So why do we continue to eat more of it every year? The obvious reason is that sugary foods taste good. Another reason is that added sugar is hidden in all kinds of foods, such as yogurt, tomato sauce, and salad dressing, so you may not even be aware of how much you are consuming.
To achieve optimal health, added sugar should be 10% or less of the total calories in a balanced diet. For someone consuming 2,000 calories a day, just 200 of that amount should come from added sugar. That's 12.5 teaspoons – or about half of what the average person is consuming now.
Reducing the amount of sugar in your diet doesn't mean you have to give up treats completely, and you don't need to feel deprived. Kick your sugar habit with some simple steps that can help you manage your weight and improve your long-term health.
First of all, keep a regular eating schedule to avoid dips in blood sugar, which can lead to cravings. Then, focus on making quality food choices by emphasizing unprocessed, whole foods at each meal or snack, such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans, and nuts.
Tips for reducing sugar intake include:
- Go easy on caffeine. The low energy that follows a caffeine kick may lead you to look for something sweet to jump-start your day.
- Read labels carefully to determine the sugar content. Remember that sugar is disguised by many different names: high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, honey, syrup, or any word ending with "ose" – such as sucrose, maltose or dextrose.
- Be especially careful with low-fat or fat-free foods. Sugar is usually added to make up for the lack of fat, and the calorie content can be even higher than the regular fat version.
- Experiment with sugar-free seasonings. Spice things up with cinnamon, chipotle or cayenne, and you won't even miss the sugar.
- Don't keep sugary snack foods in the house. Just one bite can trigger a craving for more, and a bag of cookies can become an overwhelming temptation.
As you start to pay attention and eat healthier, you'll probably notice you have more consistent energy, sleep better, and have fewer mood swings. Even better, your waistline will start to disappear. But, the best benefit to eliminating sugar will be good health and longevity!
For more advice on how to improve your nutrition, schedule an appointment with an El Camino Hospital Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. HealthPerks members are eligible for one free 30 minutes consultation. To schedule an appointment, call 650-940-7210.
This article first appeared in the June 2014 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.