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Jennifer Lopez's challenge, issued to TODAY's Hoda Kotb and several other health-conscious pals, was to go no-carb and no-sugar for 10 full days. And not only did Hoda embrace the notion, so did most of her fellow anchors!
Lopez called in to TODAY on Friday to help explain, and get everyone motivated. "First and second day is when you realize you're addicted to sugar," she said. "It's like a drug."
She noted that it was her trainer who inspired the challenge; he told her it would "reset" her body. "Now when I go back to eating a fruit in 10 days, it's going to taste like an ice cream sundae," she said.
But what does this mean, exactly? We'll get to my advice, and a list of no-go (and go-to) foods, but first, a disclaimer: This is not my plan. I’m simply helping Hoda make it through a tough challenge given by J.Lo. I’m hoping to negotiate for the inclusion of fruit, dairy, beans and legumes (feel free to cheat with these foods)! If you are going to give this plan a shot, keep in mind it's meant to be a short-term "reset" and it's always a good idea to check in with your doctor first, particularly if you have an underlying medical condition.
The average American consumes approximately 22 teaspoons of added sugar per day from sugary beverages, cookies, cakes, candies — even condiments like ketchup and salad dressings. To make matters worse, processed foods you wouldn't even expect to have sugar can contain high amounts as well.
A no-carb, no-sugar diet basically means you're removing all added sugar and all starchy carbs from the menu (including bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, ice cream, candy, soda, cookies, jams and jellies). We have a more complete list below.
Lopez and Alex Rodriguez's rules are even stricter: They've given the boot to certain fruit, like no bananas, grapes and oranges, and no yogurt or milk allowed, either. As for caffeine, Lopez gave the thumbs-up to black coffee, maybe with a little half-and-half, but no added sugar. That's a huge thing for our early-rising TODAY anchors.
The American Heart Association recommends up to 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day for women and 9 for men. And the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, the group that makes recommendations for the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, recently suggested capping added sugar at 12 teaspoons a day for both adult men and women.
Keep in mind, we’re talking about forgoing added sugars, not naturally-occurring sugars, like the sugar called "lactose" in plain yogurt or the sugar called "fructose" in fresh fruit or the small amounts of sugar found in sweet vegetables like carrots and beets.
Naturally-occurring sugars come packaged with countless beneficial ingredients, like vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. So, these are not off the menu, nor should you avoid them.
Know that it will be a challenge
The first 48 hours will be rough. You'll likely feel irritable and hungry.
But after you figure out what you can eat and substitute for your sweet treat favorites, you'll be fine. And in fact, my prediction is you'll start having more energy, feel empowered and really appreciate the taste of un-doctored wholesome food.
Cutting out added sugars can help crush sugar cravings and reprogram your brain to enjoy foods that are less sweet.
Modify it to make it work for you and your family’s lifestyle. If you slip up, forgive yourself and jump right back on track.
After this period of time, we can all go back to our regular diets. The hope is, we’ll be more educated, selective and empowered in our eating choices.
Learn how it works
For 10 days, you'll avoid all forms of added sugar — real and artificial.
Even though the artificial sweeteners like Splenda, Equal and Sweet’N Low and other zero-calorie sugar substitutes like Stevia and Monkfruit don't add any calories, they DO saturate your taste buds with "sweet," and we want to get rid of that.
This 10-day detox will be the ultimate reality check. It’s a learning experience to open our eyes to just how much sugar and carbs we are all consuming.
Read through the following list and memorize the foods that are — and are not — allowed on this plan.
Foods Not Allowed
- Added sugar in any form: sugar, agave, honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, evaporated cane juice, brown rice syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, glucose, fructose, molasses.
- Sugar substitutes/artificial sweetener in any form: sucralose/Splenda, aspartame/Equal, saccharin/Sweet-n-low/Stevia
Grains and Legumes
- Legumes (starchy beans, chickpeas, etc.)
- Winter squash
- Cow's milk
- Soda (regular and diet)
- Fruit juice
- Sweetened teas or energy drinks (regular and diet)
- Alcohol (although J.Lo said tequila is allowed for those who drink, she doesn't)
- Salad dressings (with any added sweeteners)
- Nut butters (with added sweeteners)
- BBQ sauce (with added sweeteners)
- Teriyaki sauce (with added sweeteners)
- Cakes, cookies, pies, tarts or other baked goods
- Candies and chocolates
- Ice cream, Popsicles, or other frozen treats
Foods to Enjoy
- Non-starchy vegetables, including cucumber, zucchini, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, spinach, celery, etc.
- Fish and seafood
Nuts and Seeds
- All nuts and seeds
- Natural nut and seed butters (without added sugar)
- Almonds, pistachios, cashews, peanuts, pecans, soy nuts
- Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and ground flaxseeds for recipes
- Seltzer/sparkling water (including naturally flavored)
- Unsweetened teas (all varieties, including herbal)
- Nondairy milk (almond, cashew, soy, coconut)
- All spices and seasonings (HINT: try spices that mimic sweet flavors like cinnamon and nutmeg)
- All vinegars (HINT: make a tasty dressing using apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, and olive oil)
- Salsa (without added sugars/sweeteners)
- Hot sauce (without any added sugars or sweeteners)
- Soy sauce (preferably lesser sodium varieties)
- Cooking oils (olive, grapeseed, coconut oil, etc.)
- Unsweetened cocoa powder
Of course, there are plenty of clever and totally legal ways to sweeten the pot. You can roast vegetables and try new seasonings. Don't be afraid to experiment!