Want to eat less sugar? The most recent Dietary Guidelines suggest getting no more than 10% of your calories from added sugar. Any idea how much that really is? Let’s say you eat about 2000 calories a day. Ten percent of 2000 is 200 calories. That’s 50g added sugar each day. (HINT: divide the calories by four to obtain the grams of sugar).
Unfortunately, today’s nutrition labels don’t differentiate the “sugar” from natural and added sources. Look at the nutrition label on your milk carton. Each cup has 12g carbohydrate – and 11g is sugar! What? They added sugar to the milk? No, rest assured there’s no added sugar in plain milk, just a natural sugar (from Mother Nature herself) called lactose. Fortunately, there’s no need to be concerned about natural sugars from fruit and milk. Those “sugars” are accompanied with healthy vitamins and minerals.
Tips to Eat Less Sugar
About half of all the added sugars in our diet comes from beverages such as soft drink, fruit drinks, sweetened coffee or tea, energy or sports drinks, alcoholic beverages, and flavored waters. Sugars are also found in snacks and sweets such as cookies, cakes, pies, brownies, doughnuts, ice cream, and sweet toppings like pancake syrup and chocolate syrup. Since the current nutrition labels don’t differentiate between natural and added sugars, it’s a bit tougher to figure out how much added sugars you’re eating. But, one simple approach is to keep to just one food or drink that’s high in sugar per day. Try these no big deal changes:
- Cut back on sugar-sweetened beverages. This is a no-brainer when you consider that just one 12oz can of most pops contains 41g added sugar – and a large fountain drink from a fast food restaurant has 76g. Could you drink more water or low fat dairy? It’s amazing how much water you’ll drink if you just bring a refillable water bottle everywhere you go. Too blah? What about a fizzy water like Pellegrino or one with flavor such as LaCroix? Diet soda is also an option – sure it may not taste the same, but most people say that within a couple of weeks their taste buds change and the diet soda actually tastes better than the regular. Try it!
- Watch those specialty beverages. Did you know that most smoothie shops add sugar (it might be in the form of “turbinado” or raw sugar)? Ask for your favorite drink to be prepared without it, or at least less. While one heaping teaspoon of sugar has about 6g of sugar, many coffee drinks have way more. Could you get just one pump instead of two? Order the small instead of the medium?
- Limit the sugar-sweetened snacks and desserts. While the sugar content in these foods vary considerably, a restaurant-size dessert or a king-size candy bar contains more the 50g sugar. If you have a sweet tooth look for a feasible way to eat less that doesn’t make you feel deprived. Research indicates that the more people are served (or the bigger the package), the more they are likely to eat. When you have a hankering for some cake, why not buy an individual slice, rather than a whole cake? I buy individually wrapped Dove chocolates – four of these has 16g of sugar.
- Pay attention to the sweet sauces and spreads. Just one quarter-cup serving of pancake syrup contains 50g of added sugar. There’s nearly 20g in a two tablespoon serving of chocolate syrup. And, 10g of added sugar in a tablespoon of preserves. Why not save your sugar allowance for the sweets you really want.