Sugar free can vary depending on who you speak to. For some, it can be an avoidance of refined sugar, instead opting for dried fruit, syrups, maple syrup and honey. For others, such as myself, it is all encompassing low carb, grain free and low fructose.
So what works? Obviously I am biased having seen the amazing health changes of people following a low carb, high in natural fats way of eating. I came to this way of eating after my own health deteriorated so I really do practice what I preach. For me, avoiding grains, sugar and lowering carbs has been fantastic for my health and overall wellbeing. I don't find it difficult and genuinely love the food - especially embracing the fat.
For many, giving up sugar can be very daunting. It seems logical to avoid refined sugar and instead opt for more natural sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup etc, but I would advise caution.
Firstly, and most importantly, you are just taking a sideways step. Your body doesn't differentiate between different sugars. Honey can react in the same way as dried fruit and refined sugar. You are still causing an insulin response due to a flood of sugar into your bloodstream.
Secondly, you will keep having cravings, making it harder for you to sustain a low sugar lifestyle. Food addition is really tough to overcome but if we can lower the blood sugars, this has a knock on effect at balancing our hunger and satiety hormones (Ghrelin makes you crave, leptin tells the brain when you are full, both of these are affected by insulin). Imagine saying to an alcoholic they can drink a little every day, effectively advising them to drink in moderation. Do you think that would work? Sugar addiction and carb addiction is no different. Sometimes you have to withdraw completely to gain back control.
Thirdly, beware of fructose. Many of the more 'natural' sugar alternatives such as dates, honey, maple syrup, agave etc are very high in fructose. Fructose is not needed by the body. There is no nutritional requirement for fructose. It gets stored as fat in the liver, gets pushed into our visceral fat (the fat around our vital organs) and pushed into our blood as triglycerides. Yes fruit can contain some great antioxidants, but you can get all of these in vegetables without the added negatives of fructose. I eat whole fruit - mainly berries and occasionally apples, oranges etc, but these are seen as natures candy rather than a vital health food.
When you opt for a low carb, sugar free way of eating, you keep the sugar and carbohydrate content of your food very low. I try to stick to a maximum of 30g of carbohydrates per day. Sounds scary, but actually it is completely natural. Just opting for a real food way of eating and you are already halfway there.
We are all different. Whatever you choose, limiting, and hopefully, avoiding sugar has nothing but benefits. Opt for real food, avoid processed foods, especially junk foods and eat fresh.