It’s no secret that Americans have a love affair with sweets. Whether it’s stirred into morning coffee, baked into decadent desserts, or added to everyday foods like spaghetti sauce or breakfast cereal, sugar has become a practically inescapable part of our lives.
In fact, recent data shows that the average American eats 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day – that’s 350 calories!
Besides its role in weight gain, new research shows that too much sugar can have serious health effects. From type 2 diabetes, to heart disease, and even cancer, studies have shown that sugar can have a sinister role in promoting a number of chronic illnesses.
And while the research runs contrary to basic nutrition—that calories are calories and that they are all processed in the same way—it’s hard to deny that if we want to stay healthy and avoid disease, we can start by curbing added sugar.
While it is no small feat, here are some tips and strategies for starting out. Go slowly, and over time you’ll notice that you’ll crave fewer sweets.
• Consider cutting back on the amount of sugar you add to your morning coffee or tea. If you’re used to a heaping teaspoon, try a level teaspoon. Remember, a packet of sugar equals about 16 calories or a teaspoon.
• Sweeten your morning oatmeal with naturally sweet fruit such as bananas, apples, berries, and peaches. Dried fruit like raisins can also contribute sweetness and texture without adding sugar.
• Limit the consumption of processed foods – this is where sugar is likely to hide.
• Cut down on sugar-sweetened beverages like juice or iced tea by diluting with unsweetened varieties or seltzer.
• Read food labels and look at the ingredient lists. You’d be surprised to see how much sugar is in a product or where it’s listed in the ingredient list. Other common names for sugar are: honey, molasses, corn syrup, raw sugar, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, and brown sugar.
• Snack on fresh fruit when a sugar craving hits. You’ll get a sweet hit, along with vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
• Instead of going cold turkey, gradually cut back on treats like candy and desserts. If you typically eat a whole pack of candy, try having three-quarters, and then work your way down to half.
• If you want to imbibe, watch the mixed cocktails, which can have sugary mixers. Wine is a good alternative, and can impart some health benefits too.
• Have regular meals and snacks to keep your blood sugar level stable and prevent cravings for sugary snacks.
• Keep sweets out of the house. Once they’re out of sight, you’re less likely to crave them. Bring leftover cookies and brownies, Halloween candy, or other treats to the office.
• Buy plain yogurt and sweeten it yourself. You’d be surprised how much sugar can be in a 6-ounce cup of flavored yogurt – 14g (3.5 teaspoons of sugar).
• When baking, cut one-half to one-third of the sugar in a recipe. Chances are, you won’t even notice the difference.
• Craving a pumpkin spice or vanilla latte? Ask the barista for half the amount of syrup or ask for a sugar-free option.