You might not be the kind of person who regularly consumes donuts, cakes, and sodas in your daily diet, but you’re more than likely still eating sugar throughout the day without even realizing it. That’s because sugar is added to several foods such as breads, sauces, condiments, and more, and it all adds up in the end. The American Heart Association recommends that no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar should be consumed each day, but most of us double that, at least. This isn’t even counting the blatant sources of sugar either!
Don’t worry – there are many things you can do to help cut out sugar from your diet. Slash your insidious sugar intake with these 9 tips!
Start Reading Food Labels – If you’re not one to read labels, you should start. You’ll see pretty quickly just how often sugar is added to the foods you regularly eat. Check out the ingredients list and be on the lookout for sugar in things like tomato sauce, crackers, condiments, salad dressings, yogurt, and more. If sugar is placed near the top of the list, that’s a big red flag as it means that there is quite a bit of it in the product.
Learn Sugar’s Other Names – Many times, you won’t just find the word “sugar” on a product’s list of ingredients. It can also hide under several sneaky aliases including high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), dried cane syrup, molasses, invert sugar, sucrose and anything else ending in “-ose,” brown rice syrup, honey, and maple syrup. These can be listed separately on labels, making seemingly healthy foods like many yogurts and cereals very high in sugar. If you see several sugars on the label, that’s a big indication that the food is less healthy than you once thought.
Try Unsweetened Products – Now that you know where sugar hides, you can start making some changes. One strategy is to choose foods that bear the label “no sugar added” or “unsweetened.” You can find unsweetened versions of non-dairy milk, nut butters, oatmeal, applesauce, and canned fruit in your favorite grocery stores.
Don’t Quit Completely – Going cold turkey on sugar might seem like a noble prospect, but it really isn’t realistic for several people. Sugar is very addicting, and if you deny yourself sugar out of nowhere, you will crave it and want it more than ever. Instead, cut back on your sugar consumption slowly. For example, if you normally put two packets of sugar in your coffee or tea, try one for a week, and then use only half the next week. Finally, only add a splash of milk for flavor!
Focus on Fat and Protein – Unhealthy carbs loaded with sugar can cause your blood sugar to spike and also plummet just as quickly, which will leave you unsatisfied and hungry for more food. Minimize this rapid rise and fall by eating protein, heart-healthy fats, and fiber – they can slow down the release of blood sugar in your body and keep you full longer.
Say No to Artificial Sugar – When you’re trying to reduce your sugar intake, you might think that it would be a smart idea to switch to artificial sugars. Take it from us – stay away from diet sodas, sugar-free candies, and packets of fake sugar. They can mess up your taste for sweets, and they are also associated with weight gain, not loss.
Throw In More Flavor – Just because you need to say “no” to artificial sugars doesn’t mean that you can’t add some flavor! Use items like vanilla extract and vanilla bean, citrus, and spices to add some sweetness to your food without sugar (and for very, very few calories!). Order an unsweetened latte and add some cocoa or vanilla powder for a sweet kick. Make your plain old oatmeal exciting by adding cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger to the mix. In no time, you’ll start to miss sugar less and less!
Avoid Sugary Drinks – Sugar isn’t just present in sodas! There are several sugar-packed drinks out there such as enhanced waters, bottled iced teas, energy drinks, bottled coffee drinks, store-bought smoothies, and yes, even fruit juices. Get your natural sugars by eating fruit, and opt for water, tea, coffee, and milk instead.
Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too – Don’t worry, if you’re a sweet tooth, you can still indulge in the occasional sweet treat! The idea is to avoid wasting your daily sugar quota on non-dessert foods that are packed with sugar. Avoid overdoing it by setting ground rules for yourself such as enjoying dessert only after dinner on the weekends or at certain restaurants.
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