The sugar-free diet plan is one of the most famous, and most followed, eating plans out there - but what exactly is it?
While many people follow no-sugar eating plans as diets that work fast (opens in new tab), it's by no means the main reason you should take another look at your sugar intake. Experts around the world have been warning about the dangers of excess sugar for generations - and for good reason. Many of us underestimate our sugar consumption (opens in new tab) and our children's sugar intake (opens in new tab), too. Yet too much of the sweet stuff, in most of its forms, can have a seriously negative impact on the body.
So whether you're looking to sustainably cut sugar out of your diet completely or just look for easy ways to reduce your sugar intake, without having to follow an extreme diet (opens in new tab) or resort to detoxing (opens in new tab), our expert-approved plan can help.
What is the sugar-free diet?
The sugar-free diet plan is a week-long plan involves following the golden rules of the sugar-free diet for days 1-3. On days 4-7, you add a healthy dessert in the evening, such as fruit salad, yogurt or fromage frais with stewed fruit.
The golden rules of the sugar-free diet plan:
- No desserts, no fruit and no sugar in drinks
- No juices, squashes or diet colas
- Drink tea, coffee (no sugar or sweeteners) milk, plain water
- No ketchup, brown sauce, Thai or Chinese-type sweet and sour sauces
- Base your meals around meat, fish and eggs
- A carbohydrate breakfast of unsweetened cereal is allowed.
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Why is eating sugar bad for you?
Sugar leads to increased inflammation in the body and the potential onset of serious diseases. Dee Momi, nutritionist & founder of MINT Wellbeing (opens in new tab), says this can manifest in all sorts of ways.
She explains: "From the most obviously visible - weight gain (particularly around the belly area), a higher risk of developing acne and fluctuating moods - to the more critical, including increasing your risk of cancer, type 2 diabetes (opens in new tab) and heart disease."
Sugar also has the potential to disrupt an area of the brain, nutrition researcher from Brain Freed Ltd (opens in new tab), Dishalni Senthilkumaran, says. "Excess sugar can have an inflammatory effect on the brain’s memory centre and can be an increased risk factor in cognitive decline, whilst a 2017 study (opens in new tab) at UCL also sugar increases the likelihood of anxiety and depression." It can also deplete essential nutrients in our body, including magnesium.
We know that sugar can cause a positive 'rush' over a short period of time. And while this is typically associated with hyperactivity in children, sugar actually triggers pleasure responses in adults too. "Sugar triggers your reward and pleasure chemical dopamine, which is released when you derive pleasure from great food, sex and a sense of accomplishment. Excess dopamine can reduce novelty and prompt impulsive behaviour."
Coming down from a sugar rush as your blood sugar levels return to normal can leave you feeling fatigued, thirsty, with headaches and frequent need to urinate.
Along with the long-term risks of disease and the mental impacts, sugar is famously bad for your dental hygiene. The NHS (opens in new tab) say that sugary food and drinks are in fact one of the main causes of tooth decay, as "acid is produced when the bacteria in your mouth break down the sugar. The acid dissolves the tooth surface, which is the first stage of tooth decay."
So with sugar proven to affect your weight, long-term health risks, mental health and dental hygiene, how can you cut back? This is the plan to follow.
Sugar-free diet plan
- Shredded Wheat (opens in new tab) with sprinkling flaked almonds and 250ml of skimmed milk
- Skinny latte, 2 rashers of bacon, 1 poached egg (opens in new tab), grilled tomatoes
- 1 Oatibix (opens in new tab), 250ml skimmed milk, 1tbsp blueberries
- Baked cod with chopped tomatoes, peppers and garlic, carrots and butter beans
- Chicken stir-fry (opens in new tab) with vegetables
- Cold, salmon or tuna salad
- Wholewheat pasta salad with tuna (opens in new tab), 1tsp mayonnaise, chopped peppers
- Wholegrain chicken or salad sandwich
- 40g cheese or 3tbs low-sugar baked beans (opens in new tab) on 2 slices buttered wholegrain toast
- 30g porridge, 200ml skimmed milk, 1 boiled egg
- 2 eggs, any style, 1 slice wholemeal toast and peanut butter
- 1 Oatibix, 200ml skimmed milk, 1tbsp blueberries
- Roast chicken wrapped in bacon, served with carrots, peas and gravy
- Vegetable curry (opens in new tab) with 2tbsp brown or wild rice, side salad.
- 1/2 avocado filled with water-packed tuna, 1tsp mayonnaise, green salad
- Prawn, mayonnaise and lemon open sandwich with 2 slices rye or granary bread
- Wholewheat spaghetti with a Mediterranean vegetable (opens in new tab) sauce and green salad
- 40g cheese or 3tbsp low-sugar baked beans on 2 slices buttered wholegrain toast
- 2 slices granary toast with marmite
- 1 bagel with 1/2 fat cream cheese (opens in new tab)
- 2tbs Bitesize Shredded Wheat, 200ml skimmed milk
- Low-fat burger (opens in new tab), grilled with mixed salad and sweetcorn
- Salmon fillet baked (opens in new tab) with veg
- 2 slices cheese on 2 Ryvitas with a sliced tomato
- Seafood risotto (opens in new tab), green salad
- Vegetable curry with 3tbsp brown rice
- Grilled fillet steak with mushrooms, tomatoes and a baked sweet potato
- 30g porridge, 200ml milk
- 2 slices granary toast, lightly buttered with 2tbsp tinned tomatoes
- 2 Shredded Wheat with 200ml soya, rice milk or skimmed milk
- Avocado and prawn salad (opens in new tab)
- Cold chicken and salad in a tortilla wrap
- 40g hard cheese with fruit and celery
- Small portion wholewheat macaroni with tomato and vegetable sauce, sprinkling Parmesan cheese
- Small bowl lentil soup (opens in new tab) with 2 slices granary bread and Flora (opens in new tab)
- 4tbsp mixed vegetable chilli sauce, served on 3tbsp brown or mixed rice
- 1 Shredded Wheat, sprinkling sultanas, 200ml skimmed milk
- 1 boiled egg, 1 slice granary toast, Flora
- 40g toasted muesli, 200ml skimmed milk and 1tbsp plain yogurt
- Baked cod, peas and carrots
- Granary sandwich filled with brie and grapes
- Cheese salad
- 1 small vegetable pizza (opens in new tab) with mixed salad
- Small slice stilton and broccoli quiche (opens in new tab), with hot vegetables or salad
- Cheese or spinach 3-egg omelette (opens in new tab)
- Baked sweet potato
- 2 eggs, any style, 1 slice wholemeal toast and peanut butter
- 1 Oatibix with 200ml skimmed milk
- Smoothie made with 1 banana, 6 almonds, 1tbsp oatmeal and 300ml skimmed or soya milk
- Cold cheese omelette in strips on salad with sweetcorn and peas
- Meatballs (opens in new tab) in tomato sauce with 3 green vegetables
- Bowl of carrot, spinach or vegetable soup (opens in new tab) with small granary roll and butter
- Wholewheat spaghetti with smoked salmon and crème fraiche (opens in new tab)
- Quorn fillet in lemon and black pepper, served with coleslaw
- Jacket potato with cottage cheese and sweetcorn
Day 7 - Cheat Day!
One day a week on the sugar-free diet plan you can pick what you want from the other days and be a bit more generous with the portions. Plus, you're allow 1-2 glasses of alcohol and one sweet treat e.g. 2 biscuits or small slice of cake - but not in your first week.
How having a sugar free diet can help you lose weight
To lose weight, you have to be in a calorie deficit. Consuming lots of sugary foods - such as processed and mass-produced foods including juices, cooking sauces and condiments - that contain fructose can make this process harder, since these foods also tend to be high in calories.
"When consumed, this type of sugar increases your hunger leading to a craving for more food." Nutritionist Dee says, "The hormone leptin helps the body to regulate hunger and alerts you when to stop eating - but consuming fructose in excess confuses this natural process."
That being said, health and lifestyle coach Ryan Hodgson (opens in new tab) warns that we need to stop demonising sugar and seeing it as the enemy. Instead, he says, "We need to become aware that actually often nutritional related health problems stem from overconsumption of calories as opposed to too much of one specific nutrient.
"It happens to to be that those who over consume on calories often eat a high carbohydrate (sugar) diet because carbs aren’t as satisfying as the other macronutrients (proteins and fats). Correlation doesn’t necessarily mean causation, particularly in the instance of more sugar in the diet and poor health. It’s more the overall eating habits.
"For those who perhaps to find themselves wanting to go for higher sugar foods, I’d suggest looking at meals and snacks and asking the questions: What protein source am I getting here (protein will help reduce sugar cravings and keep you fuller)? Am I hydrated enough? Am I really craving sugar or do I just need to eat a well balanced meal? It’s also important to be aware of how sugar can impact the body and abstaining from it. I’ve seen many people try cut sugar out and not felt great from it, it can affect you hormonally, mentally and physically too. Remember sugar isn’t the enemy, but also the body doesn’t ‘need’ carbs (or sugar), it needs protein (essential amino acids), it needs fats (essential fatty acids), but it doesn’t need carbs. We just often feel and perform better when we include them in our diet.”
To make a change, nutritionist Dee suggests starting small. "The single easiest way to curb sugar in your diet is to remove or excessively reduce the amount of sugary drinks you may be consuming as they are loaded with fructose and offer very little to no nutritional value. If it's too big a step to cut them out completely, wean yourself off them gradually and replace every 2nd or 3rd drink with fruit infused sparkling water, or a cordial with a lower sugar content."
You can also reduce dependency on sugary pre-made sauces and flavourings by replacing it with more wholefoods-based products. "Cinnamon, ginger, turmeric and curry leaves actually help lower and regulate blood sugar levels so you don't experience the highs and dips that follow processed sugar consumption." Dee says, "Adding a little natural fat such as olive oil, coconut milk or avocado satiates the body, leaving us comfortably satisfied."
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Grace Walsh is a Features Writer for Goodto.com, covering breaking news health stories during the Covid-19 pandemic as well as lifestyle and entertainment topics. She has worked in media since graduating from the University of Warwick in 2019 with a degree in Classical Civilisation and a year spent abroad in Italy. It was here that Grace caught the bug for journalism, after becoming involved in the university’s student newspaper and radio station.
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