A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. Mary Poppins meant well with her advice, but 22 spoonfuls of sugar a day? Now thats pushing it! According to the American Heart Association (AHA), Americans ingest an astounding 22 teaspoons of sugar per day, almost 4 times the recommended 6 teaspoons. We get it– the stuff is like a drug. Its especially hard to resist a sweet treat at this time of the year, when store shelves are stocked with tempting Easter candy. Were not advising you remove sugar from your diet completely, but for the sake of heart health and thin waistlines, it’s time to scale back. Do not eliminate sugar from your diet completely though — going cold-turkey will actually do you more harm than good, causing you to binge by the end of the day. To make the transition easier, here is a list of 10 easy ways to cut back on sugar.
1. Beware of Fat-Free Food Labels
The biggest weight-loss myth is the idea that all fat-free foods are healthy. First, just because something is fat-free doesnt make it calorie-free. Second, the main reason that these foods are fat-free is because theyre loaded with extra sugar. Stay away from misleading labels or else youll end up doing a lot more harm than good.
2. Limit Artificial Sweeteners
Dont get us wrong– we love Splenda just as much as the next person. Were not ready to completely give it up just yet, which is precisely why we chose our words carefully. We said “limit”– not “eliminate.” Artificial sweeteners may seem healthier in the short term, but unfortunately, they can also increase cravings for sugars and carbohydrates. Try replacing your daily Splenda with natural sweeteners like Stevia or honey.
3. Do Not Drink Juice and SodasEver!
This time we dont mean limit– we’re telling you to completely eliminate juices and sodas from your life. Liquid sugar is the easiest way to mindlessly ingest those 22 teaspoons a day. Sodas and juices are loaded with sugar and have little to no nutritional value. Try swapping juice for sparkling water with a slice of lemon or lime squeezed in for flavor.
4. Stop Adding Unnecessary Sugar to Your Meals and Drinks
Truth be told, you just dont need to add extra sugar to most foods. Foods, like most cereals, already contain a ton of added sugar. Just go a couple of days without adding sugar to your cereal and you’ll find that you don’t crave it anymore. Actually, by the end of the week, the added sugar will most likely taste unpleasant.
5. Choose Naturally Sweetened Foods
This one is a no-brainer! Whenever you feel a sugar craving coming on, reach for fruits or vegetables. The natural sugars will help satisfy your sweet tooth, and you’ll get added nutrients. The complex carbohydrates in fruits will also help keep you full longer, preventing an overdose of snacking later in the day.
6. Check Food Labels Religiously
We know it may seem time consuming, but youll thank us later. There is an unbelievable amount of hidden sugar in seemingly sugarless foods, so always check food labels carefully. Any ingredient with ose at the end, like “fructose,” should be a big warning sign. Some other names for sugar in disguise are maltodextrin, malt syrup, molasses, and cane juice.
7. Reduce Amounts of Processed Carbs
Breads and pastas are loaded with bad carbs. It may not seem like youre eating sweets, but these carbs convert into sugar soon after they enter your system. Also note that there is no nutritional value in processed carbs.
8. Pick One Cheat Treat for the Day
If you absolutely must get your sugar fix, make sure youre practicing portion control. Dont go to the deli and buy a pint of ice cream– if youre anything like us, the pint will be gone in one sitting. Instead, opt for individually packaged ice cream or candy bars. They will still satisfy your craving without allowing you to over-indulge.
9. Bring Your Own Snack
The easiest way to fall off track is through mindless snacking. You can avoid this pitfall by bringing your own portioned snacks with you wherever you go. One of our personal favorites is Jell-O sugar free pudding cups.
10. Start Off Your Morning with High-Fiber/Low-Sugar Foods
Starting your morning off right will set the tone for the rest of the day. Make sure to choose whole grain, reduced-sugar cereals. Better yet, try swapping cold cereal for high-fiber oatmeal. Just make sure to choose a no-sugar added option. You can use fresh berries and bananas to sweeten it a bit yourself.