Starting off 2017 with a 7-day sugar detox was the best thing I could’ve done for my body. At the time, I was experiencing horrible digestive issues for the past several years and needed to do something drastic in order to relieve my symptoms. Along with removing many of the foods I was intolerant to (more info on that here), significantly upping my intake of healthy fats and eating smaller portioned meals for easier digestion, I participated in a 7-day sugar detox that would rid my body of all the added sugars that sneak their way into way too many everyday foods. It was very difficult my first time around, I won’t deny that. But since then, I’ve completed six 7-day sugar detoxes and a 21-day sugar detox, all within 10 months! After successfully completing each one I’ve felt recharged, re-energized, and better able to avoid sweeteners during times I’m not following the detox guidelines.
Normally, you won’t ever see me recommending a cleanse or detox and that’s because most detoxes out there are usually low in protein, low in calories, and to be honest, our liver does a great job detoxing the body already. This detox, however, is different. Added sugars, aside from those naturally occurring in fruits and vegetables, can be very harmful on the body over time. Blood sugar (glucose) is created when we break down carbohydrates in the body. Insulin is then released by the pancreas into the blood stream to regulate blood sugar and transfer it into our cells. Ideally, we want to keep our blood sugar stabilized during the day; not too low and not too high. The more carbohydrate-rich foods we consume, the more insulin is needed to transport the glucose into our blood stream and cells, which leaves the pancreas having to work harder (damaging to the body over time). If this continues, our bodies become predisposed to having to produce these consistently high levels of insulin and makes weight loss increasingly more difficult.
To me, the purpose of this detox isn’t meant to deprive yourself of all your favorite foods. It’s meant to help you realize the ridiculous amount of sugar that hides in so many packaged items from nut butters, oatmeals, salad dressings, yogurts and bread, to protein powders and basically all things labeled, “fat-free” (We should know by now just how healthy fats are for the body– never buy fat-free!). This detox is meant to make you more conscious of ingredient lists when buying/eating foods, help you learn alternatives for your favorite snacks, meals, especially “sweet treats,” and it’s also meant to help build long lasting, sustainable healthy habits.
Further, the sugar detox is designed to make naturally sweet tasting foods taste, well, sweeter. Your taste buds gradually adapt over time to what they’re given, and in this case, it’s sugar. The more sugar you eat, the more you need for your body to feel satisfied and kick that craving. By removing added sugars for a given period of time, you’ll reset your taste buds so they become more sensitive without having to add unnecessary enhancements to foods, such as honey, maple syrup, stevia, dates, coconut sugar, brown sugar, syrups, etc. This explains why people who continue to eat healthy foods are able to notice when something tastes artificial, over-seasoned, too salty, etc. It’s the same reason that people who continue to eat junk foods claim that “healthy foods” are boring and taste too plain.
(Side note: fruit will taste AMAZING and so sweet once you reduce your overall intake. You may even learn to love having fresh fruit as a dessert instead of the alternative chocolate ganache cake that’ll spike your blood sugar like there’s no tomorrow.)
The trick to removing sugars and still feeling satisfied is to modify your favorite foods so you’re not feeling deprived. Make healthier, more substantial substitutions that will still please your taste buds! I rounded up some of my favorites below:
- Maca and Cacao Bliss Balls
- Sugar-free Chocolate Superfood Bark
- Chia Porridge (minus the maple syrup)
- The Perfect Be Well Smoothie
- Lee From America’s Coconut Fat Balls (minus the dates)
If you’re thinking this reset may be for you (yes, do it!), try not to get overwhelmed or stressed thinking about which foods you’ll be able to have on the detox. Let’s think about it. If “added sugars” are the only thing eliminated, you’re still able to eat unlimited veggies (yes, even sweet potatoes and beets), whole foods (not the store, unfortunately), and fruit. Try to keep fruit to around 0-2 servings per day. Get back to the basics and eat foods that come from the earth that are rich in vitamins, minerals and essential nutrients.
Once you prepare yourself, your fridge and your pantry before the detox, you’ll have set yourself up for a successful week ahead! If you go into this not knowing what foods are allowed, not having a plan for meals and snacks, or simply trying to “wing-it”–don’t bother because you’ll probably end up disappointed in the end.
Confused on what ingredients are considered added sugars? (Red flag for ingredients that end with ‘ose’ or ‘syrup’)
-Agave, agave nectar, barley malt, beet sugar, black strap molasses, brown rice syrup, brown sugar, cane sugar, caramel, carob syrup, coconut palm sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, corn-syrup solids, crystalline fructose, date sugar, dehydrated cane juice, dextrin, dextrose, dried oat syrup, evaporated cane juice crystals, evaporated cane juice, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, gum syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, inverted sugar, malt syrup, maltodextrin, maltose, maple syrup, palm sugar, refiner’s syrup, simple syrup, sorghum syrup, stevia, sucanat, sucrose, turbinado
I’ve listed some more meals, snacks and dessert ideas below. I hope this helps!
-Eggs, spinach, sprouted toast (check added sugars), avocado
–Broiled Grapefruit: this is one thing I strongly suggest trying out! Sweet taste from the coconut oil and cinnamon– no added sugars
-Smoothie with 1/4 cup blueberries, unsweetened almond milk, 1 serving protein, 1 tbsp flax or chia seeds, 1 tbsp almond butter, coconut flakes, big handful spinach, ice or steamed then frozen cauliflower (trust me, you can’t taste it! Begin with adding only a few pieces and work your way up to 1/2 cup from there!)
-Tuna salad with avocado mayo (or plain smashed avocado), bell peppers, romaine lettuce, seeded crackers (I love Jilz Crackers)
–Turkey Burger, tomato, lettuce, sweet potato fries, salad
–Avocado egg salad
-Homemade protein balls (Maca and Cacao Bliss Balls above)
-Handful of nuts
-Hummus with raw veggies
-1/2 an apple with coconut butter or almond butter
–Bulletproof matcha latté
–Zoodles, turkey meatballs, marinara (check the marinara label for added sugars)
–Creamy pesto enchiladas
-Roasted sweet potato fries, salmon, broccolini
–100% cacao chocolate dipped in all-natural peanut or almond butter
–Chocolate bark (added sugar-free)
-Serving of fruit (choose fresh organic berries for the most bang for your buck!)
A few takeaways before starting:
*This is a sugar detox. It will be challenging and the sugar withdrawals may lead to fatigue, headaches, and other side effects a few days into it. Don’t worry! You’ll feel so much better once your body readjusts– make sure to drink plenty of water
*Be mindful not to indulge in other “not so healthy” foods like chips or other sugar-free labeled packaged items in order to satisfy cravings
*If you need bars for a quick snack– I recommend either Primal Kitchen Collagen Bars or Bulletproof Bars since they are very low in sugar
*Eat adequate protein and healthy fats to keep you satisfied and full throughout the day, and to help alleviate any cravings
*I typically avoid ALL added sugars during the detox, including honey, maple syrup, stevia (I don’t use anyways) and dates. If allowing yourself to cut back on these ingredients but still consume, go for it! Some people thrive off going cold-turkey… others need some leeway
*Read this article for what NOT to do during a sugar detox, including switching to diet sodas and eating only sugar-free foods
Let’s face it– sugar sneaks itself into way too many foods we eat on a daily basis. Start a 7-day sugar detox challenge to reset your body, re-sensitize your taste buds and feel energized! Who knows, you may even feel so good you end up continuing the detox long after the 7 days are up.