Sugar can be hard to reduce in your diet. Use these practical tips to help you reduce the amount of sugar you eat every day.
Now understand that we are talking about tackling added sugar – not natural sugar in whole foods. It is about reducing sugar in things like breakfast cereals, processed foods, and snacks. It is not about reducing your sugar in things like tomatoes, carrots, apples, oranges. Sugar in most natural foods is not a problem because they have fiber, and they have a lot of the vitamins and minerals intact. Dried fruits on the other hand can contain concentrated sugars.
The trouble really is added sugar. Now you may ask how much added sugar should you have per day? What is the limit? Well the World Health Organization has a limit of 50 grams per day. They suggest staying below that. To put that into perspective, let us look at that. If you were to have a can of soda, you would have roughly 40 grams. So that does not leave you much room for more sugar. Now if you are looking for maximum health benefits, it is recommended to be below 25 grams per day. Now you look at this and think how could you possibly get there? Right. Well read on.
Number 1: Read the Labels On All Of Your Processed Foods.
Personally, I am not really a big fan of eating processed foods. I try to stick to whole foods, but in some circumstances, you end up eating processed foods somewhere along the line. How can you tell if you are having too much sugar or not?
Learn to read the labels. On the ingredient list, all the ingredients that were used to make the food are listed. The first ingredient is typically the one that is used the most and the last ingredient is the one that is used in the least quantity. So, look through the ingredient list and try to look for words that signify sugar. What are those? Yep, the problem is sugar actually has 60 different names! I don’t know all of them and I don’t expect you to know all of them.
The most common words you want to look for are sugar – obviously. And syrup – so brown rice syrup, malt syrup, high fructose corn syrup, etc. Also look for words that end with -OSE. Glucose, fructose, dextrose. Those are all sugars too. These are the main ones, but there are more if you want to check it out.
Number 2: Eat more whole foods.
Whole foods are foods that are in their natural form are the best. So, for example, fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, seeds, that sort of thing. When you eat whole foods, there are no added sugars. It is not processed, no one added sugar to it. If you have a diet that is primarily whole foods you automatically reduce the amount of sugar in your diet.
Number 3: Try not to drink your calories.
One of the easiest ways to have too much sugar is to drink it. Because it doesn’t feel like we are getting that much. And it is extremely easy to overdo. Whenever you are drinking something, be very mindful of the amount of sugar in it. Try to ask for unsweetened beverages whenever going to a café or restaurant. If you are getting an iced tea or an iced coffee, try to get it unsweetened. And if you are going for bottled beverages, refer to point 1, which was to read the label and check for the sugar content and limit the amount you drink from the bottle.
Number 4: Don’t get carried away with the natural sweeteners.
I really wish someone had told me this. When you are transitioning from a high sugar diet to a low sugar diet, limit using things like coconut sugar, maple syrup, honey and brown rice syrup. All you are doing is basically replacing your white sugar addiction with a natural sugar addiction. You are still addicted to sugar. Now I am not saying you can never have natural sugar. Just bear in mind that is very concentrated and it isn’t as good for your health as having fresh fruit. It still counts high on the charts.
Number 5: Eat more protein.
When you don’t eat enough protein your blood sugar tends to be a little bit erratic. So, let’s say you have breakfast, it’s typically a sugary breakfast cereal with a little bit of milk. You are out the door at around 7:30. So you’ve had your breakfast around 7:00. By the time 9:30 rolls around you’re probably getting hungry. That is because your breakfast had too much sugar and probable not enough fiber or protein. So, your blood sugar went up and then you had that dip and during that dip, you have a sugar craving. Now if you want to prevent that sugar craving, a good idea is to get enough protein, especially with your morning meal. Look at about 15-20 grams of protein as a minimum to stabilize your blood sugar levels and you’re not going to have those cravings. Watch your meals and see what you ate and when you get a craving and how they relate.
Number 6: Eat more fat, this is along the same lines as eat more protein.
So basically when you eat enough fat with all of your meals, you’re less likely to have those sugar cravings because your blood sugar levels are stable and you’re fuller for longer. Be sure that you eat fats from whole foods sources, not from things like oil. Because when you have fat from whole food sources, you’re actually getting all of the nutrition. Here is an example. If you were to compare avocado oil to avocados the oil is just a pure fat – there is nothing in there but fat. But avocados have vitamins such as vitamin B, they have the K vitamin, they also have vitamin E and fiber. So, when you are getting your fat from a whole avocado, not the oil, you are getting a lot more nutrient bang for your buck. Try to stick to whole food sources whenever possible for your meals. Have avocados, nuts, seeds, coconut, that sort of thing. Limit your oils.
Number 7: Remove temptation.
If you have sugary snacks in your cupboard, you’re more likely to eat them because they are there. You will not have sugary snacks if they are not in your home. It is like an out of sight, out of mind thing. It is unlikely that you’re going to get in your car and go to the grocery store when that sugar craving strikes. Take control and go for something with protein instead. Just because you can’t have the sugary snacks does not mean you can’t enjoy a little something. You can keep freshly cut fruit in your fridge if that helps, but sometimes you want something a little different. Take and freeze grapes or banana slices or cherries. When you have that sugar craving, you can take out a few and satisfy your sweet tooth.
Number 8: Do not use sugar to relieve stress.
Many people use sugar as form of stress relief. Now sugar does lower your stress, however it is a short-term solution, not a long-term solution. The best way to manage your stress, is not through food, it is not through sugar, it is through other ways. Things like deep repetitive breathing, meditation, yoga, going for a walk in the park, having a bubble bath, anything that you can find that works for you. Take time to find what works best and then take time for yourself.
Number 9: Never say never.
When you have a black or white approach to sugar it does not work long-term. Life is about finding balance. Moderation is usually the key, but not with sugar. Having sugar occasionally, when they occasion warrants it is not a problem, but keep it to a small amount.
Look at this example. Today is your grandma’s 90th birthday party. Are you going say no to celebrate that? If you are dedicated enough some might be able to say no to cake. But because it is a special occasion that warrants having a piece of cake to share with her you may want to say yes. Just ask for a small piece. Take a bite or two, leave the frosting and leave the rest on the plate. You do not have to eat the whole piece – you could even share it with somebody. On occasion it is ok to have sugar, so give yourself that allowance. Much of life, nutrition included, is about finding balance, so find that balance that works for you and lead a healthy, happy life.