Everything You Need To Know About Sugar Free January

A bowl filled with various vegetables and eggs with a text written over it "Sugar Free January"

Question for you. Are you ready to cut out refined sugar with us for four weeks?

Or let’s rephrase that.

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

Yes! We were hoping you’d say that.

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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 completely cut out, limit, or just generally scale back on for refined sugar for one month.

It is flexible, friendly, free, and delicious.

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

This year the challenge starts on January 6th (the first Monday of the month) and ends on January 31st. During that time, we’ll be sharing a bunch of yum-town recipes that are made with just regular, familiar, real food ingredients posted here on the blog to support your effort to change an unwanted sugar habit, cut out sugar altogether, or something in between.

What Are The Rules of Sugar Free January?

  1. No rules!
  2. But if we had to make a rule, it would be this: Make it your own. Do things that will make you feel good and that support your goals. (That might mean that keeping dark chocolate as a nightly treat.)

Wait, You Can Keep Dark Chocolate?

Sure! Going sugar free can mean whatever you want it to mean. For us, it has meant figuring out how to cut out the sugar that doesn’t make us feel good… without dreading meals, feeling deprived, or setting ourselves up to fail.

To help with this process, you can create a Sugar Free Plan that is specific and unique to YOU.

What you can think 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: sushi rice is made with sugar (!!) but maybe you decide that a Friday night spicy tuna roll is something that feels good to you, so you eat it.

Another example: maybe eating a lot of bread just makes you crave more sugar, so you watch out for bread for the month in addition to other sugars.

It’s easy to want someone else to make the rules for a challenge like this, but we really don’t want to do that with Sugar Free January. Instead, it is about thinking about your sugar consumption – what feels good, what doesn’t – and getting back to the foods that really bring out your best AND bring you joy. Remember, at the end of the day: make your own choices.

How do I join this challenge?

  1. Download your Sugar Free January Starter Pack.
  2. Complete your Sugar Free Plan, and print out our weekly meal plans or fill out your own.
  3. Share on Instagram with the hashtag #poysugarfreejanuary so we can find you! 

Sugar Free January Starter Pack

A sugar free menu for food items.

This is your one-stop shop for all things Sugar Free January. 🤩 Whether you’re a SFJ first-timer or a seasoned veteran, it’s got everything you need to get the sugar-free show on the road.

Here’s what’s included in your Sugar Free January Starter Pack:

  • Your Sugar Free January Plan: This is where you’ll outline what Sugar Free January looks like to you (what you’ll watch out for, what you’ll enjoy, and what your goals are, etc.).
  • Weekly Meal Plans (NEW!): A meal plan for all four weeks of the month that provide everything you need for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.
  • Meal Plan Template: If you want to create your own meal plan week-by-week, this is for you.

Sugar Free January Meal Planning Tips

Okay! Here are a few lil’ tipsters for your meal planning during Sugar Free January if you decide to go the meal plan template route.

  • 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. Try doing an EASY meal prep style recipe on the weekend so that it can carry you through the week for lunch, and then 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 we’re going to leave you with is a nice list of our top recipes that 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.)

A smoothie, eggs, coffee, cookies and an egg and vegetable dish.
Several containers, filled with hot and cold foods for lunches, are arranged next to each other.
A website header featuring different dinners with the word dinner overlayed on the top
Sugar free sauces, desserts, dips, vegetables and pastries for snacks.

Sugar Free January Q&A with Lindsay

What do you mean by sugar free?

Sugar Free January is a challenge to go 30 days without refined sugar – and you can define whatever that means to you.

At the end of the day, it is about paying attention to what makes you feel good and what doesn’t make you feel good, and trying to eat more of the what foods support your body and your life best!

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.

Some people choose to include honey and maple syrup. Some do not. It’s up to you!

I personally keep eating honey and maple syrup during Sugar Free January.

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

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

Up to you! If you’re not sure, 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 since I was considering it to be a refined grain.

This year, I am really loving white rice as a part of my healthy stir fries and curries. And my body is responding well to it. So now I’m keeping it.

What are the benefits of going sugar free?

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 without any added sugar.

My husband and I did our first sugar free challenge in 2014, and you can read more about the effects it had on us in this post.

And here’s what other readers have said about doing 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

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

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

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 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 small things and treat yourself with little luxuries: 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 to this no-sugar commitment, awesome. If you want to leave wiggle room for a slice of birthday cake, also awesome! There is no sugar police here.

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 one night we a dessert together. Having this flexibility made it a little more difficult to go back to sugar free eating when we returned home, but 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, what your goals and priorities are, and how you feel when you eat sugar.

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 even so, 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 a REALLY DELICIOUS, happy, feel-good experience for you. 

Remember: this year, Sugar Free January starts on January 6th!

Our first recipe post will be out on January 6th – the first Monday of the month – to get you kicked off with something yummy, vibrant, and wholesome!

If you want to receive recipes and create your meal plan before then, be sure to sign up to download our Sugar Free January Starter Pack.

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

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

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