Cutting out sweets is a tried-and-tested way to lose weight. Watch out, though; it takes a ton of willpower because you'll be constantly battling with — and occasionally bargaining with — your sweet tooth.
The amount of weight you lose when you cut out sweets will depend on how many sweets you normally eat on a daily basis and how much you’re able to cut out. The general rule is that you need to reduce your calorie intake by 500 calories a day to lose 1 pound of body weight a week.
Read more: 15 Reasons to Kick Sugar
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Cutting Out Dessert
Dessert is one of the most obvious sources of sugar in your diet. If you regularly eat high-calorie desserts, then cutting them out could help you lose some weight. Here are some of the caloric values of common desserts, just to help you get some perspective.
A slice of chocolate cake without any frosting has 352 calories, a jelly-filled doughnut has 289 calories, a slice of cheesecake has 257 calories, 1 cup of strawberry ice cream has 254 calories, and a serving of four chocolate cookies has 162 calories.
These are standard references; the actual number of calories depends on a lot of things, like the ingredients used and the style of preparation. For example, whether the cheesecake has a sour cream topping, a berry coulis topping or no topping at all will make a difference to its caloric value. The nutrition label on the food item can tell you exactly how many calories it has per serving.
If you think it will be too difficult to cut out dessert completely, you can try substituting it with healthier alternatives. For example, opt for some fruit when you're craving something sweet. Just to give you some perspective, a whole cup of raspberries has only 64 calories.
Read more: 5 Easy Ways to Cut Down on Sugar
Cutting Out Sugary Drinks
Apart from desserts, there may be other sources of sugar in your diet that you can cut back on to help you reach your weight loss goals. Sugary drinks is one of them.
Sodas, energy drinks and sports drinks are usually loaded with sugar and calories. These calories are known as empty calories because they often have no other nutritional value in the form of protein, vitamins, minerals or fiber.
These drinks also usually contain a number of other additives like artificial coloring, flavoring and acids that are harmful to your health. The USDA recommends skipping these drinks and opting for water instead.
Read more: The Top 10 Worst Soft Drinks For Your Health
Even fruit juices, which we tend to think of as healthy, can contain a lot of sugar. For example, an 8-ounce serving of apple juice has 26 grams of sugar in it. That's roughly 6 teaspoons of sugar. Some fruit juices have added sugar, but even 100 percent fruit juices have a lot of sugar in them because fruits contain natural sugars.
A study published in August 2013 in the BMJ found that consumption of fruit juice was linked to a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes. Whole fruits have fiber to slow down the absorption of sugar; fruit juice does not.
Other sugary drinks to watch out for are tea and coffee. Store-bought teas and coffees tend to have quite a bit of sugar, the flavored ones especially. For example, a small-sized flavored latte has 27.3 grams, or roughly 6.5 teaspoons, of sugar.
Try skipping the sugar in your tea or coffee and either drink it without sugar or opt for a low-calorie sweetener like stevia. If you can't quite get used to the taste, you can try switching to green tea.
Cutting Out Added Sugar
Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added to processed foods and drinks when they are prepared. They do not include the sugars that naturally occur in fruits and milk, known as fructose and lactose respectively. Added sugars are added to foods not only for flavor but also to help preserve them, improve their texture, assist with fermentation and act as a bulking agent.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting the amount of added sugars you consume to no more than 100 calories, or 6 teaspoons, per day for women and 150 calories, or 9 teaspoons, per day for men. This is because sugar consumption leads to weight gain and obesity, which also affect heart health.
The problem with added sugars is that often you don't realize they're there unless you regularly check the nutrition labels of the foods you're eating. While you may not be surprised to find out there's a lot of sugar in ice cream, you may be surprised to know that there's a lot of sugar in many types of yogurt, granola bars, breakfast cereals, canned foods and sauces like ketchup and barbecue sauce.
To give you an example, 1 cup of Froot Loops breakfast cereal contains 12.1 grams of sugar, which means that over 40 percent of its composition is sugar.
Added sugar is often listed on nutrition labels under a number of aliases. The AHA notes that ingredients ending in "ose," like maltose and sucrose, are usually types of sugars. Molasses, high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, corn sweetener and fruit juice concentrate are some of the other names of sugar to watch out for.
Breaking the Sugar Cycle
Sugar is a difficult food to give up because of the way your body responds to it. It triggers the limbic region in your brain, which is your brain's reward center, producing characteristics of craving and withdrawal that are similar to those seen in people who are addicted to substances like alcohol and cocaine.
Sugar also affects your hormones in a way that causes your body to store more calories as fat and impairs your ability to gauge when you're full, which can cause you to eat more than you need to. All of these factors contribute to weight gain as well, so the benefits of cutting out sugar go even beyond the actual calories in sugar.
- USDA: “Cake, Chocolate, Prepared From Recipe Without Frosting”
- USDA: “Doughnuts, Yeast-Leavened, With Jelly Filling”
- USDA: “Cake, Cheesecake, Commercially Prepared”
- USDA: “Ice Creams, Strawberry”
- USDA: “Cookie, Chocolate, With Icing or Coating”
- The Rudd Center: “Empty Calories”
- USDA: “Make Better Beverage Choices”
- USDA: “Apple Juice”
- The BMJ: “Fruit Consumption and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: Results From Three Prospective Longitudinal Cohort Studies”
- USDA: “Coffee, Latte, Flavored”
- USDA: “What Are Added Sugars?”
- American Heart Association: “Added Sugars”
- Mayo Clinic: “Added Sugars: Don't Get Sabotaged by Sweeteners”
- University of California: “Sugar Science”
- USDA: “Raspberries, Raw”
- USDA: “Froot Loops, Sweetened Multi-Grain Cereal”