By Leo Babauta
So what is the sugar-free challenge? Itâ€™s basically refraining from eating food with added sweeteners, and exploring a less-processed diet instead.
Why do it? Well, the reasons can be varied depending on whatâ€™s important to you, but here are some reasons:
- To break from an addiction to sweets
- To cut out a major source of calories, to help you lose weight
- To explore a healthy diet of whole foods
- To see what it’s like to let go of something
I’ve honestly never done a sugar-free challenge, but millions have, and they’ve found it a very healthy thing to do, whether or not they continued to eat very little added sugar.
A Suggested Weekly Schedule
Here’s a suggested schedule (adapted from Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar, see interview below):
- Week 1: Start making substitutions in your diet, looking for replacements for the sugar you normally use. Notice what sugar ingredients are in the pre-prepared foods you eat. Start looking up recipes
- Week2 2 & 3: Try going fully without sugar for two weeks, including no fruit (temporarily). See list of what not to eat in the next section.
- Week 4: Add 1-2 pieces of whole fruit back into your diet, leaving out the rest of the sugar.
- Week 5: Slowly add small amounts of sugar back, seeing the level you’re happy to live with, without going back to your old level. For example, you might have a piece or two of dark chocolate every day, with a little sugar in it, but decide not to eat pastries every morning. Find the level that works for you by adding just a little back each week until you’re happy with that level.
This is just a suggested schedule, but you can figure out a schedule that works for you — just decide beforehand, not during the week.
What To Eat, What Not To Eat
Here are some things to consider not eating:
- Table sugar or anything with added sugar or fructose
- Anything with high-fructose corn syrup, or other corn sweeteners, evaporated cane juice
- Honey, agave, maple syrup, brown rice syrup, molasses, brown sugar, coconut sugar, anything with “syrup” or “sugar” in the ingredients
- Dried fruit
- Sauces that have added sugar (barbecue sauce, ketchup, sweet and sour, etc.)
- Fruit juices, or foods with fruit juice added
What you can eat:
- Fruits (other than Weeks 2 & 3)
- All kinds of vegetables
- Whole grains, breads (without added sugar), rice, other grains
- Nuts, seeds, oils, nut butters (without added sweeteners)
- Meats, tofu, beans, lentils, eggs, other proteins
- Dairy (if sugar isn’t added)
Basically, anything without added sugar.
Interview with Sarah Wilson
- How and why she got started
- What’s allowed and what’s not
- Tips for eating with friends
- How to embrace the challenge joyfully
You can find Sarah’s 8-week challenge and more at these links:
- 8-Week I Quit Sugar Program
- I Quit Sugar website with some free resources
- Sarah’s blog
- Sarah’s new book – I Quit Sugar Cookbook (also sold as Simplicious)