Everything You Need To Know About Sugar Free January - Savory Sojourn
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Everything You Need To Know About Sugar Free January

A bowl filled with various vegetables and eggs with a text written over it "Sugar Free January"

Question for you. Are you ready to cut out refined sugar with us for four weeks?

Or let’s rephrase that.

Are you ready to eat SUPER-YUMMY food with us (that just happens to have no refined sugar) for the month of January?

Yes! We were hoping you’d say that.

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What Is Sugar Free January?

Let’s start with what it is not.

It is not a diet. It is not a cleanse. It is not a course.

So what is Sugar Free January? It is a simple and straightforward challenge to completely cut out, limit, or just generally scale back on for refined sugar for one month.

It is flexible, friendly, free, and delicious.

It is, honestly, whatever you want it to be.

This year the challenge starts on January 6th (the first Monday of the month) and ends on January 31st. During that time, we’ll be sharing a bunch of yum-town recipes that are made with just regular, familiar, real food ingredients posted here on the blog to support your effort to change an unwanted sugar habit, cut out sugar altogether, or something in between.

What Are The Rules of Sugar Free January?

  1. No rules!
  2. But if we had to make a rule, it would be this: Make it your own. Do things that will make you feel good and that support your goals. (That might mean that keeping dark chocolate as a nightly treat.)

Wait, You Can Keep Dark Chocolate?

Sure! Going sugar free can mean whatever you want it to mean. For us, it has meant figuring out how to cut out the sugar that doesn’t make us feel good… without dreading meals, feeling deprived, or setting ourselves up to fail.

To help with this process, you can create a Sugar Free Plan that is specific and unique to YOU.

What you can think about:

  • What will help me feel my best?
  • What sweet foods can I enjoy that will also provide nutritional benefit?
  • What will make this a sustainable, realistic, and happy experience for me?

For example: sushi rice is made with sugar (!!) but maybe you decide that a Friday night spicy tuna roll is something that feels good to you, so you eat it.

Another example: maybe eating a lot of bread just makes you crave more sugar, so you watch out for bread for the month in addition to other sugars.

It’s easy to want someone else to make the rules for a challenge like this, but we really don’t want to do that with Sugar Free January. Instead, it is about thinking about your sugar consumption – what feels good, what doesn’t – and getting back to the foods that really bring out your best AND bring you joy. Remember, at the end of the day: make your own choices.

How do I join this challenge?

  1. Download your Sugar Free January Starter Pack.
  2. Complete your Sugar Free Plan, and print out our weekly meal plans or fill out your own.
  3. Share on Instagram with the hashtag #poysugarfreejanuary so we can find you! 

Sugar Free January Starter Pack

A sugar free menu for food items.

This is your one-stop shop for all things Sugar Free January. 🤩 Whether you’re a SFJ first-timer or a seasoned veteran, it’s got everything you need to get the sugar-free show on the road.

Here’s what’s included in your Sugar Free January Starter Pack:

  • Your Sugar Free January Plan: This is where you’ll outline what Sugar Free January looks like to you (what you’ll watch out for, what you’ll enjoy, and what your goals are, etc.).
  • Weekly Meal Plans (NEW!): A meal plan for all four weeks of the month that provide everything you need for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.
  • Meal Plan Template: If you want to create your own meal plan week-by-week, this is for you.

Sugar Free January Meal Planning Tips

Okay! Here are a few lil’ tipsters for your meal planning during Sugar Free January if you decide to go the meal plan template route.

  • You don’t have to make something different every day. Batch your easy meals, like breakfast and lunch. I don’t mind eating the same food a few days in a row as long as it’s really, really good.
  • Leave space for leftovers and eating out. If I make one pasta recipe that serves 6-8 people, and there’s only 2 adults in the house… we should be able to eat that 3-4 times. Leave space for your leftovers and for any nights or weekends you might be eating out.
  • Limit to one fancy or new recipe per week. Try doing an EASY meal prep style recipe on the weekend so that it can carry you through the week for lunch, and then just pick one or two “fancy” recipes to make for dinner throughout the week. 

This month (and kind of always), we are LOADING YOU UP ON RECIPES so you have lots of yummy things to choose from as you decide what you want to eat during this challenge.

Most Popular Sugar Free January Recipes

Okay, the last thing we’re going to leave you with is a nice list of our top recipes that would be good to consider for your meal planning purposes – either breakfasts, lunches, dinners, or snacks.

This should give the high-achieving super-planners in the group a highly prepared starting point for January 1st!

(Keep in mind, these are just a few of the most popular recipes – if you want more, check out our complete library of awesome sugar free recipes here.)

A smoothie, eggs, coffee, cookies and an egg and vegetable dish.
Several containers, filled with hot and cold foods for lunches, are arranged next to each other.
A website header featuring different dinners with the word dinner overlayed on the top
Sugar free sauces, desserts, dips, vegetables and pastries for snacks.

Sugar Free January Q&A with Lindsay

What do you mean by sugar free?

Sugar Free January is a challenge to go 30 days without refined sugar – and you can define whatever that means to you.

At the end of the day, it is about paying attention to what makes you feel good and what doesn’t make you feel good, and trying to eat more of the what foods support your body and your life best!

Is Sugar Free January about cutting out only refined sugars, or does it include natural sweeteners like raw honey too?

Each person should make their own Sugar Free Plan that defines what sugar free living means to them.

Some people choose to include honey and maple syrup. Some do not. It’s up to you!

I personally keep eating honey and maple syrup during Sugar Free January.

What are some examples of sugar free foods?

We define sugar free foods as foods without refined sugars added to them. They also might be known as whole foods. For example:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Proteins
  • Whole grains
  • Unsweetened dairy
  • Healthy fats

What about refined grains, rice, flour, etc.?

Up to you! If you’re not sure, you can read more about the effects of refined grains from a food and nutrition perspective here, and from a medical perspective here

In years past, I have cut out white rice since I was considering it to be a refined grain.

This year, I am really loving white rice as a part of my healthy stir fries and curries. And my body is responding well to it. So now I’m keeping it.

What are the benefits of going sugar free?

I think going sugar free had an “upward spiral” effect for me – you feel good about what you’re eating, so then your body feels good, so then your mind feels good, and life in general just gets a little bit better.

The main benefit for me, though, was a more sensitive palate. Food just tasted more amazing. Fruit tasted sweeter, savory foods were more flavorful, and even just a little full fat cream in my coffee started to taste perfectly sweet to me without any added sugar.

My husband and I did our first sugar free challenge in 2014, and you can read more about the effects it had on us in this post.

And here’s what other readers have said about doing Sugar Free January:

My husband and I did sugar-free January, including giving up honey and maple syrup (we did keep wine and unsweetened dried fruit!). It was hard at times, but ultimately super rewarding for both of us! We both dropped a few lbs., and I was able to kick my gross flavored-coffeemate-plus-an-extra-spoonful-of-sugar habit, and am now drinking my coffee unsweetened with just a big splash of half and half (thanks for that tip!).

– Lucy

Had I not read your sugar free post I would’ve just kept on living my regular sugar-filled life. I didn’t go 100% sugar free but was very aware of everything sweet that I put in my mouth. I was super surprised at how easily my sugar cravings disappeared! I guess they were habits and not cravings? I think I only had one pop (hello from North Dakota!) all month and could barely finish it. I too couldn’t believe how sweet fruit tastes. I started ending my meal with fruit and soon realized I didn’t need the desserts I was packing in my lunch. Thank you for an eye opening experience. And that kale Caesar salad? To die for!

– Nancy

I did it! No sugar/flour for the WHOLE month, the only thing I allowed myself was dried fruit (raisins mostly, because that filled my need for a sweet something after a meal). It was incredibly rewarding (down 7 lbs) and my skin improved too! Yesterday I said “hmmm, what am I going to eat to reintroduce sugar,” and couldn’t come up with one thing in my house that was worth splurging on. I am resolved to be very choosy in sweet indulgences going forward.

– Amy

How do you handle the sugar cravings the first few days?

The first few days might be the most difficult. You’re recalibrating your palate and toning down what you’re used to in terms of sweetness.

Helpful things:

  • HEALTHY FAT – make sure your snacks and meals have enough fat.  For example, dates with peanut butter, or apples with cheese.
  • WATER – Stay hydrated. Make infused water with lemon, mint, cucumber, etc.
  • TREAT YOURSELF – Celebrate the small things and treat yourself with little luxuries: a candle, a sparkling water with fresh berries, a bath, a walk, a manicure, a hot tea, a good book.

But what about my birthday? Or my vacation? Or any other special occasions?

You do whatever you want to do!

If you want to draw a hard line to this no-sugar commitment, awesome. If you want to leave wiggle room for a slice of birthday cake, also awesome! There is no sugar police here.

Example 1: The first time we went sugar free, the challenge overlapped with a once-in-a-lifetime big family vacation. There was one really special night in particular that we were celebrating three golden birthdays (including mine!) and even though it was hard, Bjork and I decided to do our best to stay away from the treats. It was important to us that year to have a completely sugar-free experience. We focused on enjoying all the other foods and spending time with family playing games and laughing, and we still had a great time.

Example 2: Last year, during the middle of Sugar Free January, Bjork and I went on vacation to Hawaii. This time I had decided to take a more flexible approach, so I drank lots of (very sweet) fresh fruit juice, and I had a Coke on the beach, and one night we a dessert together. Having this flexibility made it a little more difficult to go back to sugar free eating when we returned home, but it didn’t derail my Sugar Free January experience. It was just a different, more flexible approach.

How flexible you are really depends on YOU – what you want from the challenge, what your goals and priorities are, and how you feel when you eat sugar.

You get to decide! No guilt, no shame.

Sugar can hide in so many things. Any tips for navigating that?

Two words: read labels.

It’s tedious at first. But look for “added sugars” on the nutrition label, and look at the ingredient list for sugar (and its various other names). And even better, try to buy products that don’t have a label! Fruits, veggies, meat, whole grains, nuts, etc.

Check out this post of sugar-friendly products you can find at the grocery store and a more detailed look at how I read labels to find added sugar.

How hard will it be?

Honestly, this is my favorite part: it doesn’t have to be super hard. 

Let it be known: I eat my fair share of sweet things, and even so, whenever I go sugar free I always find myself so surprised at how GOOD THE FOOD IS. We’re talking about creamy curriesspicy taco bowlstangy salads, and velvety soups. Things you would want to make even if you were not going sugar free.

My number one goal with Sugar Free January is to make this a REALLY DELICIOUS, happy, feel-good experience for you. 

Remember: this year, Sugar Free January starts on January 6th!

Our first recipe post will be out on January 6th – the first Monday of the month – to get you kicked off with something yummy, vibrant, and wholesome!

If you want to receive recipes and create your meal plan before then, be sure to sign up to download our Sugar Free January Starter Pack.

Have you gone sugar free before? Are you ready to take on the challenge with us this year? What are your questions? We’d love to chat in the comments!

Filed Under: Sugar Free January

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  1. Savory Sojourn Logo

    Hi there. My partner is allergic to some nuts but not seeds. I have found melon seeds (found in the Indian food section at my grocery store) add a creaminess that cashews do but not a nut. They are not as strongly flavoured as sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds either. I hope this helps.

  2. Savory Sojourn Logo

    I’ve signed up for the sugar free January starter kit with no luck! HELP! How do I get it? The page never appears even after requesting. What am I doing wrong? Angie

  3. Savory Sojourn Logo

    Ms Lindsay,

    I am interested in a plant based meal plan. I watched your tofu presentation. It was great, so I thought I would check with you about your plan. I clicked on “Sugar Free January” but the connecting site seems to be down. What do you suggest?

  4. Savory Sojourn Logo

    Is the Starter Pack not available any more for sugar free January? The link doesn’t work.

  5. Savory Sojourn Logo

    Yes, I am jumping in a bit late. My hubby and I have been sugar free and carb free for almost a year.
    I have a go to tiny treat if we need something. It is a 1/2 teas of this rolled nut, raisin, cinn and natural peanut butter. ground and rolled and popped in the fridge. one batch makes 32 so lasts a very long time. He lost 45lbs fast and is keeping it off. I am struggling to lose 20 and yes I work out every day!
    Great challenge for those who want a sugar free life!

  6. Savory Sojourn Logo

    my sugar free download is nowhere to be found. checked spam, nope, not there. I have requested it from my iphone an my laptop. Helllllp me.

  7. Savory Sojourn Logo

    I’m excited to try this! I missed the note that said it starts on Jan 6 this year, so I started yesterday. Somehow I resisted the urge to eat the caramel M&Ms my daughter tried to share with me. I’ll take the win!
    I’m looking forward to trying some new recipes. Some of these are already favorites in our house! Thanks Lindsay!

  8. Savory Sojourn Logo

    Excited to try this!! Is there a recommendation on how much of each snack to eat? Week one says almond butter cups – is one cup equal to a snack? Also how often throughout the day do you usually have a snack? Thanks so much for this resource!

    1. Savory Sojourn Logo

      We’re excited to have you join us for Sugar Free January, Gina! 🎉 For snack serving size, we’d suggest going by the serving size listed in the recipe. You can find all of the recipes included in the starter pack on Savory Sojourn by searching for them at the top in the search bar. As far as how often to snack throughout the day, that’s totally up to you and what works well on your end. No hard and fast rules here. 😊

  9. Savory Sojourn Logo

    Love this idea! Especially after all the holiday baking… could you possibly create some kind of forum on your website or IG so we can give each other moral support and tips throughout the challenge? Would love to find some virtual company to get through the month 🙂

  10. Savory Sojourn Logo

    Which of the meals in your meal plan for Sugar Free January are good for freezing? I like to meal prep on the weekends since I don’t have much time to cook on weekdays. Thanks!

    1. Savory Sojourn Logo

      Good question, Dyane! We think it’d work well to prep and freeze the Moroccan Spiced Chickpea Glow Bowl, the Instant Pot Tandoori Chicken, the Golden Soup, the Spicy Peanut Soup, the Instant Pot Red Curry Lentils, and the Cauliflower Walnut Taco Meat. All of the snacks should freeze just fine, too. You can find some other healthy freezer meal recipes here. 🙂

  11. Savory Sojourn Logo

    Going sugar-free is seriously awesome! I’ve tried it a lot of times but always ended bottoming out because I was replacing sugary foods with wheat based ones, not healthy, nutritious foods. Just recently, my Mum suggested that I do it gluten-free *and* sugar free, and can I say, it is so so so much more rewarding, and because you aren’t eating so much glucose or sucrose, you end up feeling on top of the world (like you never want to see sugar again) and all of your cravings vanish! Enjoy your sugar free January!

  12. Savory Sojourn Logo

    I love your recipes! Very excited to try sugar free January. Is the weekly meal plan for one person or two? Just trying to understand if I need to double or not.

  13. Savory Sojourn Logo

    Is there any kind of swap-out option for these recipes, regarding the vast amount of tree nuts included here? There are some severe tree nut allergies for one of us, and growing sensitivity to tree nuts (me), which upon looking at the meal plan will effectively eliminate most of the recipes 🙁 I’ve learned that unless we do things as a couple, involving dietary and health changes/goals, its not as successful, so having tree nut free alternatives that are sugar free would be helpful.

      1. Savory Sojourn Logo

        Hi there. My partner is allergic to some nuts but not seeds. I have found melon seeds (found in the Indian food section at my grocery store) add a creaminess that cashews

  14. Savory Sojourn Logo

    I love this idea. I love your recipes. But reading through, there’s so much that I can’t have in my house. My daughter has a nut allergy (almonds, cashews and pistachios) and they are all off the table here.
    Would LOVE some of those amazing sauce recipes without tree nuts in them.

  15. Savory Sojourn Logo

    When I hit “Click here to sign up” it just takes me back to your home page. Am I doing something wrong?

    1. Savory Sojourn Logo

      Same thing happened to me in most of the “click here to sign up” boxes. I was able to get it to work when I used the hyperlink list (1., 2., 3. etc.). and it didn’t work on my phone at all. Had to use desktop.

  16. Savory Sojourn Logo

    Your sugar-free recipes are some of my absolute favorites (I love them all though) so going sugar-free is THAT much easier!!!

  17. Savory Sojourn Logo

    How long after you’ve signed up does the free starter pack get emailed to you?

  18. Savory Sojourn Logo

    I’m so excited to do this, especially after indulging so much in December! This will be my first time, I was going to do it a couple years ago but ended up doing whole30 and was miserable! I love the freedom here, and the ability to keep things (such as honey and maple syrup). Thank you so much for providing everything we need to be successful!

  19. Savory Sojourn Logo

    Hi, I just wanted to leave a note to say this is our second Sugar-Free January (Actually, We are still on (March 2019)…debating making it a new life-style).
    Not having daily cravings for something sweet is very liberating. Energy levels are up and our food choices are so DE-LI-cious!! We eat much better.
    I also wanted to say: “Thank You!” You inspired us, through your blog, in January 2018 to take on the challenge. You made it achievable, not something that was going to be SO-OMG-Challenging. That is what attracted us to try it, it was like, we believe we can do this and it was actually not difficult at all. When January rolled around this year, we were excited to do the challenge again.
    I love the attitude of let’s focus on the great food we will eat, rather than what we can’t have!
    Again, thanks for inspiring us to making our life better.

  20. Savory Sojourn Logo

    Now that January is over, I think it’s fair to point out that sugar is sugar, no matter its source. All sugars, whether honey or plain white granulated, has basically the same composition. I don’t want to belittle the idea of starting out the year with a more healthful diet. I will just point out that it might be more accurate to call the January challenge “low sugar” or “limited sugar.” Something to consider for next year!

  21. Savory Sojourn Logo

    Been trying to be sugar free for a year… nearly managed it but feel signing up for this is another great incentive for me..thank you