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 argue that. But since then, I’ve completed eight 7-day sugar detoxes, as well as a 21-day sugar detox when I wanted to keep my streak going! After successfully completing each one I have 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 as is. 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 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.
PURPOSE OF THIS DETOX
To me, the goal of this detox isn’t meant to deprive yourself of all your favorite foods. It’s meant to help you realize the incredible amount of sugar that hides in so many packaged items we consume on a daily basis all the way 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 beneficial healthy fats are for the body). 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 desserts, and ultimately, this sugar detox is designed to help build long lasting, sustainable healthy habits.
The added sugar detox will actually 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 sugar-laden options that’ll spike your blood sugar like crazy.)
Further, removing sugar can even help clear up your skin! Sugar is dehydrating and can contribute to increased oil production. It also breaks down collagen, the most prominent protein found in our bodies (it makes up a large part of our skin, hair and nails). Do you ever notice when you have one too many sweets, your face may develop a few new pimple pals? Just imagine what happens when you remove sugar for the time being… your face may appear perkier, oxygenated and brighter!
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:
- Cinnamon Fat Bombs
- Maca and Cacao Bliss Balls
- Sugar-free Chocolate Superfood Bark
- Creamy Chia Pudding
- 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 mentally, prep your fridge and your pantry before the detox (you’ll be able to get some use out of my Trader Joe’s Healthy Shopping Guide HERE), 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 attempting to “wing-it”–don’t bother because you’ll probably end up disappointed and quit early.
CONFUSED ON WHAT INGREDIENTS ARE CONSIDERED “ADDED” SUGARS? (red flag for ingredients ending with ‘ose’ or ‘syrup’)
-Agave, agave nectar, barley malt, beet sugar, blackstrap molasses, brown rice syrup, brown sugar, cane sugar, caramel, carob syrup, coconut 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
*By the way, if you’re a frequent stevia user… you may want to think again. Check out this article explaining some of its potential harmful benefits.
I’ve listed some more meals, snacks and dessert ideas below and provided a sample 7-day menu at the bottom. I hope this helps!
-Eggs, spinach, sprouted or seeded toast (check added sugars), avocado
–Broiled Grapefruit: this is one thing I strongly suggest trying out! Extra sweet taste from the coconut oil and cinnamon– no added sugars
-Tuna salad with Primal Kitchen 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 nut butter
–Chocolate bark (added sugar-free)
-Serving of fruit (choose fresh organic berries for they’re rich in antioxidants and low on the glycemic index)
A FEW TAKEAWAYS BEFORE STARTING THE DETOX
*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, and stevia (I don’t use anyways). 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
*Check out my Trader Joe’s Healthy Shopping Guide for a headstart on what to buy at the grocery store
*I left a 7-day sample menu below based on the foods I typically eat. Feel free to change it up or swap meals!!
7-DAY SAMPLE MENU
Pasture-raised eggs cooked in olive or avocado oil, avocado
Handful of spinach
2 tbsp almond butter or handful raw nuts
Seared wild salmon cooked in extra virgin olive oil
2+ cups leafy greens, handful pumpkin seeds, diced cucumber, quinoa/brown rice/or sweet potato with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil + lemon juice + garlic for dressing
Mint chip smoothie (recipe here)
Tuna salad lettuce wraps – canned tuna mixed with ½ avocado, dill weed, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, lemon juice wrapped in butter lettuce
Handful seeded crackers (my favorites: Jilz Crackers or Simple Mills almond flour crackers)
Maca & cacao bliss balls (recipe here)
Sautéed cauliflower rice with garlic and ghee
Grilled or baked organic chicken breast
½ plate roasted asparagus with salt, pepper and nutritional yeast
1-2 squares 100% cacao dark chocolate dipped in almond butter
Fried egg cooked in extra virgin olive or avocado oil, avocado
Roasted sweet potato (slice into ¼-inch rounds, toss lightly with avocado oil and use seasonings of choice. Broil in the oven on high heat, center rack for about 12 minutes, flipping towards the end)
2+ cups leafy greens, hummus, sauerkraut, pumpkin seeds
Small handful blueberries, raw nuts
Tacos: organic meat seasoned with cumin, garlic, chili powder, salt and pepper
Sauteed bell peppers and onions cooked in olive oil and seasoned with cumin
Green leaf lettuce, tomatoes, avocado
Grain-free tortillas (I use Siete)
Sugar-free chocolate superfood bark
Leafy green salad with seared wild salmon, avocado, cherry tomatoes, small handful nuts or seeds, pasta (chickpea, black bean or lentil pasta is ideal!)
Pumpkin Spice Fat Bombs
Creamy pesto enchiladas
Peanut butter chip smoothie: 2 cups unsweetened almond milk, ½ cup frozen zucchini, handful spinach, 2 tbsp peanut butter or peanut powder, 1 tbsp chia seeds, 2 tbsp cacao nibs, 1 tbsp coconut oil, ice
Avocado egg salad with mixed greens and/or over a piece of sprouted toast, and/or seeded crackers
Veggies (celery, cucumber, bell pepper, carrots)
Capresé salad: heirloom or Roma tomatoes, mozzarella, fresh basil, drizzle olive oil, balsamic, black pepper and sea salt
Grilled or baked organic chicken breast with 2+ cups roasted veggies cooked in avocado oil
1 square 100% cacao dark chocolate dipped in almond butter
Fried egg cooked in extra virgin olive or avocado oil, avocado
Chicken zoodle soup: Organic chicken broth/bone broth, chopped cilantro, chopped green onion, pink salt, ground pepper, turmeric, red chili flakes
Organic chicken breast seared with seasonings of choice in skillet, then diced
Cinnamon Fat Bombs
Mixed green salad with lemon juice + extra virgin olive oil + garlic as dressing
Macro Bowl: quality protein source, roasted sweet potato, 2+ cups leafy greens, cucumber, bell peppers, avocado, sauerkraut, extra virgin olive oil + lemon juice for dressing
Veggies (celery, cucumber, bell pepper, carrots)
Handful raw nuts
Hearty paleo chili
1 square 100% dark chocolate dipped in almond butter
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.
Feel free to leave a comment below with your experience on the added sugar detox