Picture this: in an effort to gain a more attractive figure, you’ve ditched all of your unhealthy dietary habits such as munching on cookies and chocolate bars or drinking liberal amounts of soda only to find out that your efforts aren’t really showing on the scale. Why so? Well, one reason behind this might be all the ‘hidden’ sugar you’re still eating on a day-to-day basis without even noticing – or tasting it, for that matter. Aside from weight stagnation and an increased risk of developing diabetes in time, sugar can lead to all sorts of other problems like heart disease and, obviously, tooth decay. But don’t worry! You too can bid your sugary diet goodbye in 10 simple steps:

  1. Go for the unsweetened variety

When your organism is given too much sugar on a constant basis, then you become much more likely to develop aggressive glycemic spikings and even have your mood dictated by how much sweetness you’re getting at certain time intervals. And, while glycemic levels should be kept in check and within normal readings at all time, commercially distributed varieties of sugars are most of the time highly refined, flavor enhancing, and generally bad for your health and waistline alike. The best way to get rid of those extra doses of sugars in your regular diet is by opting to buy the unsweetened counterpart of products whenever this option is available. For instance, you can stock up on canned fruit (preserved not in syrup, but in juice), oatmeal, different snacks, and even non-dairy milk (for example, soy or almond). Although it might be a bit tough to get used to the taste at first – after all, sugar is added as a taste bud booster – it’s not impossible to start living healthier and lose some weight at the same time. To be sure you’re not ‘tricked’ into eating too much sugar, look for labeling specifications such as ‘unsweetened’ or ‘no added sugar’ for a slimming-friendly and wholesome experience.

  1. Remember it’s not just ‘sugar’

Do you often find yourself perusing ingredient labels only to take note of how much sugar an item contains? If so, then you should definitely take a second glance at that packaging before you start eating more sweetness than you’ve actually bargained for. The issue in this instance is that sugar is not always just ‘sugar’ on the label. In fact, there is a rather a wide variety of synonyms for this component, from molasses, sucrose (‘-ose’ ending words in general), maple syrup, and corn syrup to honey, high fructose corn syrup, dried cane syrup, brown rice syrup, and invert sugar. Not only are these ‘sneaky’ ways of adding more flavor enhancing (and ultimately calorie boosting) sugars into your diet, but they might actually appear in groups of 2-4 on a package list at a time. Consequently, your best chance of avoiding these unhealthy foods is by knowing all the ‘aliases’ under which sugar can be found in the ‘ingredients’ heading and also by making sure you come across them as seldom as possible. Otherwise, you run the risk of having all your hard training and dieting be in vain since you’re just adding the same bad stuff into your body, to begin with.

  1. Ditch the fake alternatives

Whether we like to admit it or not, sugar plays a big part of our everyday life, especially when it comes to a snack on the go or something sweet as a reward after a hard day’s work. So, naturally, switching to a less sugar-based diet will make us automatically search for that ‘fix’ in the form of countless alternatives, the most widespread of which being artificial sweeteners. Needless to say, this is a bad idea in the light of the fact that such substances only distort your taste for sweetness, aside from depriving your body of the nutrients and calories normally associated with sugary foods. To make matters worse, one 2010 study published in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine revealed that artificial sweeteners can actually facilitate weight gaining over increased periods of time. So, remember – homemade lemonade instead of diet coke, fresh or dried fruit instead of sugar-free candy, and black coffee instead of one with tons of ‘fake’ sugar in it. This way, you’ll both stay slim and satisfy your sweet tooth in a healthy and figure-friendly way.

  1. Start reading the labels

Logically, one might be inclined to believe that sugar is only included into the more obvious products like sweets or soft drinks. But did you know that even bread, condiments, salad dressings, and tomato juice can pack a good punch of this ingredient? As it turns out, sugar is often used to enhance the flavor of quite a wide variety of products, which then leads to an increased number of sugar spikings throughout the day, a higher calorie intake, and considerably slowed down metabolic rates. So, next time you’re out shopping, make sure you go for the most sugar-free products you can find, with the organic and bio varieties always being a healthy, low in preservatives choice. One way of figuring out how much sugar a certain item has in its composition is by seeing how far up the ingredients list you can find it (particularly in the “%” section). If it’s higher than most of the other ingredients, then be sure to find an alternative or avoid that product altogether for better weight loss results over time.

  1. Avoid ‘liquid’ sugar

When we feel like our blood sugar is going to drop, we usually go for a sweet, maybe even fizzy drink to quench our thirst, normalize out blood glucose, and ‘treat’ our taste buds with something sweet and enjoyable. The problem is that these sorts of drinks usually contain extremely high amounts of sugar in their composition, alongside preservatives, chemicals, and way too many calories to begin with. For instance, most such products can contain anything between 7-12 tablespoons of sugar per bottle, which is more or less the amount you should be having during an entire day through a number of equally distributed foods and drinks. To steer clear of this much sugar inadvertently added to your weight loss regime, give up on bottled coffee varieties, flavored water, energy drinks, and store bought smoothies or ice tea. Instead, opt for homemade ‘fancy’ water (made by adding mint, ginger, citrus slices, etc.), black coffee, and freshly made juices or smoothies for better weight, sugar, and calorie control.

  1. Choose natural flavors

Since the sort of refined sugar commonly found in commercially distributed products has pretty much conditioned us to desire only that type in our food and drinks, it’s pretty hard to imagine how going ‘natural’ can live up to such artificially enhanced expectations. Nevertheless, it’s not impossible to retrain your taste buds into enjoying the same satisfying taste, but with fewer calories, chemicals, and harmful substances altogether. The way to go is by using nature in your favor, namely by employing more spices, citrus zest, and condiments into your dishes for an extra boost of flavor. Ingredients such as nutmeg, vanilla extract, ginger, cinnamon, and cocoa are just a few examples of how you can ‘improve’ your coffee, oatmeal, homemade cookies, etc. without compromising either your waistline or your culinary enjoyment. In addition, it has been demonstrated that cinnamon has the potential to normalize blood glucose levels, hence reduce cravings and gradually lead to more efficient fat shedding.

  1. Fat + protein = winning combination

When hearing the word ‘diet’, many of us just picture eating salads, drinking water, and spending endless hours stuck in the gym, right? Well, yes and no. While eating right and training regularly are a big part of any weight loss goal, it’s also important to make sure your body is getting all the essential nutrients it needs to both functions correctly and promote effective fat-shedding over time. One foolproof way of ensuring this is by having good protein and fat levels within the organism, more specifically the ‘good’ kind. These take care of normalizing glycemic readings and keeping hunger signals at a lowered frequency, which then suppresses the need for unhealthy carbs that lead to crazy sugar spikings after certain dishes or snacks. Hence, by relying on a combination of healthy fat (avocados, seeds, olive oil, nuts, coconut oil, etc.), protein, fibre, and vitamins for all your meals, you’ll actively avoid eating extra sugar, maintain a feeling of satiety for longer, and have overall better energy throughout the day. Some of the best such pairings are almonds and oatmeal or eggs and toast for breakfast, as well as turkey breast, apples, and cheese as a filling midday treat.

  1. Have some dessert

As counterproductive as this might appear at first, one of the best techniques of avoiding overdoing it on the sugar element is by having something sweet, to begin with. While staying conscious about how much sweetness you’re indulging in is a great method towards losing weight correctly, it’s also true that treating yourself to something tasty once in a while can help both solidify your willpower and ease the transition from casual dieting to a sustainable lifestyle regime. Because the main idea is to actively avoid ‘hidden’ sugars in bread, sauces, cereal-based products, sweet drinks, etc., you could thus ‘save up’ on calories and enjoy some dessert or a well-planned snack once in a while. Be cautious though! There’s a fine line between mindful tasting and over-binging on sugar, so be sure not to cross it. To help yourself stay on that weight loss course, make a habit out of having dessert only on special occasions (like weekends, birthday parties or restaurant outings, let’s say), as well as maintain some sort of portion control over your treat of choice.

  1. Don’t give up on sugar completely

The best way to avoid extra sugar in your waist slimming diet is to cut it off completely, right? Very, very wrong. Choosing to go cold turkey all of a sudden on this substance will not only mess with your glycemic readings – and, by extension, with your mood and health alike – but it will also constitute a bad start to your healthier lifestyle altogether. After all, how many of us haven’t sworn off chocolate in the past, only to end up binge eating it when our willpower couldn’t take it anymore? The key to any successful dietary regime is moderation, with downsizing your sugar intake being no exception. For example, try cutting it out of your day-to-day eating routine with gradual changes like reaching for fewer packets of sugar in your morning coffee or switching from sweetened yogurt to plain one with bits of fruit added to it. By not having it feel like a sacrifice, you’ll become better prepared for this shift both physically and mentally, which is essential for any long-term fat-shedding regime.

  1. Commit to it

In all honesty, there’s no way around it: letting go of sugar is, for the most part, a difficult mental journey. As mentioned before, most of the today’s foods are jam-packed one way or another with sugars of all sorts, which then ‘manipulates’ our sense of taste by inducing more cravings episodes and hence making us eat even more of these products. Even so, staying committed to your sugar-free journey can end up offering you, even more, advantages than a slimmer waist and fewer pounds on the scale. You will quickly notice that, with enough time gone by, your taste buds will have become ‘rewired’ to detect flavor more easily in fruits, for instance, while foods like cake, cookies, and ice cream will seem almost sickeningly sweet in comparison. To help you get through this rather rough start, try to picture yourself thinner and healthier in the future, aim to control cravings with fruits, veggies, and proper hydration, as well as remembering to occasionally indulge in a small treat for better mental control along the way. Sooner than later, you’ll become a pro at handling your sugar intake and drop some pounds along the way too!