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Everything You Need To Know About Sugar Free January

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Question for you. Are you ready to cut out refined sugar with me for 30 days?

Or let me rephrase.

Are you ready to eat SUPER-YUMMY food with me (that just happens to have no refined sugar) for the month of January?

Yes! I was hoping you’d say that.

Quick Links Within This Post:

What is Sugar Free January?

Let’s start with what it is not.

It is not a diet. It is not a cleanse. It is not a course.

So what is Sugar Free January? It is a simple and straightforward challenge to remove refined sugar from your diet for 30 days.

It is flexible, friendly, free, and delicious.

It is, honestly, whatever you want it to be.

The challenge starts on January 1st and end on January 31st. During that time, I’ll be cutting out refined sugar, and you’ll see a whole bunch of ALL NEW sugar free recipes made with just regular, familiar, real food ingredients posted here on the blog. 

What Are The Rules of Sugar Free January?

  1. Cut out refined sugar for 30 days.
  2. Be committed, but don’t be strict, mean, or shaming.
  3. Make your own choices. (For example, I still keep dark chocolate in my Sugar Free Plan.)

Wait, You Still Eat Dark Chocolate?

Yep, I do. Going sugar free can mean whatever you want it to mean. For me, it means figuring out how to cut out all / almost all sugar without dreading meals or setting myself up to fail.

I’d strongly encourage you to create a Sugar Free Plan that is specific and unique to YOU.

When I make my plan, I’m thinking about:

  • What will help me feel my best?
  • What sweet foods can I enjoy that will also provide nutritional benefit?
  • What will make this a sustainable, realistic, and happy experience for me?

For example, last year I kept sushi even though sushi rice is not sugar free, and that’s because I know that I’m not going to last long on any kind of plan if I can’t say yes to a Friday night spicy tuna roll.

I know myself, and I know that in order to be able to stick to the rest of the plan, I need real-life flexibility and wiggle room. I also know that, for me, eating a spicy tuna roll isn’t going to send me looking for more sugar.

But some people do better with a more black-and-white approach, and that’s cool, too.

Remember: make your own choices.

How do I join this challenge?

All you have to do is say yes!

  1. Create your own Sugar Free January plan.
  2. Make a loose meal plan
  3. Share on Instagram with the hashtag #poysugarfreejanuary so we can find you! 

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Sugar Free January Meal Planning Tips

Okay! Here are a few lil’ tipsters for your meal planning during Sugar Free January.

  • You don’t have to make something different every day. Batch your easy meals, like breakfast and lunch. I don’t mind eating the same food a few days in a row as long as it’s really, really good.
  • Leave space for leftovers and eating out. If I make one pasta recipe that serves 6-8 people, and there’s only 2 adults in the house… we should be able to eat that 3-4 times. Leave space for your leftovers and for any nights or weekends you might be eating out.
  • Limit to one fancy or new recipe per week. I like to do an EASY meal prep style recipe on the weekend so that can carry me through the week for lunch, and then I just pick one or two “fancy” recipes to make for dinner throughout the week. 

This month (and kind of always), we are LOADING YOU UP ON RECIPES so you have lots of yummy things to choose from as you decide what you want to eat during this challenge.

Most Popular Sugar Free January Recipes

Okay, the last thing I’m going to leave you with is a nice list of our top recipes that I think would be good to consider for your meal planning purposes – either breakfasts, lunches, dinners, or snacks.

This should give the high-achieving super-planners in the group a highly prepared starting point for January 1st!

(Keep in mind, these are just a few of the most popular recipes – if you want more, check out our complete library of awesome sugar free recipes here.)

Sugar Free January Q&A

What do you mean by sugar free?

Sugar Free January means 30 days without refined sugar.

Is Sugar Free January about cutting out only refined sugars, or does it include natural sweeteners like raw honey too?

Each person should make their own Sugar Free Plan that defines what sugar free living means to them.

My sugar free “yes” list does include natural sweeteners like raw honey and maple syrup. That is my personal choice. You do you.

What are some examples of sugar free foods?

We define sugar free foods as foods without refined sugars added to them. They also might be known as whole foods. For example:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Proteins
  • Whole grains
  • Unsweetened dairy
  • Healthy fats

Some of these foods have naturally occurring sugar in them, and you can decide for yourself whether you want to keep those or not (I choose to keep them).

What about refined grains, rice, flour, etc.?

Up to you! In my Sugar Free Plan, I’m cutting out refined sugar AND refined grains like white bread, white flour, and regular pasta. You can read more about the effects of refined grains from a food and nutrition perspective here, and from a medical perspective here

In years past, I have cut out white rice. But I am keeping white rice in my plan this year. Just another personal decision!

How did your body/mind feel after going sugar free last time?

I think going sugar free had an “upward spiral” effect for me – you feel good about what you’re eating, so then your body feels good, so then your mind feels good, and life in general just gets a little bit better.

The main benefit for me, though, was a more sensitive palate. Food just tasted more amazing. Fruit tasted sweeter, savory foods were more flavorful, and even just a little full fat cream in my coffee started to taste perfectly sweet to me once I readjusted my tastebuds.

You can read more about the effects of going sugar free for me and my husband Bjork in this post.

And here’s what other readers said about doing last year’s Sugar Free January:

My husband and I did sugar-free January, including giving up honey and maple syrup (we did keep wine and unsweetened dried fruit!). It was hard at times, but ultimately super rewarding for both of us! We both dropped a few lbs., and I was able to kick my gross flavored-coffeemate-plus-an-extra-spoonful-of-sugar habit, and am now drinking my coffee unsweetened with just a big splash of half and half (thanks for that tip!).

– Lucy

I did it! No sugar/flour for the WHOLE month, the only thing I allowed myself was dried fruit (raisins mostly, because that filled my need for a sweet something after a meal). It was incredibly rewarding (down 7 lbs) and my skin improved too! Yesterday I said “hmmm, what am I going to eat to reintroduce sugar,” and couldn’t come up with one thing in my house that was worth splurging on. I am resolved to be very choosy in sweet indulgences going forward.

– Amy

Had I not read your sugar free post I would’ve just kept on living my regular sugar-filled life. I didn’t go 100% sugar free but was very aware of everything sweet that I put in my mouth. I was super surprised at how easily my sugar cravings disappeared! I guess they were habits and not cravings? I think I only had one pop (hello from North Dakota!) all month and could barely finish it. I too couldn’t believe how sweet fruit tastes. I started ending my meal with fruit and soon realized I didn’t need the desserts I was packing in my lunch. Thank you for an eye opening experience. And that kale Caesar salad? To die for!

– Nancy

How do you handle the sugar cravings the first few days?

The first few days might be the most difficult. You’re recalibrating your palate a little bit and toning down what you’re used to in terms of sweetness.

Helpful things:

  • HEALTHY FAT – make sure your snacks and meals have enough fat.  For example, dates with peanut butter, or apples with cheese.
  • WATER – Stay hydrated. Make infused water with lemon, mint, cucumber, etc.
  • TREAT YOURSELF – Celebrate the end of the day with things that aren’t sugar – a candle, a sparkling water with fresh berries, a bath, a walk, a manicure, a hot tea, a good book.

But what about my birthday? Or my vacation? Or any other special occasions?

You do whatever you want to do.

If you want to draw a hard line, awesome. If you want to leave wiggle room for a slice of birthday cake, also awesome.

Example 1: The first time we went sugar free, the challenge overlapped with a once-in-a-lifetime big family vacation. There was one really special night in particular that we were celebrating three golden birthdays (including mine!) and even though it was hard, Bjork and I decided to do our best to stay away from the treats. It was important to us that year to have a completely sugar-free experience. We focused on enjoying all the other foods and spending time with family playing games and laughing, and we still had a great time.

Example 2: Last year, during the middle of Sugar Free January, Bjork and I went on vacation to Hawaii. This time I had decided to take a more flexible approach, so I drank lots of (very sweet) fresh fruit juice, and I had a Coke on the beach, and we split one dessert together. I was aware of what I was eating, and while it made coming back to sugar free eating a little more difficult, it didn’t derail my Sugar Free January experience. It was just a different, more flexible approach.

How flexible you are really depends on YOU – what you want from the challenge and what your goals and priorities are.

You get to decide! No guilt, no shame.

Sugar can hide in so many things. Any tips for navigating that?

Two words: read labels.

It’s tedious at first. But look for “added sugars” on the nutrition label, and look at the ingredient list for sugar (and its various other names). And even better, try to buy products that don’t have a label! Fruits, veggies, meat, whole grains, nuts, etc.

Check out this post of sugar-friendly products you can find at the grocery store and a more detailed look at how I read labels to find added sugar.

How hard will it be?

Honestly, this is my favorite part: it doesn’t have to be super hard. 

Let it be known: I eat my fair share of sweet things, and whenever I go sugar free I always find myself so surprised at how GOOD THE FOOD IS. We’re talking about creamy curriesspicy taco bowlstangy salads, and velvety soups. Things you would want to make even if you were not going sugar free.

My number one goal with Sugar Free January is to make this REALLY DELICIOUS for you. 

Remember: Sugar Free January starts on January 1st!

Our first post will be out on December 31st to get you kicked off with something yummy, vibrant, and wholesome!

And if you’re not already signed up for our email list, get signed up, you weirdo! We don’t want you to miss any of these Sugar Free January recipes!

Have you gone sugar free before? Are you ready to take on the challenge with me this year? What are your questions? I’d love to chat in the comments!

The post Everything You Need To Know About Sugar Free January appeared first on Pinch of Yum.