6 Tips for Cutting Back on Sugar, Nutritionist Approved
Overdoing sugar is easy.
Would you believe that the average American eats over a hundred pounds of added sugar in a year?! 100! That’s double what great-granny ate in 1900. Modern technology means sugar is cheap, easy, and everywhere.
So what’s wrong with a little (or a lot of) added sugar?
Let me start by saying, sugar isn’t bad for you. It’s not addictive and healthy diets need some sugar. But regularly eating lots of added sugar (like 100 pounds in a year!) can increase your risk for heart disease, make you gain weight, and lead to diabetes and metabolic syndrome. (Nerds can read more here and here and here.) It’s also correlated with an increase in breast and colon cancers.
Luckily, you can adjust your preference for sweet things. Below are six tips for tempering your sweet tooth. No counting grams and no banishing dessert. I promise.
- Drink Less Soda If you drink soda every day, you are not alone. You can replace your soda fix with something more nutritious, like juice or milk. Or you can keep the soda, just drink less: Fill your cup halfway or buy the GULP instead of the Mega-Big-GULP. And remember: just because your lunch comes with soda doesn’t obligate to drink all 32 ounces.
- Go Natural Sometimes you can satisfy a sweet hankering with juicy watermelon, crisp sugar snap peas, some grapes or a cold glass of milk. These naturally sweet foods are more nutritious and stick with you longer. Of course, an apple won’t always cut it when what you really want is a gooey chocolate chip cookie. Just eat the cookie! Save the apple for when you’ll really enjoy it.
- Try “Unsweetened” I’m not talking about “diet” foods with no-calorie artificial sweeteners. Unsweetened means real food (and natural sugars), without the added sugar. Yogurt, cereals, and juices are usually sold in a sugar-added version. (Yes – Lots of juices have added sugar). Experiment and see if the unsweetened versions cut it for you. If they do, great! If not, stick with the sweetened version and eat it moderately.
- Add in Protein Most of us crave something sweet or starchy when the afternoon munchies hit. Pair that snack with some protein for lasting energy and less added sugar. Hummus with crackers. Peanut butter and fruit. Cereal with milk. Almonds and chocolate. Yogurt and granola. Chips and Guacamole. Sounds yummy, right? And you won’t be hitting up the vending machine for another sugary thing 30 minutes later.
- Watch the “extras” Spaghetti sauce, ketchup, syrup, salad dressings, BBQ sauce… A lot of the “extras” we eat are packed with sugar. Start with less and add more if you need it. You may find you’ve been dousing on the maple syrup when half the amount was just as satisfying.
- Eat dessert in its full-sugar glory! Sound counter-intuitive? Trust me. People overeat when food is bulked up in artificial stuff. That’s because fat and protein trigger hormones in your body that make you feel full. Artificial stuff doesn’t. Plus, something crazy happens when you know you can eat what you want, whenever you want. You don’t eat that much of it! (The Psychology of Eating is totally rad – but that’s another post.) So, buy the full-sugar, full-fat Haagen Dazs you love. In fact, keep a good supply in your freezer.
Just about everyone could improve their health by cutting back on the added sugars they eat. But no need to go nuts! Sugar isn’t poison; it’s a natural and delicious part of lots of foods that are great for you.
Remember, sugar is food. And food is just food.