For years, health experts have recommended giving up on sugar. This insidious ingredient is responsible for many health conditions including diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. Many people have successfully been sugar free for years. While this might be an extreme step for some others; there are always some easy ways how to reduce sugar intake. Here are some easy steps you can take to quit or reduce your intake of the white stuff:
1. Stay away from hidden sources of sugar in foods
In American diet, the major sources of sugar include soda, energy and sports drinks (nearly 36% sugar intake comes from these), grain based desserts, sugar- sweetened fruit juices, dairy based desserts and candy (6% of sugar comes from the latter two). So try to decrease your intake of cookies, cakes, candy, soft drinks, cinnamon toast, waffles, ice creams, sweetened yogurts and sweetened flavored milk.
2. Know how much is just right
According to the American Heart Association, no more than 100 calories should come from sugar for women on a daily basis-which means less than 6 teaspoons of sugar per day. For men, this figure is about 150 calories or less than 9 teaspoons. This recommendation does not single out any particular type of sugar but includes all types such as high fructose etc.
3. Stop buying sugar-white or brown
Simply stop buying all kinds of sugar as well as honey, molasses, etc. Out of sight is out of mind-this is the best way to reduce sugar intake.
4. Stop adding sugar on top to your meals
If you are in the habit of adding sugar to your morning cereals, tea or coffee, fruit, smoothies etc, then try and break this habit. If this is difficult, you can start by halving the amount you usually add and then slowly wean from there.
5. Consider safer natural alternatives to sugar
Many artificial sweeteners are safe to use and you could consider using them in the beginning when you start to cut back on your sugar intake. Agave nectar, Stevia sweetener etc are some options. Non calorific sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose and saccharin are also useful but do take these in moderation. The latter varieties are great for satisfying sweet tooth without adding calories to your diet.
6. Add fresh fruits or spices in place of sugar
Add fruits like banana, apple sauce etc to your cereals or spice them up with cinnamon, nutmeg etc which are inherently sweet spices. Add dried fruits, dates, nuts, seeds etc to make up for the otherwise bland taste of yogurts, cereals, oatmeal etc. Use canned and dried fruit with caution since most are filled with loads of sugar. Add cream, ginger, all spice etc to flavor food. You can also add sweet extracts like almond, vanilla or coconut extracts to make up for the sweetness.
7. Reduce the quantity of sugar used in recipes
Halve the amount of sugar than the recipe calls for in baked goods, puddings, custards etc. In most cases, simply reducing the amount of sugar to 1/3rd or ½ the quantity won’t make a great deal of difference to the recipe and, in most cases, people won’t even notice it. Unsweetened applesauce is an excellent substitute for sugar in baking recipes.
8. Learn to read labels
The most important step to quit sugar is to keep an eye out for hidden sources. Look for the tab on serving size on the label of the product. Then look for the amount of sugar listed in the serving size column. The number may be in grams or milligrams. Divide this with 4 to get number of teaspoons of sugar per serving. If for example, your cereal states 30g of sugar, then it means you are eating 7 teaspoons of sugar per serving.
9. Know the difference between natural and dried fruit sugars
When you eat fruit, fresh or dried or drink fruit juices, you are also eating sugar. You might think that this sugar is good for you, it being all natural. However, natural sugar, when consumed in the form of fresh fruit, comes along with dietary fibers which help our body quickly metabolize the sugar into fructose. In case of juices and dried fruits, we are only getting the sugar and nothing else. So avoid dried fruits and juices as much as possible.
10. Be wary of low fat food items
Food manufacturers add tons of artificial sugars, dyes, flavors and preservatives in the so called low fat foods to make up for the decreased fat. So always choose full fat dairy items like yogurts and mayonnaise to avoid the sugar laden low fat varieties.
11. Say no to sauces
Sauces and salad dressings are laden with almost as much sugar as that found in chocolate sauce. So stay away from tomato sauces, BBQ sauces etc and develop a taste for mustard, whole egg mayo etc.
12. Stop sugar cravings with diet rich in healthy fats and proteins
Sugar cravings are often an indication that your body is lacking healthy fats and proteins. So eat a protein rich diet consisting of eggs, fish, beans, tofu, chicken and turkey. You can get healthy or good fats from olive oil, avocado, nuts like walnuts and almonds as well as seeds like flax seeds, chia seeds etc.When at a restaurant, order a cheese platter instead of desserts and eat eggs with ham instead of muesli.
Sugar converts into fat no sooner than it has entered our body. By using these 12 steps to reduce sugar intake, you can reap many health benefits such as more energy and overall better health and well being.