No need to count calories on this plan. You can lose weight with a high-fiber diet made up of the right kinds of fruits, vegetables, proteins, and whole grains. But you have to give up refined sugar and flour and make other tweaks to the way you eat.
The plan emphasizes foods with a low glycemic index (GI), which help keep your blood sugar levels steady. Foods with a higher GI make your blood sugar rise more than those with a lower GI.
The foods with the highest GI are carbohydrates, including white bread, white rice, white potatoes, white flour, and sugar. But don't jump to conclusions: Carbs aren't all bad. The book teaches you how to eat the “right” carbs, especially whole grains.
What You Can Eat and What You Can't
No major food groups are off-limits, but you'll need to avoid foods with a high GI.
Fruits and vegetables: You can eat dozens of fruits and vegetables, but steer clear of a few (like parsnips, watermelon, and pineapple).
Grains: Whole-grain bread and pasta, brown rice, and oatmeal are allowed.
Protein: You can eat low-fat dairy like milk, cheese, and yogurt; eggs; nuts; fish and shellfish; and many lean meats, including beef and pork.
Alcohol: You can have moderate amounts of alcohol, preferably heart-healthy red wine.
Sweeteners: Table sugar is forbidden, but artificial sweeteners like Equal, Sweet'N Low, and NutraSweet are allowed. Sugar-free ice cream is recommended instead of cookies and cakes.
Forbidden foods: You'll have to give up white potatoes, white rice, white bread, white flour, corn, beets, soda, candy, baked goods, and refined sugar.
Level of Effort: Medium
You don’t have to count calories or weigh your food, but you do have to watch portion sizes.
Limitations: Until you’re familiar with the acceptable foods, you may need a copy of the book nearby whenever you're ready to eat or cook.
Cooking and shopping: The book has recipes and simple food-preparation tips for grilling fish, assembling sandwiches, and combining healthy foods for meals. Stay away from processed pre-packaged foods, since many contain hidden sugar.
Packaged foods or meals: Not required.
In-person meetings: No.
Exercise: Strongly recommended, although how you choose to stay fit is up to you.
Does It Allow for Dietary Restrictions or Preferences?
Vegetarians or vegans: If you avoid animal products, Sugar Busters! isn't for you. The authors want dieters to eat at least some animal protein.
Low-fat diet: You can't follow a typical low-fat, high-carb diet if you're following Sugar Busters! because low-fat foods are often high in refined sugars. The diet requires you to get 30%-40% of calories from fat. But you should eat low-fat dairy products and lean cuts of meat.
Low-salt diet: You can try Sugar Busters! if you're on a salt-restricted diet. Too much salt can be bad for your heart, and the authors warn that salt is often added to processed foods. They suggest that you don't need to add salt to your food when cooking. But you'll still need to check the sodium on food labels.
What Else You Should Know
Cost: None beyond your shopping.
Support: There are no official coaches to motivate you, but there's an online forum on the Sugar Busters! official website. The authors also tell readers how to form Sugar Busters! support groups.
What Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, Says:
Does It Work?
Giving up potatoes, corn, white rice, bread from refined flour, beets, carrots, beer, and refined sugars can certainly lead to weight loss, especially if your usual diet includes lots of these foods and beverages.
Sugar Busters! works by cutting calories from added sugars and processed foods, and by adding foods that help you feel full. A diet rich in high-fiber vegetables, stone-ground whole grains, lean meats, fish, healthy fats, low-fat dairy, and fruits are the foundation of most healthy weight loss plans.
Testimonials from people who have done the Sugar Busters! Diet are not backed up with scientific evidence, though.
Is It Good for Certain Conditions?
The diet promises to lower your cholesterol, help you achieve optimal wellness, increase your energy, and help treat diabetes and other diseases, but actual research is needed to prove these claims.
Controlling blood sugars with low-glycemic foods and cutting out sugar and refined grains is a formula that should work for most people with diabetes or insulin resistance.
With the restriction of most processed foods, anyone on a low-sodium diet will find this plan helpful.
Check with your doctor before starting the diet.
The Final Word
Sugar Busters! is a template for healthy eating without counting calories or weighing or measuring portions. People who want to curb sugar cravings and clean up their diet will enjoy this adaptable and manageable diet plan. It's ideal for anyone who wants a flexible approach to eating healthy that doesn't include counting calories.
It's not for people who eat out often, because avoiding processed foods can be hard at restaurants.