Ditch sugar, spice is just as nice

Lucy Stock from Gentle Dental Care offers ways of retraining your tastebuds to stop sugar dominating your diet

sweets, candy, food, sugar, snack
It can be hard work, but it is possible to kick your sugary habit into touch (Paper Boat Creative/Getty Images)

Realising that sugar is dominating your diet is one thing; kicking your sugar habit into touch is altogether much tougher. Fad diets that go to extremes of eliminating certain food groups are rarely stickable long-term, they just end up being yoyo-a-gogo.

When we realise that we need to get healthier, these thoughts have normally been pinging around in our heads for ages. A call to action often takes a stomach-churning moment like being told that yet another tooth is for the bucket due to sugar rot or the vexation at not fitting into your favourite jeans.

If your Olympian mindset is a bit rusty and stopping a habit instantly isn’t your go-to temperament, then try breaking down the habit into smaller chunks which makes the mountain easier to climb.

For some people deciding on ‘weekend-only sweet treats’ is doable. Combining this with a kitchen cupboard shake-up will really help – dump the rubbish... the money that you are throwing out is a pinprick compared to the gains that your mouth and body will receive. Try rebranding the ‘sweet cupboard’ to something else. Get the whole household on board with this one so it works better.

Give your kitchen cupboard a shake-up and dump the rubbish - the money that you are throwing out is a pinprick compared to the gains that your mouth and body will receive

—  Lucy Stock

If weekends only are too extreme, then there’s always the ‘microwins’ technique. This involves making a good choice at every sugar stumbling block during the day.

Just at the moment when you find yourself reaching for a biscuit, say to yourself, “What would be a better option?”, and go for that. This technique is especially useful when shopping - steer your hand to reach for healthier foods and fill the trolley with more savoury options so there are fewer temptations at home.

These microwins throughout the day will gradually accumulate so that you will find yourself going for longer and longer periods without the sweet stuff. You’ll gradually be able to build in one no-sugar day a week, then two days the next week and so on.

It’s all about retraining the tastebuds to enjoy a less sweet palate, and this takes time. The body and mouth biologically have a bit of a lukewarm reaction to exchanging sugar for sweeteners; it’s slightly better but not enough to push the body into the health zone.

For a flavour kick to your food and drinks try adding mint, cinnamon, allspice or ginger for a change.