Excessive sugar consumption has been linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay. Most of us know that eating too much sugar is not healthy, still the average American consumes about 68 grams of sugar per day. To put it in perspective, the American Heart Association recommends keeping the sugar consumption to 25 grams a day. This means that the average American consumes more than twice the recommend amount of sugar per day.
Eating naturally occurring sugar, like the one found in fruit is ok because fruit brings more to the table than just sugar (including fiber, minerals and vitamins). The problem is the amount of added sugar that is present in most of the processed food around us. If our goal is to stay healthy, we need to seriously consider ways to reduce our sugar consumption. With that goal in mind, today I’m going to give you 4 ways to reduce your sugar intake.
Skip the sugar-filled drinks
Most popular drinks contain a lot of added sugar. Every time you drink a Starbucks Frappuccino, a soda or even a Gatorade; you are drinking added sugar. Even so-called “healthy” drinks like smoothies have added sugar that is often not listed as an ingredient. If you want to reduce how much added sugar you drink, try swapping sugary drinks with flavored sparkling water or add fresh fruit to regular water. You can also brew herbal or fruit tea and drink them hot or iced. If you must drink a smoothie and cannot make one at home, make sure you order it with no sugar added.
Use fresh fruit to sweeten your food
If you love having a PB&J sandwich, fruit flavored yogurts or waffles; you might be adding a lot of sugar to your diet. Most jams and jellies have added sugar, the same is true for syrups and fruit flavored yogurts. As an alternative, use mashed bananas and unsweetened apple sauce in baking and oatmeal. Buy plain yogurt and add berries and nuts to it instead of buying flavored ones. Instead of covering your waffles with pancake syrup (which contains 48 grams of sugar in ¼ cup), use fresh fruit. These swaps will help with your sugar cravings while at the same time providing you with minerals, vitamins and fiber naturally occurring in fruit.
Avoid sugar-filled sauces
Some common sauces like ketchup, barbecue sauce and marinara sauce contain added sugar. Check the label of your favorite brand and see how much extra sugar you have been eating without knowing. To avoid the added sugar, you can easily make your own sugar-free version of marinara by combining no-sugar-added tomato sauce, or pureed tomatoes with dried herbs and spices such as garlic powder, oregano, basil, and parsley. You can also choose ketchup without high fructose corn syrup, or the “low-sugar” variety (remember that tomatoes have natural sugar, what you want to avoid is the added sugar). Also, if you want fruit for a dessert, choose fruits canned in natural juices instead of heavy syrup.
Beware of so-called “healthy” items
Most people know that candy and cookies contain a lot of sugar, so they may look for “healthy” snack alternatives. Surprisingly, snacks like granola bars, protein bars and dried fruit can contain as much, if not more, sugar than a chocolate bar. When you buy protein bars, look for the ones with no added sugar. The same goes for dried fruit, most of the time dry fruit has added sugar so look for the ones that are 100% fruit. Other common snacks like beef jerky and trail mix can also be loaded with extra sugar. Your best tool against added sugar is the nutrition label. Check the label and choose options with 0g of added sugar. The options are there, you just need to look for them and not fall for the “healthy” advertising in the packaging.
Living a sugar free life today’s world is difficult. We are surrounded by highly processed, sugar filled food products and it’s hard to navigate all of the options out there. I hope that these 4 suggestions make it a bit easier to reduce your sugar consumption. There a lot more options, so if you want to take it a step further into your “sugar free” lifestyle, talk to any of the coaches at Celebration CrossFit, we can help you.
by coach Keren