7 ways you cheat on your sugar-free diet (and don’t realise it)

7 ways you're cheating on your sugar-free diet

If you’ve recently resolved to give up sugar, I’d like to say well done. You’re part of the minority who have come to realise that sugar has been damaging your health. However, if you have embarked upon your sugar-free journey without guidance, there is a very real possibility that you cheat on your sugar-free diet without even realising it. We’ve become so conditioned to believe that foods like muesli bars and fat-free dairy products are good for us, when that usually isn’t the case.

You now have two choices: continue eating the way you have been, blissfully unaware that you may be consuming more sugar than you think, OR read the list below and stop cheating on your sugar-free diet. Which will it be?

Have you been cheating on your sugar-free diet?

1. You choose the “healthy” option at the supermarket.

Marketers are very savvy with what they plaster on product packaging these days. They know exactly what catches your eye and makes you pick their product off the supermarket shelf. Unfortunately, marketers also know that people are generally becoming more health conscious, so they’ve plastered buzzwords such as “superfood” and “all natural” onto their product packaging so you’ll think what you’re eating is the healthy option… But did you realise that these foods often have added sugar in them?

“Low-fat” “fat-free” and “reduced fat” are labels that used to be quite popular back when everyone thought fat was the villain making their jeans tighter. Sadly, these labels are still stuck on many food products today to make you think they’re healthier than they are. If you don’t believe me, go and look at the lolly aisle next time you’re at the supermarket and you’ll find the “99% fat-free” label on things like sour snakes and marshmallows!

“But surely low-fat fruit yoghurt is ok, right? It’s low in calories and fruit is natural… Right?”

I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but unfortunately the vast majority of low-fat fruit yoghurts are, in fact, not natural at all and they’re certainly not sugar-free. Most low-fat yoghurts, despite being low in calories, have had extra sugar added to make them laste as great as their full-fat counterparts. Next time, buy some fresh or frozen berries and stir them through some full-fat, unsweetened greek yoghurt instead.

2. You choose the “healthy” option for lunch.

So, you’ve made it through your stressful morning at work and now your tummy is rumbling and it’s time for lunch. Unfortunately, last night was busy and you didn’t have time to prepare a packed lunch.

“I’ll just get some sushi – I’m trying to be healthy” you say.

Or perhaps today you’ll choose a rice paper roll. Or a salad. Because these are the healthy lunch options, right? Wrong!

Ever wondered why you get that slump in energy around 2 or 3pm? Why you start craving something sweet straight after lunch? You need to take a good look at your lunch as it could be the culprit.

Sushi typically has sugar added to the rice, which, in addition to the high GI white rice, will spike your blood sugar and leave you starving and fighting some vicious sugar cravings shortly after eating. And that’s not to mention the sauces they use!

Rice paper rolls are much the same as sushi. The sauces they use typically contain sugar, and the vermicelli noodles are a high GI carbohydrate too.

Salad is a tricky one. Some salads are the perfect lunch, and these are the ones that include a decent amount of protein (from meat, eggs, tofu, cheese or seafood), some low GI carbohydrates and/or fibre packed veggies (such as sweet potato or other vegetables), good fats (olive oil, avocado, nuts) and don’t include any dressing – other than olive oil of course.

There are so many healthy alternatives to packed lunches these days that there is really no excuse for picking the wrong meal at lunchtime. Unless you want to cheat on your sugar-free diet, that is!

Our favourite alternatives include:

  • All Real Food: If you’re lucky enough to be working near an All Real Food vending machine, you have to give it a try. They sell breakfasts, lunches and snacks, all conveniently packaged and full of flavour. If you want to have your chicken burrito, and eat it too, then All Real Food is a good option.
  • Thr1ve: In addition to the number of Thr1ve cafes that keep popping up, they are also beta testing a meal delivery service that dishes up meals like beef cheeks and chicken cacciatore.

3. You go overboard on “healthy” treats.

I love my raw treats as much as the next foodie, but the key word here is “treats”. Despite being raw/paleo/superfood/vegan/organic/insert buzzword here, they are still a “sometimes” food that should be consumed in moderation and as part of a balanced diet. Yep, I’m sorry to break it to you, but just because you’re eating a superfood bar every day doesn’t mean you can skip your 5+ serves of fruit and veg!

It definitely pays to be mindful of the sugar content of some of these treats. A raw Snickers slice for morning tea, and a bliss ball for afternoon tea can very quickly tip you over the recommended daily intake of sugar.

Many of the products we include in our quarterly boxes are just that – treat foods. We’re big believers in moderation and in having a healthy relationship with food, which means you need to feel like you aren’t depriving yourself. For some people, this may mean treating themselves to a refined sugar-free bliss ball or a raw Snickers slice from time-to-time (but certainly not every day).

4. You rely on sauces and dressings to make your meals taste good. 

A few years ago, I was guilty of this one! I’d pack a boring salad for lunch, and then drown it in dressing to make it edible. Little did I know, I was downing a bucket-load of sugar come 12pm every day. No wonder I was so cranky after lunch!

Sauces are very sneaky and two-faced. The packaging might look all pretty and the label may scream “natural ingredients” or “made with real tomatoes”, but when you look a little closer, they’re really packed with sugar.

The worst culprits? Tomato sauce and BBQ sauce. Some brands (I should name and shame, but I’ll hold back) have more sugar per 100g than a block of milk chocolate. Just think about that for a second… You’re trying so hard to avoid chocolate as part of your quest to be sugar-free, but then you’re consuming sugar in tomato sauce of all places! Swap your usual tomato sauce for our easy, homemade tomato sauce recipe.

If you’ve been using stir fry sauces or pasta sauces to make cooking that little bit more convenient, you’ve been cheating on your sugar-free diet. These sauces also sneak in sugar where possible – and I’m not just talking about the natural sugar from the tomatoes! Why do you think asian sauces are so sticky, after all?

Personally, I find cooking without pre-made sauces pretty good fun. It’s tricky at first, learning different flavour combinations, but soon you will learn which herbs go together, which spices you like, and that a bit of lemon juice and sea salt can make virtually anything taste good. For some ideas, check out the many recipes on our blog!

5. You go overboard on fruit.

Fruit is great – most types are full of fibre and nutrients. It’s almost as if nature knew that we’d be living busy lives and that we’d be in need of convenient little snacks. The problem is, fruit does still contain sugar and eating too much of it can be an issue.

Even if you’re not one of the many people who suffer from fructose malabsorption, you should still try to limit your fruit intake to no more than a couple of pieces daily, and aim to get most of your nutrients from vegetables instead.

Some fruits have higher sugar content than others:

  • Mango
  • Pineapple
  • Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Figs

Some fruits have a lower sugar content:

  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Blackberries
  • Rockmelon
  • Cranberries (fresh, not dried)

It’s also worth being mindful that dried fruit is a much more concentrated form of sugar than fresh fruit. For each dried apricot you’re eating, that’s the equivalent of a whole apricot!

6. Drinking fruit juice

A common issue with people I’ve seen giving up sugar is cutting out soft drinks. Many replace them with fruit juice, thinking that because it’s fruit, it has to be healthy.

Unfortunately, fruit juice takes all the good stuff from fruit and leaves it behind in the juicer. All you’re left with is a sugar hit, absorbed super quickly because you’re not getting any fibre from the fruit with it.

Some types of fruit juice add even more sugar to make them taste even better (and to keep you coming back for your next hit). It may be disguised in the label as something along the lines of “concentrated apple juice” so be sure to check the ingredients list.

I was in a health food store yesterday and noticed a new brand of cold-pressed juice. I picked up the 1 litre bottle and read the label – the bottle had over 100g of sugar in it! Despite the bottle stating that it contains 5 servings, I’m sure there are people out there who would drink the entire thing in one sitting, not realising that they’re getting 4 times their recommended daily intake of sugar in ONE DRINK!

If you really need that refreshing, fruity hit, blend up your own smoothie instead or make your own kombucha.

7. Not reading labels

If you’ve made it this far through the list, you’ve probably realised that some food products are hiding some very dirty secrets. Secrets that can only be revealed by reading the ingredients list and the nutritional panel.

It takes a while to learn just what to look for, but a good rule of thumb is this: if you don’t know what the ingredient is, don’t buy it! Or at least Google it first, or ask in our #thesugarfreemovement Facebook group.

Sugar has a ton of different names it hides under, so always check!

If you’re reading through this list and shaking your head, worried about how many times you’ve cheated on your sugar-free diet, you can be assured, you’re not alone. If you haven’t joined our free 7 Day Sugar-Free Challenge, now is a great time to start. We’ll even send you a PDF with tips on what to look for in nutritional labels, grocery shopping tricks and some pointers on how to cope with those terrrrrible sugar cravings.

For other basic questions you may have on giving up sugar, check out our Giving Up Sugar FAQ or join our #thesugarfreemovement Facebook group to connect with other people on the quest to give sugar the kick.

Take our 7 day sugar-free challenge!

  • Receive our challenge ebook with tips on dealing with cravings, grocery shopping, reading labels, and more.
  • Access our support forum, where you can chat with other people on the same sugar-free journey.
  • Receive daily support emails to keep you motivated.

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