I used to think that it’s impossible to quit sugar completely. For a long time, I attempted to remove it from my diet entirely but didn’t manage to do so. After a while, with a no-sugar diet, I would start having a strong craving for sugar and fell off track eating sugary products again.
But once I encountered an old man at my local fitness club. He really amazed me. At his 72 he was able to attend intense group training every single day. And not only that, he could take 2 one-hour workouts in a row, not just 1. If you saw him, you would be highly impressed. And inspired. He told me about his diet. One of his eating habits was avoiding sugar. I learnt that he doesn’t eat sugar at all. Not a bit. And I thought, ‘Well, if he can, then I, definitely, can either.’
But why did I decide to quit sugar, in the first place?
And I started to clean up my diet, remove products with harmful chemicals my taste started to change. And when your taste change, after eating some unhealthy product your body starts to reject it, start not to feel well after consuming it. Your body starts to be more ‘aware’ of the foods you eat. It’s becoming better at telling which food is of high quality and which one is the opposite. And after eating some amount of sugar, I started to feel some resistance from my body. But after I completely replaced sugar with healthier foods, this body resistance ceased to manifest.
And in this article, I’m gonna be talking about products which I have substituted sugar with.
First, a bit of a disclaimer. When you think about sugar substitutes what comes to mind first is the following:
Honey, creamed honey, raw cane sugar, coconut sugar, date syrup, agave syrup.
And those are certainly better than sugar, but not to a great extent. They do have more nutrients than refined sugar, but not so much to eat them every day. And they raise your blood sugar level at almost the same speed as refined sugar.
The best idea to eat those products in moderation. And by adding to other dishes which are cold (moderately) or/and contain fat. That way your blood sugar level spike will slow down.
The products that I’m about to talk about are way more nutritious and healthier in terms of blood sugar level. More so, I’m going to talk about which foods do these sugar alternatives go together well with. So that you have a tasty and nutritious meal.
However, those foods and dishes might not suit you 100%. This list is based rather on my personal experience. And some information might not be 100% accurate, even though I have researched this topic in depth. It’s hard to know every single bit. When I read some article or watch some video I also try to do some additional research based on new knowledge to have a bigger picture.
Yet I hope that this list will give some ideas in terms of healthier alternatives to sugar. As well as convince you that it’s possible to live without sugar.
More so, with diabetes type 1 by removing sugar from your diet you will turn out to make fewer injections by about 30%. And by about 50% if you work out every day. I have tried it. It works.
Alright, let’s dive into it.
1)Fruit-and-nut bars (sometimes there are also fruit-and-nut sweets)
Those are bars with dried fruits and/or berries (sometimes dried vegetables) + nuts and/or seeds.
Sometimes sugar is added to some bars as well as some chemicals. So first, you need to watch out for that. Not all fruit-and-nut bars are equally good.
Why are they healthier?
They have more vitamins and minerals than sugar.
Although they do increase your blood sugar level quickly, I think 1 bar is fine. Because 1 bar usually contains only about 1-2 bread units (12-24 gr of carbohydrates).
Just don’t eat more than 1 bar at a meal.
Additionally, eat them separately from other carbohydrates. That means if you have already eaten a cake or bread, don’t eat a fruit-and-nut bar. If you have already eaten a fruit-and-nut bar, don’t eat a cake or bread afterwards.
I actually have a golden rule: Eat carbohydrates separately. Not a bowl of cereal, then a cake, and then bread all for one meal. But rather one of those for a meal.
Otherwise, you’re eating too much energy which you’re probably not going to realise soon after your meal. That creates disbalance.
Here are a few ways how I prefer to eat them:
-After a bowl of salad
-After a workout or other intense physical activity.
Since after a workout you usually have a low sugar level, it’s an ideal time to have a fruit-and-nut bar.
2)Fresh fruits and berries.
It seems obvious, but here’s the thing. I try to add them to some dishes for the sake of variety. You get bored with fruits and berries very easily if you eat them as they are. The best idea is to add them to smoothies. That way you’ve got multiple-drink options. That way it will be hard to get bored. Additionally, you receive more vitamins at a time.
Here are a few personal examples with bananas and oranges.
For me, it’s really boring to eat oranges as they are because their particles stick to the teeth. It’s more practical to squeeze them and add to your smoothie.
When you eat a banana for breakfast, for me, it doesn’t feel right. But a smoothie with a banana for breakfast feels perfect.
Of course, not all fruit mixes might feel right for you. You just need to find your favourite mixes by experiment.
Smoothies and high blood sugar level.
The drawback is that smoothies raise your blood sugar level quickly. However, you can slow down that spike by adding ‘fat’, that is, quark or/and nut butter.
You can add either plant milk or whole cow’s milk.
Don’t know which one is better. From one perspective plant milk is better, from the other – it’s cow’s milk. So, personally, I use them in turn. However, when it comes to smoothies, for me, they taste better when you add plant milk.
Here are a few benefits with those:
-Frozen berries make your smoothie cold. And cold products slow down blood sugar level increase (But make your smoothie is not too cold).
-Not only can you make smoothies from fresh or frozen berries you can also make warm drinks from them. I consider them to be a healthier alternative to tea or coffee.
6)buckwheat, brown rice (or some other type of cereal) with nut butter.
Sometimes I add milk butter. But nut butter is a good alternative. Not with all nut butter, this meal might taste good. And for everyone, it will differ which one tastes good. You need to find out which kinds of nut butter will suit best personally for you by experiment.
Especially, if we are talking about cereals with high Glycemic Index, like, oatmeal or semolina. Nut butter is fat. And by adding fat it will slow down the rise in blood sugar level.
Yet here are a few warnings related to nut butter. Nuts contain a high level of phytic acid. Moderate amounts of phytic acid are healthy. But too much of this acid leads to tooth decay. Since phytic acid prevents teeth from getting vital minerals to stay healthy. Especially, be careful with almond nuts and butter. This type of nut contains the highest amount of this acid. But here are some good news.
Heating nuts decrease some amount of this acid. And, usually, nut butter is made of heated nuts.
Hemp seed butter is the only one which doesn’t contain any phytic acid. More so, smoothies taste really delicious with it (at least for me).
I consider dark chocolate to be a good alternative to sugar. Not all of them, but the one which contains a very low amount of it (1 lump in a bar) or in which they add raw cane sugar. But I would eat chocolate in moderation. There are not many nutrients in any chocolate.
5)Any bread NOT made of refined white flour.
For example, buckwheat bread, wholegrain bread.
However, any bread is not nutritious enough. So I would eat bread in moderation anyways.
And any bread raises your blood sugar level quite quickly. Again, the best idea is to add some fat. And you already know which ones: butter and cheese. Also, you can add nut butter. And I’m not only talking about peanut butter. It’s just an obvious one. There are lots of various kinds of nut butter which you might not be aware of yet. Sometimes those are called ‘urbech’. For instance, cashew butter, apricot kernel butter, pine nut butter, tahini butter, sunflower butter, hemp seed butter… And the list goes on and on.
That’s about it. I do think that your diet should be moderately strict. Not too strict. Because if it’s too strict you tend to fall off track and then quit for a long time. If you have a lump of sugar sometimes added to chocolate or cacao, it’s fine. There are different situations. Sometimes you have to eat something containing a few lumps of sugar because there are no other options available. The main thing, though, is to maintain a healthier tendency allowing yourself to ease your diet sometimes. Not oftentimes, but sometimes.
I reckon nature should be our role model. It normally works like a clock, but sometimes it eases its discipline. For example, it usually snows a lot in December here. But this year there was nearly no snow in December. It seemed like nature decided to ease her self-discipline once in a long while.