You've heard it before: Diets that are high in refined sugars and carbohydrates can wreak all kinds of havoc in our bodies, including increasing the risk of developing hypertension, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. While most of us would agree that cutting down on sugar and carbs is not a bad idea, the problem is that it seems difficult to find any foods that don't contain copious amounts of both. So what are some practical ways to curb your sugar and carb intake while still maintaining your sanity? Below are some tips and tricks that will help you do just that.
1. Switch out "bad" carbs for "good" carbs whenever possible.
Not all carbs are created equal. While most of us are familiar with the "bad" carbs (e.g., refined sugar, white flour, high fructose corn syrup, etc.), there are also "good" carbs out there in the food world, such as legumes, fruits and whole grains. Ingesting too many bad carbs can quickly elevate your blood sugar (not a good thing), and simply put, they offer very little in the way of nutritional value.
Good carbs, however, are good for your overall health, although you do need to be careful not to overdo it on these either. Make simple adjustments such as substituting whole grain bread for white bread, or sweetening beverages with honey or real maple syrup instead of sugar.
2. Master the art of portion control.
If you eat a handful of potato chips, you're not doing too bad, but if you devour the whole bag in one sitting, that's going to be a problem. If you're having trouble staying away from bad carbs entirely, do your best to reduce portion sizes so that you won't take things too far. For example, instead of buying the regular 10-ounce bag of potato chips, get the snack-sized bags--and set a limit with yourself to only eat one at a time.
3. Substitute lettuce leaves for breads on sandwiches, wraps, etc.
Instead of using tortillas or bread slices, try wrapping your food in lettuce leaves. This can work great for all kinds of sandwiches such as chicken or tuna salad, turkey and cheese, or even a southwestern-style chicken and black bean wrap with shredded cheddar cheese.
4. Ease up on the condiments.
As innocuous as they may seem, condiments can be notorious for adding tons of sugar to your meal. For example, just one tablespoon of barbecue sauce contains about 7 grams of sugar! Ketchup is also a prime offender, packing about 4 grams of sugar per tablespoon.
Instead of loading up on traditional sugar-laden condiments, get creative and add some zest to your food by using fresh herbs and spices, mustard, fresh lemon juice, flavored vinegar and olive oils or black pepper.
5. Ditch the sodas and drink more water.
This is a tough one, but the truth is that soft drinks are packed with sugar and have virtually no real nutritional value. Ditch those beverages and opt for drinking more water instead!
Water will keep you hydrated, flush your body of toxins and keep your skin looking nice and supple. Not only that, but drinking water will help you maintain that "full" feeling, which can reduce cravings (and subsequent high-calorie binges) throughout the day. If you need a fruity, fizzy fix, try carbonated water and add lemon, lime or cucumber slices or strawberries or raspberries!
6. Eat more frequently.
As paradoxical as it may sound, one of the reasons why we end up going on carb-heavy binges is because we allow ourselves to get too hungry throughout the day by skipping meals or simply being too busy to eat. This can cause our bodies to crave "quick fuel" foods to try and boost our energy levels, and unfortunately, we usually opt for high-carb foods during those times of ravenous hunger.
It's far better to eat smaller meals every 3 to 5 hours, so that you can keep yourself from entering into dangerous territory where cravings are concerned. One caveat: Make sure that when you eat, you only consume enough to be satisfied, not completely stuffed.
None of the tips listed above are too difficult or drastic to be implemented on a daily basis. The key is to start right where you are, making small adjustments to ease the transition until you can get fully accustomed to your new way of eating. Just remember to take it one meal at a time, and you'll be able to successfully trim carbs and sugar from your diet without feeling like you're missing out on anything!