A Non-Candy Coated Look at Added Sugar

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Why is sugar getting so much attention of late?

Obesity, in general, has been receiving much attention: with good reason. Being overweight can significantly increase the risk of chronic diseases such diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure, to name a few. As we search for causes of obesity, the American diet has come under significant scrutiny. One concerning aspect of the American diet is the proportion of calories consumed as added sugar. Data from 2007-2008 shows the average American consuming 79g, or 20 teaspoons, of sugar daily!

What are “added sugars”?

Sugars can be found naturally in foods (fruits, vegetables, milk) that we eat. Foods containing natural sources of sugar are important components of a varied diet. “Added sugars” are considered to be any type of sugar that is added during food preparation. There are many different types of added sugars: table sugar, brown sugar, raw sugar, syrups, honey, juice concentrates, agave, high fructose corn syrup, and more. Foods with added sugars are frequently low in essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, while still providing calories. Beverages with added sugars are especially easy to over consume; leading to excess calorie intake and weight gain.

How to Say No to Excessive Amounts of Sugar

Understanding the harm overconsumption of sugar can cause in your body is the first step in making the decision to change your sugar-eating habits. Here are a few more tips to help you cut back on added sugars:

Step 1: Download a food tracker app, like MyFitnessPal, today and log everything you ate yesterday using their barcode scanner or by searching their library database of foods. Be honest with portion sizes, and if you don’t know how to estimate, look at some measuring cups for comparison. Then look at the nutritional breakdown for the day on the chart they provide to see how you measure up in the carbohydrates percentage. Was it more than 45-65% of the daily intake that is recommended?

Step 2: Look at your worst offender. Is it consuming too many sugary items like soda, candy, or fast food treats? Is it using sugar as a crutch to get through low energy afternoons, late nights, or stressful days? Or is it just mindlessly eating sugary snacks while watching TV? Pick one of your trouble areas, set a reachable goal to change your behavior this week, and then evaluate how it went at the end of the week. Try a new goal the next week, then another… 

Step 3: Set yourself up for success. Try these tips to keep you going on your journey to a healthier you.

  • Talk to your family or work friends about trying to make the change together.
  • Learn how to understand and use a nutritional facts label.  Make it a goal to limit foods that have a source of sugar listed as one of the first three ingredients.
  • Resist impulse purchases of high sugar beverages and snack foods at the grocery store.  It’s a lot easier to cut back when these foods are not stocked in your pantry.
  • Pack your lunch and snacks for work the night before so you have a healthy go-to when you are hungry instead of relying on an impulse buy of ready made meals. 
  • Drink a tall glass of water when you feel a sugary craving coming on; maybe it’s your body just telling you you’re thirsty. 
  • Instead of relying on a sugary snack as an energy booster, take a 20 minute power nap on your days off, go to bed on time, or take a quick walk break on work days when you are drowsy.
  • Wake up early and get in a 30-minute workout before you start the day.
  • Create a mantra like “I control my Type 2 Diabetes with a healthy lifestyle” then change your passwords to the acronym “icmt2dwahl” and repeat the mantra every time you log in as a reminder of your goals.
  • Experiment by trying new fruits and vegetables as substitutes for chips or candy when you want something to chew.
  • Reward your success with a non-food prize.

To have success in making any lifestyle change, the key is to conquer one challenge at a time and keep it simple. Cutting back on added sugar is a great first step to eating well.