Do you crave a sweet treat several times a day? Do you find yourself eating a whole bag of candy or carton of ice cream? Is your soda consumption out-pacing your water drinking? If so, you may have a sugar addiction. Weaning yourself off sugar is difficult, but possible. Even if you don't have a major sweet tooth, reducing sugar cravings and cutting out sweet stuff will make you feel better. Put the cookies down and read on to get started.

1. Understand sugar sources

Sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, honey and agave nectar are all used as sweeteners. Lactose is the natural sugar found in milk. Fructose is found naturally in fruits, but also added to foods as a sweetener. Sucrose is table sugar. It is derived from sugar cane or sugar beets. It is the basic "sweet" flavor that we all recognize.

2. Plan for success

What is your goal? Do you want to eliminate refined sugar and sweeteners from your diet entirely or just reduce cravings? Are you avoiding high fructose corn syrup or all sweeteners including honey and molasses? Having a set plan will help you reach your goal. A few times a year, I eliminate sweet treats for a few weeks. I have a set length of time and an end goal to keep me focused.

3. Remove temptation

Don't set yourself up for failure by keeping foods around that you are trying to avoid. Remove things from your home that you've decided not to eat. You may need to avoid baking your regular recipes and rethink your shopping and eating out routine.

4. Choose new treats

Having a substitute on hand will help when you want something sweet to eat. I choose home-dried fruit, a special treat like raspberries or blueberries, and sparkling water. Have a cup of herbal tea and popcorn in the evening instead of a bowl of ice cream, and grab a handful of nuts in the afternoon instead of a cookie.

5. Anticipate cravings

Know when you are likely to want a treat, then plan what you are going to do instead of reaching for the chocolate. Many cravings go away within minutes if you distract yourself. Read a magazine, take a walk, eat a vegetable or call a friend to keep yourself on track. Consider having someone help you be accountable. Keeping a journal of your eating and feelings might also help you through this process.

6. Give it time

The first week or two will be the hardest. After 2 weeks, your cravings will have diminished, and your new habits will be more established. Take it one day at a time.

7. Reward yourself

Some people like to reward themselves with a treat once a week. I find it easier to change the treat and stay away from the old foods. Choose a different reward for staying on track, like a new article of clothing, a night out to a movie, or a relaxing day at home.

8. Regroup as needed

If you find reducing sugar to be harder than you imagined, you may need to rethink your plan. Add in a little bit of sugar, or reduce more gradually. Just reducing or eliminating refined sugar sweets and sugared sodas and drinks is a step in the right direction. After reducing my own sugar intake several times the last few years, I definitely eat less sugar. My palate has changed, but it has taken time.

The health benefits of beating a sugar addiction are worth the effort. You may lose weight, have more energy, and reduce your risk for obesity-related diseases as you cut back on the sweet stuff. When I eat less sugar, I sleep better, feel more productive, and find myself craving healthy whole foods like vegetables and whole grains. Make a plan to curb sugar intake and break the sweet cycle in your own life.

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