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Are You a Gluten Free Sugar Addict?

Gluten-free sugar addict – I’m sure you know some. Or maybe you’re one.

Regardless of what your current diet looks like, a sweet tooth can sneak into everyone’s diet at some point since most people rarely make a transition away from unhealthy American eating habits simply because they are gluten-free. I must admit that the rash of new products on the market have made eating generally the same way relatively easy (albeit expensive, at times).

Just about everyone I know is a sugar addict.  Whether you crave sugar or not, you’ll notice a difference when it’s removed from your daily diet because there’s just so darn much of it in there.  And sadly, I’ve found that the incidence of sugar addiction in the gluten free community is sky high based on my own coaching practice and emails that I frequently receive.  It’s the little secret that no one wants to talk about.

Perhaps I’m showing bad form here by calling out my own gluten-free community on something that we’d all rather skip over.  Yet ignoring it wouldn’t be my style nor helping anyone.  We’ve all got a problem, plain and simple that underscores the greater need for us ‘digestively challenged’ individuals to be even MORE on our game than most.  Why?  Because sugar is toxic, period.

I personally go through cycles eating no sugar to eating moderately sweet stuff to eating lots of sweets. I’m certainly not a candy-binger, but the Larabars I eat certainly count on the daily sugar intake meter as does fruit, dates, chocolate and cookies. Though you might say that my sugar issues aren’t nearly as bad as some, they still need to be addressed so that I can maintain feeling well for years to come.

Dessert is ingrained in our culture.

You might wonder how we all became sugar addicts. Well, our culture’s diet has slowly become built around starches and dessert.  The most common and frequent answer I’ve received from people when asked why they keep eating so much sugar is that they just NEED to have something sweet after a meal. Sugary desserts are a conditioned response to meals rooted in childhood.  The mere idea of removing it doesn’t even seem at first like an option.

Does your ability to feel good about a meal hinge upon those tasty, sweet, final morsels?

Here’s the problem – as a ‘digestively challenged’ gluten-free person, my ability to properly process food is still not where it should be from the years of unintended abuse my digestive tract received from just about everything I ate. Though switching to a gluten-free diet was a huge step in the right direction, it’s not the end all, be all to rectify the damage. There’s still more work to be done now that I’ve mastered the gluten-free lifestyle.

Gluten-free doesn’t mean sugar-free though and that’s the graver problem. Sugar feeds bad bacteria and yeast. If you want to learn more, check out an incredible article in the NY Times Magazine by Gary Taubes called “Is Sugar Toxic?”. It’s a long read, but definitely well worth the time you’ll spend learning some key reasons why sugar isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. We should take heed of the warning that Taubes sounds. And we, in the gluten-free community, need also get our collective heads out of the sand because too many of us are stuck downing massive amounts of sugar and unhealthy starches simply because it’s got “Gluten free” displayed on the label.

What’s more difficult is trying to keep track of dietary sugar intake.  It’s hidden in so many different places that its quite hard to actually tabulate how much you eat.  Food companies go to great lengths to confuse you with their complicated nutritional labels.  The matter is further complicated by sugar content being notated in grams.  Who seriously knows what the heck a gram even looks like?  I don’t.  (FYI – 4 grams of sugar is approximately equal to 1 teaspoon.)

Plus, fruit’s not all it’s cracked up to be. That’s sugar too.  ”But it’s natural sugar,” you’ll say.  Yeah, but it’s still sugar any way you slice and dice it.  This is one place where I take issue with diets like Weight Watchers because fruit carries zero points (just like veggies). The problem is, very few people on Weight Watchers are eating lots of veggies. They’re really eating fruit thinking “Well, it’s 0 points. No worries- I can eat as much as I want!” Wrong.

Though I may have sounded a bit harsh about sugar, I’ve really got to be.  Sugar isn’t in your corner helping you get healthy.  It’s a legal form of crack that you indulge in too often.  But you’re not alone – many of us (even me) have issues with sugar.  Together we can start making better choices, understand how some sweeteners are better than others and slowly get to a place where 1 or 2 gluten-free cookies are enough to satisfy you for dessert (rather than the entire box).



Jennifer Fugo is a Philadelphia-based yoga teacher, health coach, and founder of Gluten Free School, an online classroom dedicated to healthy gluten-free living. Named a “Gluten Free Guru” by Philadelphia Magazine, Jen's spent the last 4 years vibrantly living gluten-free while coaching clients to do the same. For recipes, articles, events and yoga classes with Jen, visit her at and

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