Tips on Quitting Processed Sugar

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For those of you new to my blog, I am a huge believer in quitting processed sugar.  Before switching to a whole food diet, I was a HUGE sugar addict.  I dumped tons in my coffee, loved cookies and cakes and even had a little stash of jellybeans in the car.  I never had a weight problem, but I always had that extra 5-7 lbs that I just couldn’t seem to loose.  When I quit processed foods and sugars, I lost weight without even trying!  Since then, I never count calories and stay at 122 lbs.  I haven’t been this thin since before I had my babies! Sugar is an awful drug that makes you want more and more. Once you kick it, you will no longer crave it.  I promise.  Here are some tips that may help you.

1.  Start reading labels.  Most all processed foods contain high fructose corn syrup or some other form of processed sugar.  To see a list of additives found in processed foods, click here.

2.  Take it out of your coffee.  This was the first step I took.  The first few days were a bit rough, but then I got used to it and actually like my coffee better with just some milk.

3.  Swap out your flavored yogurt for plain, whole fat yogurt.  Most fat free or low fat yogurts contain extra sugar to make them taste as good as their full fat equivalents.  Not to mention the chemical process that takes place to remove the fat.  Once you are eating plain yogurt, you can add in your own raw honey or fresh fruit to sweeten it a bit.

4.  Look at your milk.  Milk, especially the flavored kind, can contain a high amount sugar.  This goes for dairy and non dairy.  I know for non dairy, you can buy the plain or unsweetened version.  If you need a little flavoring, you can add a bit of vanilla extract to it.

5.  When baking, swap out processed sugars for less processed sweeteners like honey, maple syrup or coconut sugar.  Beware of so-called healthy sweeteners like agave.  You can read this post to find out why it’s not as healthy as it seems.   These three sugars are mostly processed in nature. You can even cut the sugar in most recipes and the dish will still be plenty sweet. To read my full breakdown on sweeteners, click here.

6.  If you are a soda drinker, slowly cut down your consumption until you have quit for good.  Don’t replace soda for diet soda either.  In my opinion, diet soda is even worse.  Stay away from Vitamin Water as well.  It contains almost as much sugar as a can of coke!  You can read more about that here.

7.  Catch up on your reading.  There are several books that can explain the dangers of sugar.  One I recommend is The Sugar Fix: The High-Fructose Fallout That Is Making You Fat and Sick. Another book that explains the dangers of artificial sweeteners is called Sweet Deception: Why Splenda, NutraSweet, and the FDA May Be Hazardous to Your Health.

8.  Start using spices and some foods to make your food seem sweeter without adding any sugar.  Some of those include: cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, applesauce and avocado.  I swear this is true and I can personally tell you that this vanilla powder is worth every penny.  I add it to everything and it really does make a difference!

9.  When looking at nutrition facts, try to keep your sugar grams under 5 per serving.  4 grams of sugar = 1 tsp.  It’s good to keep that in mind when looking at labels.

10.  If you get a craving for something sweet, try drinking a glass of water or brushing your teeth.  You might notice it disappear afterward.

Even baby steps that you take can make a big difference.  Maybe you can pick just one of these at a time and start.  I will leave you with this picture that explains what sugar does when you eat it.


112 thoughts on “Tips on Quitting Processed Sugar

  1. I have recently cut out processes sugars in our family diet (about 4 months ago), and I am true believer now too! I have never heard of this vanilla bean powder. Can you use that to make vanilla bean ice cream? In general, how do you use it? I am very curious about it because I use vanilla a lot more now as well for flavoring, and I am just wondering if it’s worth it to try this or not. Thanks!

    1. You can add it anywhere you would normally add vanilla extract. Sub it teaspoon for teaspoon. I love making my Maple Vanilla Almond Granola with it. I also add it to home made almond milk and to my daughter’s plain yogurt. It smells so good and is worth every penny! Congrats on kicking sugar.

      1. Can you provide an explanation on using the vanilla powder over vanilla extract? Does it come out cheaper? Or is it to avoid the “extra” ingredients in vanilla extract (I know I have a Bourbon Vanilla Extract from Trader Joes and I believe there weren’t any ingredients I didn’t recognize but I guess the Bourbon could have added sugar)?

        1. Either one is fine, but I think the vanilla powder just gives foods a sweeter taste than the extract. Probably because it is pure vanilla bean rather than vanilla extract which contains alcohol. It’s not that the crushed vanilla bean is better for you, but I think the overall taste is better.

          1. You can also put the powder in raw foods. If you are going to put the extract in something raw you can taste the alcohol…not in a yummy way either. It is fine for baked goods since the alcohol burns of but use the powder in your milk or whatever you are not cooking. I think that is the biggest difference.

        1. I use maple syrup or coconut sugar. It’s easy to bake with those once you the hang of it. I have many recipes on this blog for baked goods that don’t use processed sugar. :)

          1. This is another problem. I know we need to but we are sugar addicts! We eat a lot of fruit, veggies, organic, all natural, not hfcs, etc….but sugar is our culprit. I’m afraid because I feel like I have to have something to put in the place of all of those things. And it needs to tatse good to convince them. I never have all of the ingredients because I haven’t figured out how to fit those things into my groc budget. Thought I was doing good by using agave nectar instead of sugar… it’s so discouraging. It’s hard to afford all of this stuff. I imagine organic granola bars that say “pure cane sugar” is bad too?

          2. What products are you having a hard time affording? The best thing for my sugar cravings is a frozen banana blended with nut butter. Very cheap and it does the trick every time.

        2. Hi, I use applesauce, baby food prunes, baby food bananas to make delicious no sugar, egg added……COCONUT FLOUR RAW IF YOU CAN FROM AMAZON
          chocolate chips, oatmeal, one jar of baby prunes mix, bake at 350 for 8-10 mins changed our lives…..

  2. Thank you for this information! We have decided to really change the way that we eat, and last month was our first step in the right direction. This month, I look forward to so many more steps in the right direction. Eliminating ALL HFCS from our food is 1 of those right steps. We’ve also decided to get rid of wheat and gluten as well. It will be tough at first, but I know we can do this. The bread will be my biggest challenge, since the kids and hubby like their bread. I know that everything we do will add up though, and the investment in all of our health is so worth it in the end. Thanks again for this one!

    1. We have a Cuisinart Convection Breadmaker that has a Gluten free bread option. Let me tell you, it’s wonderful. Not sure where you are, but GF bread can range anywhere from $4.50 to $7.00. We chose to make our own GF bread not just because it’s more affordable, but two of our family members have egg allergies. GF bread without eggs is nearly impossible to find at the grocery stores. We use egg replacers by EnerG with our homemade bread recipes. It ends up being about $1.75 per loaf. The Cuisinart Convection breadmaker (CBK-200) makes two pound loaves and is available on Amazon for $129.95. Shipping is free. I’ve done a lot of research on GF bread machines. My only regret was not buying this sooner. Just think, if you buy 26 loaves of bread at $5 a loaf, that’s the cost of this machine!

    1. That powder is worth every penny! I love making my Maple Vanilla Almond Granola with it. It also makes your house smell so good when you cook with it. Those 3 jars last a few months too.

  3. This is super helpful. Will be sharing that image on my blog for our Mindful Health readers! I think the sugar factor is one of the hardest things when it comes to moving towards a more clean eating and whole foods focus. Education is the best way to make the change!

    1. I agree. I find that a lot of people that eat clean are still struggling with sugar addiction. It’s amazing how many calories that sugary products contain!

    1. I think stevia is okay. I personally don’t like the aftertaste, but if you like it, that is fine. I would not lump it in with processed sugar.

  4. Great article, Melissa! I was also fighting with sugar cravings, even though eating healthy. Once I decided to quit and stick with it, I don’t crave sugar anymore! I lost weight and have more energy. Sugar is the second worst creator of acid in our bodies that can contribute to a cause of cancer, diabetes or other diseases. Our body doesn’t need sugar to create energy. Knowing how bad it is for your body is extremely helpful to quit this dangerous addiction.

  5. Sugar was not super hard for me to quit. I have been off processed sugar and sweets for 6 months now. I am very glad that it was easy. I still serve sugar-sweetened desserts when my family comes over to eat, but I abstain. The only time(s) I am tempted are when I am at the store and walk past the bakery area with the cakes and buttercream frosting. THAT is really the only thing I crave… and it isn’t super strong cravings, so I am grateful.

    I am not losing much weight, though. I guess I am where my body thinks it is supposed to be, with a healthy weight (smack dab in the middle of my BMI range for healthy). I would like to get closer to the lower end of the BMI range, but maybe it isn’t meant to be. As long as I am healthy.

  6. Awesome article! Thank you for posting this. This is the perfect reinforcement to everything I’ve been explaining to my friends recently.

  7. I found your blog today. I have been trying to eat more of a whole foods diet the last few years but haven’t succeeded. Lately, I have noticed that after every meal I crave something sweet. I have been eating an apple but there are times I want candy. I know my diet needs a lot of improvement as I am overweight, and my portion size is too large in order for me to lose weight. The funny thing about the sugar is I do not think I eat much. I am going to try your above tips (the ones I do not already do) and see if this helps. Any pointers about portion control? I know what size I am suppose to eat but I still am hungry after such a small portion.

    1. I would suggest you eat a diet high in fiber. Foods high in fiber will keep you full for much longer. I have noticed that with myself. Also chewing your food well and eating slower (something I am still working on) is another way for your brain to catch up and realize your are full. You can also use a smaller plate when eating to trick your brain into thinking you are eating a larger portion. Sometimes when I crave something sweet after a meal, I go brush my teeth. It may seem silly, but it works sometimes. I hope some of those tips help and I’m glad you found me! :)

  8. I thought I was doing good in the sugar dept. But this showed I still have more changes . I am trying to make more of my own than purchasing processed. Like my own almond milk, salad dressings. I borrowed a dehydrator to try. I need my own. Because I love dried fruit. Thanks for reminding me that I have more changes to do.

    1. I’m not sure where you are but I have been able to find some dried fruit at Trader Joes with the fruit being listed as the only ingredient (Plums, Pineapples, Freeze dried mango and some other freeze dried fruits). I am curious on your opinion of if it is possible to consume too much of the natural sugar that fresh/frozen/dried fruits have? I am finding that I mostly snack on fruits during the day and have a couple of pieces of dried fruits when I get the sweets craving throughout the day and I am wondering if I could be over doing it in the fruit department.

      1. I think even natural sugars should not be eaten too much. I think all in moderation. I limit the dried fruit and eat more fresh fruit. A frozen banana tastes decadent a and curbs a sweet tooth nicely. :)

  9. I fell off the wagon over the holidays and have been working on getting us back to cleaner foods. My trick for sweet cravings is to keep organic bananas in the freezer, and when the cravings hit, toss one in the blender with a cup of organic milk for a delicious shake. The kids love it, and it has saved me more than once!

      1. I really hate the taste of both salt and sugar so I use very tiny amount of them in food ,I tried several times not to use any but I unfortunately couldn’t it was unacceptable to me that’s why your idea was very nice ,astonishing to me,so thank you so much and I promiss I will try it as soon as possible .

    1. I personally don’t use it because much of what I have read says it’s similar to high fructose corn syrup. I like to use sweeteners that are mostly processed in nature.

  10. I have never felt healthier in my life! I used to be a suagar addict too. Now i am so used to eating whole foods and low sugar that my body gets sick if i eat very much sugar, or any processed foods. I have more energy and crave good foods and water now… No more sugar and diet pepsi for me!

    I am wondering about your thoughts on milk? My husband will only buy cow’s milk, 2%. Is it bad for me? I dont drink much– just whats on my ceral in the morning.

    1. That is wonderful to hear! I feel great since quitting processed sugar as well. If you drink milk, I would suggest whole milk. The low fat milks usually have added sugar to make them taste as good as the full fat version. I drink non dairy milk. Mostly almond milk or hemp milk.

      1. Loving this post. Thanks! My question is this: How can they add sugar to milk and not list it as an ingredient? I realize that it may seem naive but I’m disappointed that they could do this.

        1. Thanks! If you look at the sugar count on skim milk vs whole milk, skim milk will always have more. Also, there are naturally occurring sugars in milk.

  11. I just noticed all the nasty ingredients in Nestle Quik. My kids love hot chocolate. Any suggestions or healthy alternatives.

    1. You can make your own. I would heat up vanilla almond or coconut milk on the stove with a couple of tablespoons of cocoa powder.

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  13. I am curious if you allow your kids to eat processed sugar? Like if someone has a birthday at school and brings in treats, or if they are at a friend’s house? I’m new to your blog and not sure how old your kids are or if you’ve covered this before. Sorry if it’s a repeat question. I am trying to cut sugar and move to a more whole food way of life. However, I am finding it difficult with our weekly schedule. We have two standing dinner dates with friends every week and switch off cooking dinner. Those families, however, do not cook clean at all, so often that ends up being two meals a week made with highly processed foods. Did you face this battle at all?

    1. Yes we battle with it all the time! When my kids go to birthday parties, I allow them to have the cake. I am trying to teach them to be healthy, but I don’t want to be militant about it. They are kids and want to enjoy the fun. However, at their birthday parties, I will provide healthier treats. I have come to the conclusions that I can’t control everything. All I can do is try to offer them the healthy options when I am around and
      I would hope that they will end up preferring those. I wasn’t raised on soda and I have never liked it. I am hoping my daughter’s will end up preferring the healthy food in the long run.

  14. I have a really bad pepsi addicition, i tried quitting a few months ago. I did good for a month lost 12 lbs, but started drinking it again seems like more now than before. Gained it all back plus extra. Its really my only sugar problem, besides the chocolate bing once a month, lol. I’m going to start juicing this week. Do u think this will help me cut out the pepsi, and control the withdrawl headaches?

  15. If I missed this in the comments, I apologize for the repeat! For baked goods, do you have any good sources for how to substitute natural sweeteners for white sugar, as far as amounts and which natural sweeteners work better in different types of baked goods?
    Thanks for the info! I already don’t use sugar in my coffee but I do bake a lot!

    1. I have never had any problems with any of the natural sweeteners. Most recipes call for more sugar than needed, so you can cut it back easily. With coconut sugar, I would sub cup for cup. With the liquid sweeteners do the same, but keep in mind you will have to cut back on the liquid somewhere else in the recipe slightly.

  16. We don’t do processed sugar in our house anymore. Like zero, which is big b/c we used to live on the stuff. BUT now I find myself always craving naturally sweetened things, esp in the evening. Lots of fruit, dates, homemade nutella (sweetened with maple syrup). Can one be addicted to natural sweetener and how do I kick this because I think it’s getting pretty bad. I just always want something sweet!

    1. Have you tried drinking a big glass of water or having a cup of herbal tea? That might help curb the cravings. I have also heard that brushing your teeth helps.

    2. Arlene, as an RN, my question to you would be, have you been tested for diabetes?
      I ask because I have recently been diagnosed as pre-diabetic and I have noticed lately that I am craving sweet things at night as well. I also cannot tolerate plain water. Strange, I know, but I find that my mouth tends to get very dry with water so I drink a lot of natural juice, mostly grapefruit. I also use juice with yogurt and fruit to make smoothies and they definitely do the trick. If your blood sugar is WNL, I would try a small smoothie to ward off the evening cravings. So far, it is working for me. I have only recently begun to watch what I eat and so far, I have gone a full year without any meat other than fish, and some turkey for Thanksgiving. I wear dentures so everything I eat must be soft since my dentures don’t stay in my mouth when I eat…LOL. Anyway, just a thought! Happy New Year! Love this blog!

    1. Fresh fruits are fine, but too much of anything is not good. I limit sugar of all kind to some degree. 2-3 servings of fruit a day are what I try to aim for.

  17. This is something I have been thinking about a lot lately. I have an immensely bad sweet tooth. The biggest struggle for me is not having it in the house. I will eat everything sweet in the house at once and will drive into town when I’m craving more. I can eat half a caramel cheesecake or more at a time where other people can’t even get through a whole piece. I really have to get over this addiction because I know it’s destroying me from the inside out.

    1. You can do it! I swear I had the biggest sweet tooth! I was able to quit. I’m not gonna lie, the first week is really tough, but it does get easier! I promise.

  18. Hi, love your post! The vanilla powder that you have a link to at amazon is currently out of stock. Is this the brand you like most? Where else can it be purchased?
    Thanks again for all the great info. recipes and advice! :)

  19. I think the advice you have here is very useful. However, I think it’s also important to take glycemic index/load into consideration. That means that eating a lot of foods that are sweetened with dates is not exactly healthy either. I haven’t read all the parts of your blog, so I’m not sure if you address this elsewhere, but I think it’s something to consider. That said, I really appreciate all that you put into this blog. It’s very inspirational and helpful to me.

  20. I’ve read about agave and why it’s not that great in Gwyneth Platrow’s new cookbook, too. I don’t take sugar in my coffee- but I do need to learn how to susbtitute refined sugar in baking! I have a sweet tooth and love cakes and bakes. Will come back here for your recipes!

    1. One of the things that helped me was to cut back on the sugar in recipes over a few weeks. Then my sweet tooth got used to less sweet baked goods. Now if I have something with processed sugar, it is almost too sweet for me.

  21. I am giving up processed sugar for Lent. I’m usually pretty good at avoiding sweets, but the amount of hidden sugars is shocking! This is going to be a tough road, but I know it will be totally rewarding! Thanks for the post!

  22. Hi Melissa!

    I just found your blog and so far am loving it and will be doing a lot of reading :) I just wanted to share our story with you regarding the processed sugar. My daughter suffers with migraines and after many years we were able to link her migraines to… processed sugars! Yes, anything that contains glucose-fructose and corn syrup are taboo products for us. As a result, we have had to cut down bringing many of our favourite processed foods in the house and changing how we eat. Blogs, like yours are a wonderful resource for me – I find we’re always on the hunt now for ideas and recipes that use whole foods!


  23. I’m good with all of these – my trouble is when I am not controlling my food – baked goods in the office kitchen and “working lunches” – or parties and social situations when I don’t feel like I have control over my food. I could use some tips for managing when you don’t have control of your food (and I know the first tip would be “always make sure you can control your food.”

    1. For working lunches, can’t you order something healthy? Like a salad with the dressing on the side? When I got to parties, I normally always bring a dish everyone can enjoy and I eat that. There is always the fruit and veggie trays too. Being vegan helps because I usually cannot eat any of the baked goods at parties.

  24. Can really identify with this post, as it reinforces what I have been doing.
    In April I made a conscious decision to cut out most processed sugars (two candy bars a day, potato chips, jelly beans, all sodas, cakes and muffins, etc) from my diet.
    Have lost 25 pounds, and 12cm from my waist, in the eight months and one week since that date.
    That might not sounds like a big weight loss, but partly it is because I have been going to gym three times a week for 90mins a session and have packed on muscle in shoulders, biceps, triceps, etc. at the same time.
    I drink my coffee black, have increased my daily water intake to two litres, and allow myself the odd whiskey or two, and eat plenty of fruit. Every morning and most evenings I take a glass of whey protein supplement.
    Have not been as fit or healthy in 25 years.
    Keep up the good work. xx

  25. or, just slice some ginger and lemon then put them in a cup add water and drink it during the day. In few days sugar cravings would be gone. Don’t forget to check out the sugar withdrawal symptoms, though.

  26. Do you have any other suggestions on books to read for Clean Eating and getting rid of processed food? Your cookbook is amazing!

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