The Five-Day Plan for Sugar Detox

If you're like me, you find excuses for why you "can't" do without a flavored latte in the morning, a post-workout smoothie, "just a small serving" of dessert, an evening glass of wine, or waffles with the family on Sunday morning.

And now Sugar Fest – I mean Halloween – is almost here.

These behaviors are normalized and celebrated in our society.  We joke about how we're "addicted," perhaps not realizing that we really are.

Sugar Fest 1

We can do hard things.

It might seem almost impossible to get healthier and fitter in today's society.  Fast food and junk food are everywhere, all filled with some combination of sugar, salt, and fat that we find hard to resist.  We're overscheduled, sleep-deprived, and sedentary.

There's a ton of health and fitness information on the web, in books, even on TV.  It can feel overwhelming to try to wade through all of it, which might just make you feel like giving up and ordering a pizza.  (I know I've had that reaction.)

I don't know that it's possible anymore to become healthy by default.  We have to choose a healthier lifestyle.

Sugar is addictive, but it's possible to say no to it.  You can believe it's a healthy thing to do, decide to do it, and then act.

So let's make this really simple.

All foods break down into sugar in our bodies, because sugar is what our cells use for energy.  But when we eat fewer sugar-added foods and fewer carbohydrates, our bodies work harder to harvest sugar from food.  That revs metabolism and improves blood sugar levels.

However, when we're used to eating sugary, carb-laden foods, our bodies aren't used to having harder-to-access energy sources.  That's why starting a low sugar regimen can lead to headaches and lethargy.  Your body is working harder and waiting a bit longer for the energy it needs in order to function.

Let's start with a five-day detox.  Isn't is possible to do almost anything for just five days?  Even if we battle cravings and low energy, we can do it.  Let's get plenty of sleep, plan short walks (especially in the sunshine, if possible), and drink plenty of water, along with black coffee or tea if you like.  (I love Good Earth Sweet and Spicy tea.*)

* This blog is reader-supported.  If you buy through my links, I may earn a small commission.

The rules

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To be honest, this is hard, but we can do hard things.  It's only five days!

  • no baked goods or chocolate
  • no soda, wine, alcohol, or juices
  • no fruit
  • no sweeteners (honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, etc.)
  • no stevia or artificial sweeteners
  • limited starchy vegetables (yams, peas, potatoes, etc.)
  • limited carbohydrates, including whole grains and legumes

Remember:  reduce carbs, up your protein intake, shop at the perimeter of the grocery store for fresh foods, and don't go too low-calorie.  Fill yourself with healthy, low-sugar foods.

Here's the keep-it-simple meal plan.

Breakfast:  Egg or egg white omelet with veggies and avocado.  Add some shredded cheese or lean ham, if desired.

Lunch:  Leafy green salad topped with grilled or baked chicken or turkey, canned tuna, or grilled shrimp.  Use an olive oil vinaigrette.

Dinner:  Another salad with lean protein, plus a broth-based soup or steamed, sautéed, or roasted vegetables.

Snacks:  Choose a small handful of raw or roasted nuts, vegetable crudités, 10 medium olives, a part-skim mozzarella cheese stick, or 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese.

Important steps before you start

  • Be clear about why you want to do this detox.  Write your intention on a notecard or Post-It and place it where you need the reminder – on the fridge, your bathroom mirror, in the car, at your desk, etc.
  • Remove any tempting foods from your kitchen.
  • Talk to your friends, family, and/or co-workers so they're prepared to support you during this time.

  • Think about your sugar triggers – boredom, stress, fatigue, or something else.  You can't prepare if you're unaware!

Additional tips

Drink plenty of water, tea, or coffee with no sweeteners (use a little milk if desired).  Get moving, even if you just do some stretches or take a short walk after dinner.  Don't skimp on sleep.

Manage your stress and cravings with relaxing activities you enjoy.  Are you into bubble baths, yoga, or massage?  Now's the time to indulge.  Listen to your favorite music, work at a favorite hobby, or pop in a favorite movie disc.  Cuddle with a loved one.  Watch the sun rise or set, or light some candles at dinnertime.

Once you've finished the detox, what then?

Sugar Fest 3
True health is not a five-day detox.  True health isn't any short-term fix.  That would be a diet, and I think we all know how well those work.  There's no end date to a healthier lifestyle.

So don't just jump back into eating "whatever" and undo all of your work.

Add a serving or two of fruit to your meal plan, a cup of oatmeal with cinnamon and raisins, or a toasted English muffin.  Dip raw veggies in hummus or top with a smear of nut butter.  Savor a bowl of vegetarian chili.  Indulge in a baked potato or yam topped with spices or fresh herbs.

These higher-carb foods are packed with nutrients, but you should pay attention to how they make you feel.  Introduce them slowly and mindfully.

The five-day sugar detox is only Step One on a long journey which isn't about perfection, but about steady forward progress.  This first step is a chance to let yourself see that you are capable of doing hard things – that you are free to choose and act the way you believe is best.  That means you can also decide to:

  • drink water or unsweetened tea instead of soda
  • skip dessert most of the time instead of indulging all the time
  • get uncluttered
  • engage with your loved ones instead of retreating behind a screen
  • drive less and walk or bike more
  • give or save instead of buying yourself another tchotchke

... or something else that matters to you.


  1. Health expert Mark Sisson says that when you greatly reduce your carbs, as you recommend here, you have to increase your fat to stay healthy. You body requires something for energy; increasing the fat will teach your body to burn your body fat instead of carbs. Avocados, olives, and olive oil are good sources of fat but your dairy needs to be full fat as well.

    1. Thanks for the reminder! Nuts (which I recommend for snacks) are also a great source of healthy fats.


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