How I weaned myself off sugar (in coffee)

This is going to sound crazy to many of you, but as a teenager whenever I had drank (black) tea it would have to be accompanied by six teaspoons of sugar. Yes, six! So it was a good thing I didn’t drink it often and stuck to herbal teas (with nothing added) whenever it was available.

Coffee was something I developed a taste for nearly almost two years ago (must be getting old!). The fancy stuff. Not the instant. I say ‘developed a taste for’ as I’m pretty much intolerant to caffeine and can be fast asleep within minutes. So it wasn’t something I was dependent on to wake me up first thing in the morning, or to get me through an afternoon slump. I enjoy it and drink around 4-5 cups a week currently.

Even though I stuck to ‘the good stuff’ I’d still have it with 2 teaspoons of sugar. 18 months later I was off the sugar completely. It was a slow, gradual process but this is how I did it (bearing in mind I probably don’t consume it as often as more regular coffee drinkers):

  1. Months 1-6: x2 teaspoons of Demerara sugar (not white!)
  2. Months 6-12: x1 teaspoon, accompanied by a sweet treat, e.g. homemade salted caramel or peanut butter flapjacks – I love the ones from my regular weekday spot Rosie & Joe (59 St Giles High St, London WC2H 8LH)
  3. Months 12-16: No added sugar, but alongside the treat (see above)
  4. Months 16 – now: No sugar, with treat on occasion

For those of you who drink coffee more frequently and are thinking about reducing your sugar intake, switch the above to weeks instead of months. Give it a go. I’d love to hear about how you get on.

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Some basic sugar facts can be found on the Live Well section of the NHS website here. The main reasons to cut down are, essentially:

  • Weight gain, which in turn increases your risk of health conditions such as heart disease and Type 2 diabetes
  • Sugary foods and drinks can also cause tooth decay, especially if you eat them between meals. The longer the sugary food is in contact with teeth, the more damage it causes. Sugars found naturally in whole fruit are less likely to cause tooth decay, because the sugars are contained within the structure of the fruit. FYI – when fruit is juiced or blended, the sugars are released.

I will also add at this stage that I’m not a fan of sweeteners and have never added them to coffee or tea in isolation – more natural options like Stevia are present in Meal Replacement and Protein shakes, which I do occasionally drink.

Generally however, I think if you’re going to go for a ‘Diet’ or ‘Low fat’ option of something you may as well just go for the original option less frequently, as research has shown that these aren’t necessarily much better, and in some cases more processed or artificial. The mental justification around these items may cause more harm than if you were just going to have the ‘normal’ option as the odd treat.