Sugar addiction is very real, says Brooke Alpert, M.S., R.D. Here, how to break the bad habit and keep up with your healthy eating

By Marnie Soman Schwartz
November 06, 2014
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Feeling sluggish from the minute you wake up. Reaching for an extra cup of coffee (or two) every day. Hitting the vending machine more frequently. Seeing extra fine lines on your face. Feeling bloated. These are all signs that you might benefit from a little vacation from sugar, says Brooke Alpert, M.S., R.D., author of The Sugar Detox. And you're not alone if you're suffering: Americans are consuming 30 percent more sweet stuff than they were three decades ago, found one new study.

"Sugar is really addictive," she says. "You eat it, you have a feeling of euphoria, and then suddenly you don't feel good and you crash. Then you reach for more." Sound familiar? You'll be happy to know that a sugar detox diet isn't as hard as it sounds. You can break the cycle in as little as three days. Follow the plan below to get started!

1. Make sure the timing is right. Pick a window when you have an easy schedule (headaches and a general feeling of crankiness during the detox can be common side effects). Try to start during the week, for example, when you don't have dinner plans and can relax.

2. Know what to cut. For three days, skip carbohydrates like wheat and other grains, alcohol, and all forms of added sugar. (Watch out for sneaky sources like tomato-based sauces, salad dressings, and marinades.) You should also (temporarily!) cut out fruit and dairy. "These are healthy foods, and we bring them back on the fourth day, but they're full of sugar and can make it harder for you to succeed if you eat them during the detox," says Alpert. What you can eat: Whole sources of protein (eggs, chicken, meat), lots of vegetables, and healthy fat sources like nuts and avocados. (In fact, you can use fat to fight sugar cravings.) For example, you could have eggs and avocado for breakfast, a huge salad with colorful vegetables, nuts, and chicken for lunch, and a steak and sautéed broccoli for dinner. "This isn't about deprivation," says Alpert.

3. Do some addition. After three days, gradually add back in healthy sugars-starting with an apple and a serving of dairy each day. Next add more fruit, and little by little add back in healthy grains, more dairy, and even wine and dark chocolate. "This will help recalibrate your palate," says Alpert. "When you're overwhelmed with sugar all the time, you don't even taste it."