/or who support you.
Do things that are meaningful and purposeful to you.
These are all behaviors that we know for sure are health-promoting and disease-preventing.
Become aware of what’s in your food. Read labels. Sugar lives in processed foods, even foods you wouldn't expect (like salad dressings or frozen dinners). Better than reading labels, ask how you can eat more foods without labels. (Like fruits and veggies, beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, meats and seafood, etc.) Transitioning to less-processed and less-sweetened versions of various foods is a simple way to lower your sugar intake and get the benefits of a better nutrient intake. Double win!
Be mindful of your overall eating patterns, habits, and perspectives. Consider…
Are you eating slowly and mindfully? Can you stop when you’re satisfied?
Are you using sugar-rich foods as a “treat”? How often?
Do you feel “deprived” if you don’t “get” to have sugar?
If you have a sugary food, can you stop eating it when you’ve had “enough”? Is there an “enough” with some foods?
How does sugar fit into your life and overall habits? Is that working for you?
Keep it in perspective. It’s okay to have treats, just keep the portions moderate and don’t have “treats” for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. For most people, a little bit of sugar fits just fine into an overall healthy diet pattern. That being said, when you eat sugar, you typically crave sugar so it can be a tricky cycle to navigate.
Ask yourself what works for you and what doesn’t. If you struggle with sugar (for instance, if it makes you feel ill, or you feel like you can’t eat sweet foods in appropriate amounts), then it’s probably not a good food for YOU. Try experimenting with lowering your sugar intake gradually (for instance, by making simple substitutions like drinking water or seltzer instead of soda), and see what happens. Look for foods that you love, and that love you back — that make you feel good and perform well, that give you sustained and long-lasting energy, that keep your moods level, and that keep you feeling “normal” as an eater.