This is what I ate for lunch today, a typical sugar free meal: A large salad with lots of different greens, tomatoes, red peppers, carrots, homemade oven roasted cashews, nitrate free bacon slices, sliced up chicken from a Whole Foods roasted chicken, Bubbie’s fermented pickles, and cucumbers. Topped with a homemade dressing made out of olive oil, apple cider vinegar, dijon mustard, sea salt, and garlic. On the side, I had some hummus and red peppers (I bought a version on sale at my local Natural Grocers.) I eat salads like this all the time for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
One of the most common questions I get about giving up sugar is, “What do I eat?”
While the answer to “What should I eat?” will be different for each person, this is how I do it. This is what works for me – an example, not a prescription.
There’s a lot of freedom in the container of sugar abstinence, many different ways to eat: vegetarian, vegan, low-carb, raw foods, paleo, high protein, clean eating (whole, unprocessed foods.) I prescribe to the philosophy that there is no one diet that works best for everyone, what is called integrative nutrition. Rather, each person needs to find the foods that work for his or her body.
How do you do this?
You eat something, note how it makes you feel, and adjust. You find the foods that love you back. (A food diary is a fantastic tool for this process, as you can observe yourself and make the connections between your health/mood and food choices.)
You gently release or moderately eat even “healthy” foods like bananas or whole wheat pasta if they make you feel terrible. The trick is making peace with those choices – and not creating fodder for the mind to feel deprived.
I’m constantly experimenting, fine tuning, and listening. So while I can share what I eat today it is exactly that – what I am eating today.
If I had to describe how I eat, it’s a traditional diet of whole foods that aims to balance my blood sugar. I do eat treat foods, as well, but 85% of my food choices fit within this traditional, whole foods container. If I had to analyze the composition of my meals, it would probably fit within a Zone type of diet – a balance of 40% of calories from carbohydrates with 30% from fat and 30% from protein.
About 60-70% of my diet consists of vegetables, as organic, whole, unprocessed and local as I can get. My intake of veggies includes land veggies, fermented vegetables, and root vegetables (winter squashes, yams, carrots, and red potatoes, for example.)
To each meal, I add fat (olive oil, butter, coconut oil, animal fat, avocados, etc.) and protein: nuts, meat, and legumes (black beans and chickpeas.) I struggled for years with eating meat, because I felt sad killing an animal so that I could thrive. I also felt guilty and felt like I “should” be a vegetarian. And yet as someone with low blood sugar, I feel much, much better eating dense animal protein and fats. I had to move through my own internal process of acceptance to accept that my body feels better with animal fats and foods.
I try to minimize my intake of grains as I feel pretty awful on most grains. The exception to this is that I do eat some brown rice and millet. I eat low sugar fruits, but in moderation – mostly tart apples and berries. Too much fruit feels the same way in my body as too much sugar does – I feel light headed and hungry.
I do eat treats! Some examples of treat foods, for me, are homemade popcorn popped in coconut oil, with sea salt and butter; unsweetened carob almonds, and fruit with nuts. A typical celebratory dessert is an unsweetened fruit crisp made with cinnamon, almond flour, and nuts. The cooked fruit is plenty sweet for me without any added sugar.
I know that eating this way may seem like a shock if you’re used to eating differently. I understand; it’s taken me over 2o years to get to this point. I was a typical junk food eater in my teens and early twenties – sodas, then diet sodas, lots of fast food and restaurant food, candy, sweets, ice cream and sugar, lots of processed food and processed carbs (potato chips, crackers, white flour, etc.); bagels and fat free (and sugar laden) yogurt for breakfast.
I encourage you to be gentle with yourself. I don’t want you to feel discouraged if you try and eat like I do and then find it overwhelming. (I made this process much harder on myself by trying to change too much at once!)
Start with one small step. Honor each shift. Take the next step and keep taking the next step and you’ll slowly change how you eat.
Once your taste buds adjust to more whole foods, it will get easier and you’ll feel better. Canned foods will taste too salty and sweet, and you will actually crave fresh foods. Your body will feel “lighter,” even before the scale moves, and your digestion will greatly improve.
You’ll eventually crave the foods that nourish you body, mind and spirit. When I’m not eating sugar, I can taste the natural sweetness in almonds, carrots, peppers, and onions. The variety of textures and flavors of vegetables satisfies my taste buds. I love the creamy taste of nut butters. I use lots of different spices and sauces and seasonings to keep my meals interesting and varied. I make lots of soup, as it’s comforting, warm and filling.
One of the reasons why I didn’t want to give up sugar was because I thought that giving up sugar would mean having a joyless relationship with food – where I’d spend the rest of my days living like a food cop, neurotic and miserable. I’ve learned to embrace this paradox: a joyful, loving relationship with food while also abstaining from sugar.
Here are meal ideas taken directly from my kitchen:
Meals with meat:
- Grilled steak or chicken with grilled veggies and a big raw vegetable salad
- Roast chicken with green beans, salad, and curried vegetables
- A giant taco salad with ground bison, guacamole, salsa, a huge bowl of salad greens, sautéed onions and peppers
- Turkey sausages, homemade hash brown potatoes, sauteed greens and bacon
- Roast turkey with roasted acorn squash, salad, and steamed broccoli
- Roast beef with tomatoes, onions, and carrots and sautéed squash (zucchini or yellow squash)
- Grilled salmon and stir fry veggies
- Chicken salad with homemade, sugar free mayo and veggies on a huge green salad. (I make my own homemade mayo without sugar every week, and use it for all sorts of things, including meat salads. I use this recipe and omit the honey. )
- Grilled chicken breasts with a caprese salad, fresh peas, and a cucumber salad
- Bison steak, sautéed mushrooms, guacamole, a huge raw vegetable salad, baked yams with cinnamon and chili powder
- Chicken, salsa, guacamole, jicama, peppers, onions, tomatoes and garlic on a huge salad
- Roasted chicken thighs with olives, onions, garlic, diced tomatoes, and mushrooms; a large side salad; red potatoes
- Hamburgers (without a bun) with sautéed mushrooms, onions, lettuce, and tomato, a side salad, and homemade fries (I slice potatoes with the skin into thin strips, sprinkle them with olive oil spray, and bake them in the oven.)
- A salmon burger (no bun) served with sauteed spinach and onions, a large green salad, and a baked potato
- Grilled venison, elk or buffalo with sauteed kale and onions, sauteed mushrooms
- Baked salmon with lemon juice, dill and soy sauce (if you can’t eat soy or gluten, you can try coconut aminos. I find them very sweet so a little goes a long way); with sauteed swiss chard
- Diced chicken with artichoke hearts and mushrooms in a creamy sauce; hummus and raw veggies; a side salad
- Stir fry veggies with chicken thighs
- A tomato or meat red sauce over baked spaghetti squash
- Every week I make bone broths and then I use them to make soups with a variety of veggies, greens and spices.
Meals without meat:
- Plain kefir or plain greek style yogurt with almonds, walnuts and ground flaxseeds
- Stir fried veggies with eggs
- An egg frittata with lots of sautéed veggies and pine nuts (I clean out whatever veggies I have in the fridge for my frittatas.)
- Baked winter squash with cinnamon and pecans and drizzled with flaxseed or walnut oil (I love this for a winter dessert.)
- Lentil soup with a large side salad
- Sauteed veggies and a baked red potato with butter
- Creamy millet (millet made with 4 parts water to 1 part millet) topped with tons of sauteed veggies cooked in olive or coconut oil (a wonderful comfort food meal)
Struggling with a sugar addiction?
If you have a painful, compulsive relationship with sugar, and want to unhook from painful sugar cravings, sugar binges, or an insatiable drive for sugar, I can help. I help help people heal the internal drive for sugar so that they can follow through on their desire to eat a low or no sugar diet.
There’s a way to heal your sugar obsession so you’re no longer compulsively eating or bingeing on it – but the answer isn’t what you think. It’s not found in a perfect diet, will power, self control, behavior modification or even a sugar abstinence.
You heal a sugar compulsion by softening the heart, building emotional tolerance, by feeling cravings more, not less; through emotional honesty, and by healing the inner dynamics that drive the impulse to binge on sugar in the first place.
If you’d like to learn more, I invite you to join me for my 30 day sugar detox program, The 30 Day Lift. In this gentle, compassion based program, you’ll get 30 days of audio coaching to transition into a low or no sugar diet and bonus, live Q&A calls with me. Class starts August 1st. Learn more and sign up here.
You can also learn more about my approach to healing the emotional roots of a sugar addiction by reading these posts here:
- How to say no to sugar without white knuckling it
- How to strengthen your inner voice to say no to sugar
- How to stop sugar cravings (why you want to feel sugar cravings more, not less)