On a daily basis, Americans consume an average of 22.2 teaspoons of sugar per person, adding an extra 355 calories to their diet. That adds up to 8,000 teaspoons annually. The majority of this sugar is coming from added sources like refined high fructose corn syrup, sugar, invert sugar, maltose and other derivatives of grain sweeteners rather than from naturally occurring sources such as fruit. Our brains can become “addicted” to sugar in a similar way one could become addicted to alcohol or drugs. It is no easy task to shake the sugar habit. Here a few ideas to help you get your sugar intake under control.
- Drop the pop! The soda pop habit is a biggie that has both a sugar and a caffeine component. At one point in my life, I would drink three wild cherry Pepsi’s per shift at work. When I decided to kick the habit, I substituted ice tea to avoid the caffeine withdrawals and then I switched to water. The only drinks I allow myself now are tea, coffee and water with lemon or mint.
- Substitute fruit every time you are tempted to have something sweet like cakes or cookies. Keep some on hand in your car or backpack to provide an out when you are around sweet treats. Over the course of a few weeks that fruit will start to taste sweeter as your taste buds adjust to less added sugars.
- Artificial sweeteners are not the answer. Research has shown that they desensitize your taste buds, feed your sweet craving, and can cause other health issues including weight gain. Stevia is a naturally derived sweetener from a plant that has no effect on blood sugar and is approved by the FDA as a food additive. Stevia may provide a safe option for those who need a safe sweetener due to health issues like diabetes.
- Kill the sweet tooth. Most people who have a serious sweet tooth experience it after meals or in the evening. To help curb the cravings make sure you are eating a balanced meal of complex carbohydrates, a good source of protein and good fats, avoiding simple starchy carbohydrates; for example, a dinner of salmon with brown rice and a salad with olive oil and vinegar. Eat a healthy sweet treat after your meal like raspberries with a couple squares of dark chocolate, plain yogurt with berries or a one serving of dessert wine (a sweet Riesling).
Remember that it takes 28 days to break a habit. If you can avoid sugar for 28 days, you will be well on your way to a low sugar lifestyle and healthier eating habits. Also remember that quitting “cold-turkey”, or all at once, may bring on some negative side effects, and it may be easier and better for you to cut down gradually. As always, check with your doctor before making any drastic changes to your diet.
Photo courtesy of oprah.com