By Katrina Darling
The average American currently consumes around 17 teaspoons (70 grams) of added sugar per day, which is way more than the recommended maximum daily limit of 6 teaspoons (25 grams) for women and 9 teaspoons (37 grams) for men.1 Eating too much sugar is one of the worst things you can do to your body, and is associated with a myriad of negative health outcomes related to inflammation and weight gain such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer, metabolic syndrome, tooth decay, and more.2 It is important to note, however, that these negative health effects result from processed sugars rather than natural sugars found in fruits, vegetables, and milk. Natural sugars have little effect on your blood sugar and are generally considered very healthy for body and mind. Additionally, natural sugars often come with tons of fiber, vitamins, and minerals that are essential to human growth and development, making them nutritional powerhouses.
Everyone is guilty of consuming too much added sugars sometimes, especially during vacation, around the holidays, or times of celebration. Here are some tips that might help when you feel like you need to cut back on your sugar intake:
Make a list and plan your week: When a person feels hungry, they may be more likely to reach for a sugary snack if they do not have nutritious meals and healthful alternatives readily available. Plan out your meals for the week, make a grocery list and stick to it. With healthful food ready to go, they have less temptation to reach for a candy bar or soda.
Eat Whole Foods: Whole foods have not been processed or refined, like whole fruits, vegetables, legumes, meat, fish, and poultry. They are also free of additives and other artificial substances like sugars and sweeteners. On the other hand, ultra processed foods contain loads of sugar, salt, and fats that can negatively impact your health. In fact, 90% of the added sugars in the average American’s diet come from ultra-processed foods, whereas only 8.7% come from foods prepared from scratch at home using whole foods.3
Read Product Labels: When whole foods aren’t an option and you must purchase packaged foods, try to compare nutrition labels just like you would compare prices in the grocery store. Choose products with the least amount of added sugars, and be sure to be mindful of serving sizes as well.
Ditch the sugary drinks: Sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks, sugary cocktails, and fruit drinks contribute an astounding 44% of the added sugar in the American diet.4 Furthermore, drinks do not have the same effect as a real meal does, often leading to over consumption of sugar and thus calories. Instead, opt for water (sparkling, still, infused), tea, coffee, herbal or fruit teas. This simple swap can drastically reduce an individual's sugar intake throughout the day.
Opt for fresh, frozen, dried, or canned fruits: Canned foods can be a useful and cheap addition to your diet, but they can also contain a lot of added sugar. Choose fruit canned in water or natural juice. Avoid fruit canned in syrup, especially heavy syrup. Drain and rinse in a colander to remove excess syrup or juice.
Cook from scratch: Try to cook from scratch when possible so you can avoid added sugars from take out or prepackaged foods. You don’t have to cook elaborate meals. Simple tricks like marinating meat and fish in herbs, spices and olive oil will give you delicious results.
Be mindful of condiments: Condiments and sauces such as ketchup, sriracha, and barbecue sauce can be high in sugar. Opt for lower sugar options such as salsa, mustard, hot sauce, vinegars, or use spices for some extra flavor.
Miranda, T., 2021. Daily Sugar Intake. [online] Angelesinstitute.edu. Available at: <https://www.angelesinstitute.edu/thenightingale/daily-sugar-intake#:~:text=The%20average%20American%20consumes%2017,consumed%20each%20year%2C%20per%20person.> [Accessed 5 January 2021].
Medicalnewstoday.com. 2021. No-Sugar Diet: 8 Tips And Health Benefits. [online] Available at: <https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319991#why-cut-out-sugar> [Accessed 5 January 2021].
Healthline. 2021. 14 Simple Ways To Stop Eating Lots Of Sugar. [online] Available at: <https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/14-ways-to-eat-less-sugar> [Accessed 5 January 2021].
Maid in Hoboken. 2021. Reducing Sugar Cravings: 6 Ways To Control Your Sweet Tooth. [online] Available at: <https://maidinhoboken.com/reducing-sugar-cravings-6-ways-control-sweet-tooth/#:~:text=Sodas%2C%20energy%20drinks%2C%20sports%20drinks,lot%20of%20sugar%20in%20them!> [Accessed 5 January 2021].
www.heart.org. 2021. Tips For Cutting Down On Sugar. [online] Available at: <https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sugar/tips-for-cutting-down-on-sugar> [Accessed 5 January 2021].