Avoid Sweets, Dessert and Candy

Contributions by CSPI, Alison Marras, Jackie Newgent, and Institute for Responsible Nutrition CSPI

“I feel good, a bit calmer and more even tempered.” -@Bunny

“Because of this Challenge I’ve started to feel so much more energetic and healthy. It’s been a great run. For the last month I’ve not had a single candy and now I don’t crave it anymore.” -@Akshay

What’s Inside

What’s In & What’s Out

  • No desserts, sweets, pastries or candy sweetened with any type of sugar or sweetener. This includes but is not limited to: white, brown, turbinado, raw or powdered sugar, simple syrup, agave nectar, maple syrup, honey, high fructose corn syrup, date sugar, coconut sugar, molasses etc. Sugar has many names! Check out this list of 56 names for sugar!
  • No candy with artificial sweeteners (often labelled “sugar-free” candy).
  • Naturally occurring sugars in fruit are a-okay. So if you like to make banana ice cream for dessert, feel free.
  • Naturally occurring sugars in dried fruit are okay in small quantities, but make sure to check the ingredients for sugar, and choose the organic kind without sulfites. Try for fresh whenever possible and used dried fruit as a back up. So if you want to eat a date and call it dessert, go for it.
  • If you slip, no biggie. Slipping means you’re trying, which is what counts! You can get back on track for the rest of the day.

Why This Is A Good Idea

Cutting added sugars by way of sweets such as pastries, dessert and candy, can significantly decrease your risk for obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, tooth decay, and much more. Why? Consuming added sugar causes a spike in blood sugar, triggering you to feel even more hungry, store excess fat, and lead to prediabetes more quickly.

To be clear, not all sugars are created equal. The natural sugar from your apple doesn’t have the same effect as the added sugar in your gummy bears or chocolate cake. The apple has fiber, water, and nutrients to slow down your digestion and keep you full, while the dessert and candy do not. Plus, ditch the extra sweetness and you’ll even have sharper taste buds—you’ll soon be able to experience more nuanced flavors in your food, and the natural sweetness of whole fruit.

The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons (about 24 grams) of added sugar per day, and men no more than 9 teaspoons (about 36 grams). Ditch dessert and you’ll be more likely to meet these recommendations—many non-dessert items contain added sugar, so you may be consuming more than you think!

Over 70% of strokes and colon cancer can be avoided, as can at least 80% of heart disease and 90% of type 2 diabetes, and diet is a significant factor. Along with exercise and not smoking, developing good eating habits (less animal products, less processed food and more veggies and fruit) can help cut your risk of diabetes by 95%, your risk of heart attack by 80% and risk of a stroke by half.

Basic Tips & Useful Hints

  • Be sure to check in after every meal or snack; it’s more effective than waiting till the end of the day. Draw a checkmark if your meal or snack did not include dessert, sweets or candies, or use a free pass if you did eat dessert, sweets or candies. You can check in multiple times a day.
  • Hang tight—you’re probably going to crave sugar for the first few days. But once you get through that first stretch, it WILL get easier.
  • Eat protein and healthy fats which help keep you full and regulate blood sugar levels; beans, nuts, soy products, eggs, hummus, lentils, yogurt, cheese, fish and avocado are all great sources.
  • If you think you might cry without a quick sugar fix, grab a piece of fruit or a date to satisfy your craving. Fresh or dried fruit is a great dessert substitution.
  • Clean out your pantry. If you’re craving sugar and a bag of cookies or bar of chococlate is staring you in the face, you’re much more likely to slip.
  • Breakfast is not exempt from dessert and sweets. Because of many dessert-like items including cereals, muffins, granola bars, and yogurt, breakfast is likely the most sugar-centric meal of the day. Be sure to plan your breakfasts to start the day off right and not have to use a pass before 9am!
  • If you’re used to something sweet for breakfast, satisfy your craving with fruit and nuts, yogurt with fresh fruit, or a fruit-sweetened smoothie. The key to this Challenge is added sugar in sweets, so the natural sugar in whole fruit is fine. Just try to pair it with protein of some sort to stabilize blood sugar levels.
  • Just say no to the pastry case. Muffins, scones, croissants and the like (aka dessert in the morning) often make breakfast the most sugar-centric meal of the day. If you’re tempted by sweets when you get your coffee, make coffee at home, or bring nuts with you for something to snack on to distract you from the sweets at the coffee shop.
  • Eat regularly. When you let yourself get too hungry, you’re more likely to crave sweets.
  • Stay hydrated! You might think you need a sugary treat in the afternoon, when really you’re just thirsty. (But stick to water—sugar-sweetened beverages are now the #1 source of added sugars in our diets.)
  • Eat a nutritious snack before you grocery shop. You’re much more likely to fill your cart with dessert items when your stomach is rumbling.

Shopping List

  • The perimeter of the grocery store is your best bet. Processed dessert items with added sugar tend to be in the middle.
  • Your favorite proteins—organic chicken, sustainably-sourced fish, organic tofu, etc. to help keep you full.
  • Hit the bulk bins, the mothership of protein-rich, nutritious whole grains like amaranth, bulgur, brown rice, buckwheat and quinoa.
  • Buy veggies that can be eaten raw as a snack—zucchini, cauliflower, carrots, celery, bell peppers, green beans. A great afternoon pick-me-up swap out for a sugary treat.
  • Hummus, for the veggies.
  • Get sweet vegetables like squash, sweet potatoes, and carrots to help with cravings.
  • Stock cinnamon, vanilla extract, and cardamom for adding on top of yogurt, oatmeal and fresh fruit.
  • Fresh and frozen fruits for snacking, breakfast and dessert
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Rice cakes
  • Popcorn

Recipes

Roasted Cabbage with Green Goddess Dressing by foodbymars Roasted Cabbage with Green Goddess Dressing

Pistachio and Feta Dip by JenniferEmilson Pistachio and Feta Dip

Fennel Roasted Garbanzo Beans by annefood Fennel Roasted Garbanzo Beans

Asparagus Buckwheat Risotto by JenniferEmilson Asparagus Buckwheat Risotto

Roasted Herbed Salmon by annefood Roasted Herbed Salmon

Parmesan Popcorn by BigTasteTinySpace Parmesan Popcorn

Fruit-Infused Sparkling Water Fruit-Infused Sparkling Water

Banana Ice Cream by rahbjee Banana Ice Cream

Added-sugar-free Mint Chocolate Freezer Fudge

Unsweetened Cocoa Granola

Added-sugar-free Strawberry Tigernut Muffins

Smart Things To Read And Watch

Note: Foodstand is not focused on the number on the scale. Weight loss can be a byproduct of developing healthier eating habits, but if you have questions about your weight, please contact your physician.