Here’s Your Post-Halloween Sugar Detox Plan

Follow these tips from clinical dietitian Alicia Romano.

As the harsh light of November dawns, that mountain of candy wrappers lurking in your kitchen looms large, a cruel reminder of Halloween’s indiscretions. Dispose of the wreckage, hydrate that sugar hangover away, and get cracking on your next project: kicking your newfound diet of chocolate and fake peanut butter to the curb.

Here to help is Alicia Romano, a clinical registered dietitian at Tufts Medical Center’s Frances Stern Nutrition Center. Below, she talks sugar “addiction,” and how to overcome it.

First of all: Sugar addiction is real—kind of.

While research has shown that sugar consumption releases dopamine and lights up the brain in a way similar to drugs and alcohol, Romano says other studies have shown that the sweet stuff doesn’t cause the “addictive patterns” characteristic of true dependence. Still, it is possible to eat enough sugar that your body and brain expect it, cementing its place in your diet. “This is not necessarily a dependency, but more of a habit and taste for high-sugar foods,” Romano explains.

Sound like you? Follow these steps, and get your sugar consumption under control.

1. Analyze. Take stock of all the ways sugar sneaks into your diet—on the whole, not just during Halloween hedonism. Include the obvious (a king-sized bag of Skittles) and the more subtle (sauces, condiments, and packaged foods). Consider various forms of sweetener, including honey, agave, and maple syrup, too.

2. Replace. Slowly but surely, begin phasing out the items identified in step one. Start with the obvious stuff, such as bypassing the office candy bowl, then make other changes, such as switching to unsweetened yogurt and drinking your coffee black.

Instead of doing it all at once, Romano recommends choosing reasonable intervals at which to cut back—dropping one serving every few days, for example, or every week. “This can be as simple as eliminating that piece of chocolate after lunch, cutting out the daily can of cola, or removing added sugar from your coffee or hot cereal,” she says.

Last but not least, eat regularly and make sure your meals are keeping you full, as you’ll logically have stronger cravings if you’re hungry. “Include high-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, as well as protein, to keep you fuller for longer,” Romano suggests.

3. Savor. When you do indulge, learn to select your sweets wisely. “I recommend choosing your favorite treats that might be special to that time of the year,” Romano says. 

Whether that’s dad’s famous apple pie or a hunk of fudge, take the time to enjoy it. Eat mindfully, savoring each bite. If you appreciate the first go-around, you’ll be all the more able to resist seconds.