The “enhancement” of the American diet by the addition of added sugars has not been a sweet experiment. Our diet is full of “invisible” or added sugars with the average American consuming 355 calories per day in added sugars alone. In order to decrease the fat content while still enhancing flavor, texture and shelf life of processed foods, the food industry has pumped our foods fulls of sugar. We are a nation of sugar addicts, consuming over 156 pounds of sugar per person per year. The added sugars we crave are EMPTY CALORIES that confuse our bodies sensation of “fullness” and lead to overeating. Over time, the consumption of added sugars lead to weight gain, obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. The American Heart Association recommends that we slash our added sugar intake from an average of 22 teaspoons a day down to 9 teaspoons for men and 6 teaspoons for women. While sugar-sweetened drinks and sodas account for 30% of added sugars in the diet, the majority of added sugars are hidden in the foods we eat. How can we retrain your bodies to not crave so much sugar?
1) Make fruit your number one source of sugar. The sugar in fruit is naturally occurring, paired with fiber, vitamins and minerals and helps retrain your sweet tooth to nature’s sweetness. Make apples, strawberries, apricots, and pears your favorite dessert!
2) Eliminate all artificial sweeteners from your diet. Artificial sweeteners are chemicals that offer no nutritional value and are 200 to 600 times sweeter than sugar. The intense and unnatural sweetness of artificial sweeteners creates a heighten tolerance for sweet flavors and disrupts our natural preferences. Do not sprinkle chemicals in your coffee, tea, cereal or oatmeal. Try to go without sugar or artificial sweeteners and let your taste buds re-adjust.
3) Cut out soda and sugar-sweetened beverages. Regular sodas and sports drinks are full of added sugars, which lead to weight gain while the diet versions are full of artificial sweeteners, which lead to cravings for even more sweets. Do not drink your sugar.
4) Be a sugar sleuth. Learning the names for sugar and identifying them on nutrition labels is the best way to cut back on added sugars. Added sugars masquerade as sweet-sounding brown sugar, agave nectar, maple sugar, honey, molasses, syrup, raw sugar, evaporated cane juice, and fruit juice concentrates. Added sugars also have chemical- sounding aliases such as crystalline fructose, sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, cane crystals, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, maltose, invert sugar, malt syrup, sucrose. Ingredients are listed on packages by weight, so beware of any food that lists sugar (in any form) as the first ingredients or lists multiple forms of sugar in the product. Processed foods with the highest content of sugar often do not taste particularly sweet, so it takes some detective work at the grocery store to figure out which products are the best to purchase. Pick one or two products per week (i.e. yogurt) to take the time at the market and determine if your go-to brand is the best nutritional option. Pay particular attention to breads, cereals, yogurt, granola, salad dressing, spaghetti sauce, instant oatmeal, protein and cereal bars, nut butters, pretzels, crackers, coffee drinks, sweetened teas, dried fruit, jams, cookies and ice cream. Take a look below to see how simple swaps can save not only calories but huge amounts of sugar (keep in mind that there are 4 calories in every 1 gram of sugar).
1/3 cup Dried Cranberries 123 cal 26g sugar (104 calories of sugar)
1 cup Whole Cranberries 46 cal 4g sugar (16 calories of sugar)
Strawberry Banana 2% 150 cal 16g sugar (64 calories of sugar)
Plain 0% 90 cal 4g sugar (16 calories of sugar)
Prego 1/2 cup 80 cal 7g sugar (28 calories of sugar)
Cucina Antica 1/2 cup 40 cal 0.9g sugar (3.6 calories of sugar)
Snickers Bar 250 cal 27g sugar (108 calories of sugar, 12g fat)
Clif Bar Coconut Chocolate Chip 240 cal 22g sugar (88 calories of sugar, 6g fat)
5) Save your Sugar for Dessert. Life without dessert is just not complete. By minimizing hidden sugars in your diet the occasional indulgent dessert tastes that much sweeter. Split dessert when out with friends or home with family and have just a bite or two. Indulgence with special treats when you are celebrating. Make sugar into something special.