Sugar is one of those ingredients that we all know we need to minimize, and many of us are making healthier choices to reduce sugar. Yet, somehow high sugar consumption continues to be a problem. The World Health Organization’s recommendations state that we should limit our added sugars to less than 10% of our calories, and a further reduction to 5% will provide added health benefits. That would bring us to roughly 25g of sugar per day (6 tsp).
We have responded to this advice with reduced soft drink consumption. We have replaced our soft drinks with juices or smoothies, our ice cream with yogurt, and our donuts with muffins or granola bars. So how are we still eating far beyond the recommended limits? Because unfortunately, sugar is addictive and therefore it is being added to most pre-prepared foods. In fact, sugar is so addictive that it lights up our pleasure centers much like a hit of cocaine.
Want a quick, easy and delicious meal plan that give you loads of taste without the sugar?
Our bodies need glucose, so we are built to crave it when it’s available. And it’s available in abundance! How can our willpower compete with that? The short answer is, willpower can’t overcome nature. However, with education and planning, there are some great strategies you can use to reduce your sugar consumption in order to improve your overall health.
Educating yourself on the types of products that contain sugar puts the power of your food choices in your own hands. For packaged foods, the key is to completely ignore the marketing claims on the front of the package. The information on the front is strategically placed there to make you buy the product! The only information you need to make your purchase decision is the ingredient list. Ingredients are listed in descending order of quantity, so if the first 5 ingredients contain sugar, a refined grain or hydrogenated fat, you should place that product right back on the shelf.
Understand That Even Some Healthy Foods Should Be Consumed in Moderation
Fruit is healthy, right? And oatmeal? Yes, but a bowl of oatmeal with sliced banana ranks moderately high on the glycemic index and glycemic load scales. And when you add brown sugar or maple syrup, you now have a high glycemic breakfast, setting you up for those mid-morning cravings. It’s important to consider the total impact of a meal on your system, and even healthy foods need to be combined well for optimal health. In this case, the oatmeal should be topped instead with a healthy protein, fat and fiber source, such as nuts, seeds or coconut to minimize the total glycemic impact on the body.
Planning ahead can help you avoid having to grab something quick like a bar or a juice when you are on the go. My go-to snack used to be downing a half a bag of sugar-coated dried mango! While these foods are marketed as “healthy,” they are commonly loaded with sugar and are missing the fat, protein and fiber that can modulate the blood sugar impact. Great low sugar snacks that you can grab and go include nuts/seeds, kale chips, seaweed snacks, hard boiled eggs, veggie sticks and more! Think about what types of low sugar snacks work for you and have them ready to go.