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How to Kick Your Sugar Habit Without Going Cold Turkey (A 6-Step Plan)


It’s hard to find the best way to quit sugar when it’s in so many of our foods! That’s why it’s important to cut back in a smart, sustainable way since doing it cold turkey can be pretty jarring for your body.

Luckily, it only takes around five days to curb your cravings and your body’s need for refined sugar.

Let’s take a look at some of the sugar basics, why you crave it, and how to make long-lasting changes with a sugar detox that won’t make you totally miserable.

Understanding Natural Sugar vs. Added Sugar

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Before we dive in, it’s helpful to point out the difference between natural and added sugars:

Natural Sugar

Natural sugar is naturally found in foods like fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. There’s no need to stop eating fruits and vegetables or drink a glass of milk (unless you’re lactose-intolerant). These items are not what we refer to when discussing a sugar detox!

Foods with natural sugar also have naturally occurring fiber, meaning they are more slowly absorbed into your system and don’t spike blood sugar like added sugars.

Added Sugar

On the other hand, added sugars are those that are added to food by manufacturers or when cooking with a recipe that uses it. Think white sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, molasses, and more. In fact, there are over 50 different names for sugar, so you have to ensure you’re checking food labels thoroughly.

Expert Tip: The key to this sugar detox is to avoid the added sugars. You’ll know when you have detoxed your body of sugar when the natural sugars taste sweet again! Your taste buds will actually recalibrate, and you’ll have a new appreciation for the sweet flavors found in fruits and nuts.

Why Do You Crave Sugar, Anyway?

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Sometimes, a sugar craving is a sign that your body needs more energy and carbsbut it can also be prompted by stress or another powerful emotion.

Sugar is an “upper,” meaning it can temporarily give you energy and make you feel good. If you can replace that ‘high’ with an alternative, your sugar detox will go more smoothly.

Other things that can give you a natural high:



Caffeine found in black coffee or unsweetened tea

There has been a lot of research on sugar and its effects on the mind, brain, and body. Studies have shown that sugar has habit-forming properties, and most people are addicted to sugar.

Sugar is even as powerful as some controlled substances because it activates dopamine receptors.

Unfortunately, sugar addiction is linked to weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and damage to teeth, bones, and skin. 

Tips for Starting Your Sugar Detox

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Keep these tips in mind as you work our 6-step plan into your daily routine:

Mindset is key: Quitting takes time because you need a few days to adjust, crave less sugar, and develop healthy habits. Give yourself grace! If you slip up once, don’t let that stop you from trying again the next day. 

Keep yourself distracted: Do something new or fun on the days you plan to reduce sugar. Adding in a daily workout will not only be a good distraction but also gives you the natural high you’re craving!

Reward yourself: And not with a sweet treat! Instead, try some much-needed self-care or a fun purchase.

Make food at home whenever possible: If you aren’t a natural chef, this can feel daunting, but the absolute best way to cut sugar out of your food is to know exactly what’s in it. Check out some healthy and delicious recipes if you need help getting started! 

Your 6-Step Plan For Quitting Sugar

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Remember, you can implement these steps gradually over a few days without going cold turkey!

Here’s the plan:

1. Start Hydrating

It’s hard to quit sugar when the cravings can be so powerful. Your secret weapon is free and always availablewater.

There are so many reasons why water is important for vitality, including its ability to kick sugar cravings. Have you ever had a sudden sweet craving or unexpected hunger come on? Maybe you just at recently, which makes the sudden attack even stranger.

When you’re dehydrated, the body often confuses this with hunger, which makes you more likely to overeat or reach for unhealthy foods.

Drinking enough water makes you feel full and flushes out excess sugar from the body, therefore keeping cravings at bay.

2. Eat More Satisfying Foods

Satiating macronutrients are the foods that help you feel full and satisfied after you’ve finished eating.

The top foods that help keep you full and curb your sugar cravings are:

Boiled or baked potatoes

Beans, peas, chickpeas, and lentils



Lean meats, poultry, and fish

High-fiber foods, such as oats, whole wheat bread, bananas, and carrots

If your meals are satisfying, you will be less likely to feel the need for a snack, and cravings will be less likely to take control over your willpower.  

3. Pinpoint Hidden Sugars in Prepared Foods

While cake and ice cream are obvious sugar offenders, there are plenty of other sugary culprits that you could be missing. 

Some of the biggest added sugar offenders might shock you! Even so-called “healthy” items can be packed with added sugar, artificial sweeteners, and corn syrup.

The top foods that include hidden sugars are:

Whole-grain cereals

Granola bars

Pasta sauce 

Low-fat salad dressings

Store-bought smoothies


Salad dressings

Milk alternatives such as almond milk and coconut milk

Canned fruit 

Bottled tea


BBQ sauce

You should also be a nutrition label investigator! If you read any of these on a nutrition label, know that point to sneaky sugar ingredients.

Other words for sugar include:

Evaporated cane juice

High fructose corn syrup




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4. Take Inventory of What Sugar You’re Drinking 

It’s essential to cut out the most unnecessary (and easily missed) form of sugar: the liquid kind.

Whether it’s sweetened waters, fizzy sodas, or dessert-like coffee beverages, you’re only causing your blood sugar levels to spike, which in turn just triggers your brain to crave more sugar. (A vicious cycle.)

The best beverage alternatives to help you quit sugar include:

Make your own bubbly water with SodaStream, for example.

Enjoy your own fruit-infused waters.

Skip coffeehouse drinks and flavor your own coffee.

Start sipping on a cup of tea.

5. Overcome the Sugary Snack Sabotage 

Have a sudden desire for a sweet afternoon pick-me-up? Don’t we all! This is your body’s way of telling you it needs an energy boost.

Often, when we deprive ourselves of fueling up or wait until mealtime, we get lethargic and distracted. When hunger strikes, the easiest options are often the worst, like cookies, candy, and granola bars.

Pinpoint these highly sugary snacks and switch them for healthier options that give you energy instead of causing you to crash.

Try starting with fruit when the craving for sugar hits! Some of the best options to satisfy your craving are bananas, apples, and oranges.

More alternatives to satisfy a sugar craving include:

Dark chocolate: Make sure to look for a bar that’s at least 70% cacao.

Snack bars that are made with whole foods.

Sugar-free mints or gum.

Sweet potatoes.

Smoothies made with whole fruits.

Yogurt that is free of added sugars.

Trail mix.

You can also try:

5 Healthy And Easy Snacks

15 Best Late-Night Snacks

6. Eliminate Simple Carbs

Whether it’s pasta, bread, or chips, simple carbs serve as sugar for the body.

Identify all the refined foods you incorporate into your diet, and try to eliminate or replace them one by one so it doesn’t feel entirely overwhelming or depriving.

Some simple carb alternative ideas:

If pasta is your pal, try cutting your serving in half or using zucchini noodles, spaghetti squash, or lentil noodles. It’s an easy swap that still feels satisfying but gives you way more nutrition.

Swap sandwiches for lettuce wraps.

Try vegetablesthey are complex carbs, so they’ll keep you satisfied much longer than simple carbs.

Leafy greens are also a must, as they’re slow-digesting foods that keep you fuller longer. 

Sugar Withdrawal Symptoms

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A sugar detox can be uncomfortable, even if it’s sensible and gradual. When you reduce your sugar intake, your body takes notice. This is called sugar withdrawal. The symptoms are not dangerous, bu they may be bothersome.

When cutting out sugar, you may experience the following withdrawal symptoms:




Loss of focus


Extreme cravings


If you were consuming a lot of refined sugar before starting a detox, these symptoms might be more severe or noticeable. Luckily, your body will adapt to a low-sugar diet over time, and as your intake becomes less frequent, the withdrawal symptoms will become less intense.

Remember, a sugar detox is more than just quitting sugar cold turkey! It’s about learning what causes your body to crave sugar in the first place, incorporating healthy habits, and making long-lasting changes that will free you from those sugary cravings.

53 Best Weight Loss Snacks

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To keep you from going crazy with calories even when the saltiest of cravings hit, my team and I rounded up our best weight loss snack recipes that are super easy to throw together. And when you don’t have time or you’re on the go, we also made a list of our favorite healthy purchased snacks too.

53 Best Weight Loss Snacks

Highest Rated Low-Calorie Smoothies

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Whether you need an on-the-go breakfast, an energizing afternoon pick-me-up, or a refreshing beverage to cool down on a hot day, all are great reasons to whip up one of these highly-rated smoothies!

Smoothies are naturally packed with nutrients and a great source of fiber since you’re including whole fruits and/or vegetables.

Highest Rated Low-Calorie Smoothies

14 Health Benefits of Cucumbers (And a Few Refreshing Recipes)

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From healthy skin to improved memory, check out the top 14 health benefits of cucumbers!

And if you’re lucky enough to have a load from your garden or farmers market on hand, you’ll definitely want to check out some of our favorite cucumber recipes, too.

14 Health Benefits of Cucumbers (And a Few Refreshing Recipes)

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