21-Day Sugar Detox: Tips for Survival and My Favorite "Not-sweet Treats"


Huzzah! I made it! 21 days without sugar! (I've been following the 21DSD protocol by Diane Sanfillipo - learn more about my experience here.) I feel great. My sleep has been blissful, my energy is up, and I haven't had a blood-sugar-crash related headache or mood swing (aka: when I get "hangry" at my fiance) in three wonderful weeks.

By no means was it easy. The first night I had a dream that I cheated by scraping the bottom of a spring-form pan of a cheesecake, (seriously subconscious? You couldn't do better than that?) and I continued to have weird sugar dreams for the following two or three nights. Plus, I haven't had a piece of dark chocolate in 21 days - which some people would call blasphemy. But, some days felt easier than others, and I'm lucky that overall the 21DSD isn't a whole lot different than my daily diet (I generally shy away from a lot of processed foods, and ditching gluten 5 years ago has helped me keep my autoimmune disease in remission). 

Today I wanted to share with you the things that helped me stay on track during my 21DSD so that you can learn from my experience when you decide to kick sugar to the curb.


In order to stay satiated and eat enough calories each day, I had to up my healthy fat intake. For those of you who are still healthy fat-phobic, please stop what you're doing right now and go read Eat the Yolks by Liz Wolfe, or the article "Ending The War on Fat" in Time Magazine.

Ok, now that you're no longer doomed to believe that eating fat will make you fat, let's talk about what my daily fat intake consisted of. On any given day I ate a few tablespoons of fat at each meal or snack. My favorite sources of healthy fats are: coconut oilcoconut butteralmond butter, full-fat dairy (if dairy agrees with you), avocados, canned olives, grass-fed butter, and my favorite 1-2 punch of fat and protein: eggs!


My biggest obstacle during the 21DSD was having enough food prepared in advance and ready to eat. The first week I spent a few hours in the kitchen on a Sunday evening simmering chili, roasting brussell sprouts, chopping raw veggies for snacks, hard boiling a dozen eggs, and mixing up a batch of lemon-vanilla meltaways (recipe below). But guess what? I easily chowed through all that food in less than a week, which left me needing to cook and prep food each morning for my lunches at work - not good! Next time I'll be prepping more food in advance, as well as taking a cue from my fellow 21DSDer Saumer, by packing all my weekday lunches in advance in individual serving containers. That way I'll make sure I have enough food made and all I'll have to do on my way out of the house is grab and go!


No one's perfect and no one ever has a perfect detox. But, the key is to do your best and not beat yourself up about it when you slip up or are unable to control every food situation in your life. I ended up eating out for a couple nice dinners over the course of my detox as part of my recent engagement. Now, this sort of thing doesn't happen every day so I obviously wanted to celebrate with a nice meal out. So what's a gal to do? Google it. Look online for restaurants menus and plan ahead. Do your best and don't beat yourself up about every little detail. I found a place nearby with a fabulous steak cobb salad...and then I ate it. I didn't worry about if there was a bit of honey or sugar in the salad dressing. It was more important for me to choose real food options and celebrate my engagement with family. After the meal (where I opted out of desert), I got right back on the horse and continued on with my 21DSD.


One of the most important tips for a successful 21DSD is to have a network of support. For some people that might mean following the program with your partner or family, while others might be going it along and decide to join up with other folks following the 21DSD on social media like this Facebook group. Either way, support is key. Your fellow 21DSDers will help talk you down from the ledge when that bag of chocolate chips in the pantry is calling your name, or help you plan ahead when you're unsure of what to bring to a pot-luck, or cook and share meals with you so you don't feel isolated during your 21DSD. I was lucky to have a few friends in my neighborhood completely the challenge with me and a supportive partner who will eat all of the weird 21DSD food I made for us without a single complaint. I can't stress this enough: support is key.


So I survived - wait, scratch that - I thrived on the 21DSD. But you might be wondering if you can go 21 days without sugar...without treats. Well, you don't have to go 21 days without treats. You'll be amazed at how your taste-buds change over the course of three weeks. You'll find huge amounts of sweetness in everyday foods that your taste-buds have become desensitized to over the years from all the refined sugar and corn-syrup.

Here's a quick list of what became my "treats", plus a tangy treat recipe from the 21DSD cookbook.
* Spoonfuls of this almond and coconut butter
* Mugs of this decaf chocolate and hazelnut tea
* Slices of ruby red grapefruit (I've long been obsessed with these) or green apple
* Fake cocktails using my soda stream with a dash of flavored balsamic vinegar, or lemon essential oil
* Handfuls of these roasted chestnuts  (my newest obsession)
* A few lemon vanilla meltaways (recipe below)

Here's a recipe for a naturally sweet treat that doesn't require a candy thermometer or even turning on the oven. The recipe is from the 21DSD Cookbook and a single batch of these lasted me the whole detox (just keep them in a container in the fridge).

Lemon Vanilla Meltaways by Diane Sanfilippo

1/2 cup coconut butter, softened
1/2 cup coconut oil, softened
Seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean pod
Zest and juice of 1 lemon

In a mixing bowl (preferably with a spout), whisk together the coconut butter, coconut oil, vanilla bean seeds, lemon zest, and lemon juice until well combined. Pour the mixture into a silicone non-stick candy mold and chill for 20 to 30 minutes or until completely solid.

Have you completed a 21DSD or other sugar detox? If so, what helped you be successful and what were your favorite not-so-sweet treats?

**The information provided on this site is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.

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