Whilst the UK government, Public Health England and celebrity chef Jamie Oliver debate whether a sugar tax is the answer, the research is in. Everyone - apart from Big Food and the sugar industry - agrees that refined sugar is bad for more than our teeth and waistlines. It's now widely accepted as a public health concern.
And it's everywhere. In foods you'd never imagine - take a look at the labels on things like pickles, sauces, yoghurts and cereals. And remember, it can be hidden under a whole range of different names so you might not notice it right away.
Having a 'sweet tooth' might sound like something you're born with, but we grow a new set of taste buds every 7-10 days, so it's possible in just over a week to retrain our taste buds so we don't crave sugar at all. Not only will this help us to enjoy the taste of all our food more, it's good for our teeth, our waistline and benefits our overall health enormously. We can tame an addictive habit and still eat - and really enjoy - an occasional sweet treat.
Here are 20 ways to make sure you quit sugar for good:
Drink more water - this will make you feel fuller and help your liver do its job metabolising any sugar you have eaten and crave it less. And because, well water is really good for you.
Reduce the sugar in your tea/coffee - if you reduce this little by little over time, you can cut it out altogether and enjoy the real taste of tea and coffee. Once you do you won't know how you ever thought those sweetened beverages tasted good!
Ditch the sodas - there is so much sugar in sodas it's best to cut them out altogether. And diet sodas are not a replacement. They still feed your sugar craving, disrupt your metabolism and contain chemical sweeteners associated with a host of other health problems. For some inspiration on how to quit sodas check this out: The Highs and Lows of Being a Coke-a-Cola Addict.
Eat more protein - every meal should include a high-quality source of protein, this will keep you fuller for longer and help to avert those crashes/dips in blood sugar that have you reaching for sugary snacks.
Introduce sour foods into your diet - try lemon and lime in your water, for example, and grapefruit for breakfast. This helps to cut the desire for sweet tastes. It might take a little getting used to but once your taste buds are retrained you'll find it much more refreshing and thirst quenching.
Eat good quality dark chocolate instead of milk or white chocolate (in moderation!)- you need less to satisfy your chocolate craving and it will release even more of those feel-good endorphins without spiking your blood sugar. Plus small amounts of dark chocolate (minimum 70%) are actually good for you! (don't you love that?!).
Replace sugar with spices when cooking - reduce the sugar in recipes by replacing it with sweet spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and vanilla instead. Food will still taste delicious and these spices have other added health benefits.
Use other natural sweeteners in baking - there are lots of options available when baking; stevia, dates, honey, maple syrup (make sure it's organic), bananas, coconut palm sugar, applesauce and molasses can all be used in place of sugar. Plus these sweeteners contain nutrients, they're not just empty calories like refined sugars. Don't overdo it though - the idea is to reduce your sweet tooth!
Check your food labels - always read food labels and check for hidden sugars in packaged foods.
Do some exercise - moderate exercise releases the same feel good hormones as chocolate, can help to balance your blood sugar and help to work off any extra pounds gained from all the sugar you used to eat! Plus, when you're moving, you're not eating - often we eat because we're bored or need stimulation.
Get more sleep - not getting enough sleep is a sure fire way to set yourself up for sugar cravings during the day as you seek to increase your energy levels. Also, not sleeping weakens our willpower to say no to those cravings when they do occur.
Manage your emotions - You know the drill, you've had a bad day, or are feeling particularly stressed, and you reach for the chocolate or ice cream. But you won't find the answers to your problems there. Instead take the time out to work through what's bothering you. Not always easy but sooner or later you know it has to be done.
Spring clean your kitchen - having sugary snacks available inevitably means you'll eat them, so it's time to get rid. Go through your cupboards and get rid of anything that's high in sugar. It might seem like a waste but it's better in the bin than in you.
Junk the junk - junk food is a huge source of hidden sugar (not to mention bad fats), that's what makes it so addictive. So in order to give up sugar you need to give up junk. Don't be sad, it's a really good thing and your body will reward you for it in no time at all.
Curb the carbs - starchy carbohydrates like bread, rice and pasta are immediately converted to glucose, which can spike your blood sugar and produce a sugar crash that can have you craving sugary snacks (look out for breakfast cereals too - they're one of the worst offenders). Swap them for vegetables as much as possible and other grains when it's not - there are lots to choose from (millet, buckwheat, quinoa) and they are increasingly available, even in the supermarkets. You'll feel fuller for longer, get some more nutrients into your diet and cut down on sugar cravings.
Avoid 'low fat' - basically, anything that claims to be low in fat is usually high in sugar, otherwise it would taste like cardboard! So just avoid anything with low fat on the label (and good fat is good for us anyway).
Avoid 'sugar free' - equally, sugar free products might sound ideal, but unless they're naturally sweetened (and even that's not as straight-forward as it should be) they probably contain a mixture of artificial sweeteners that maintain your 'sweet tooth' and have a whole host of other detrimental effects on the brain and nervous system. Avoid them wherever you find them.
Avoid fruit juice - fruit juice contains very high levels of sugar that can spike your metabolism and should only be drunk occasionally rather than an every day breakfast staple. And when you do drink it, make sure it's 100% pure fruit juice and not 'juice drink' and dilute it half and half with water.
Have healthy snack options available - nuts, seeds, full fat and Greek yogurt, vegetable sticks with dips like hummus and guacamole all make healthy snacks. Have options on hand for when you want to eat something sweet and eat them instead. Your body will love you even if your brain is temporarily disappointed. Remember in just over a week you'll be home free.
Brush your teeth - if you always fancy something sweet after a meal, try brushing your teeth instead - this can help to reduce the cravings and food doesn't seem so appealing when you have that fresh minty taste in your mouth!
Start right now and you'll never look back.