Have you ever felt like being healthy is some sort of mystery? Like no matter how much effort you put in, you fall back into the same old habits that keep you from your health goals?
You might make some progress for a while but eventually, something happens and BAM you’re back to square one, again. Even something as innocent as a family event, going on vacation, or working extra hours at work can totally derail your health and wellness progress.
That’s why I created this Better Health Now Series. This series gives you all the tools you need to stay on track no matter what life throws at you.
Each month, we’ll dive into a specific area of health and precise action steps that you can take to tackle that area and make lasting changes. Each post in the series is broken down into bite-sized chunks so you can start putting new habits into place right away.
Now is the perfect time to start working on your health and wellness goals. I designed the Better Health Now Series to walk you through each topic step-by-step. You can dive in and get started at any time. Just be sure to sign up and we’ll let you know when the next post in the series is released.
This month we reveal the bitter truth about something you consume every single day. We’re talking about sugar. Reducing added sugar in our diets is one of those things we know we should do but it’s often easier said than done. This month we’re going to take a step-by-step approach to how to identify and reduce sugar in your diet for better health now.
Identify and Reduce Added Sugar in Your Diet for Better Health Now
Stroll through any grocery store and you’ll notice one thing immediately. Sugar is everywhere. From the BOGO display of baked goods near the front entrance to the sweetened yogurts tucked in the back of the store, it’s hard to cruise down one aisle and not find a product with added sugars.
Why is Added Sugar a Problem?
While the calories in sugar may give you a temporary energy boost, the downside is the white stuff contains no added nutritional value, meaning they pack very little – if any – vitamins and minerals.
So, adding a bit of sugar to your morning coffee may do no harm, but consuming excessive amounts of sugar will cause you to gain weight, which you probably already knew.
But in addition to weight gain, excessive sugar consumption could be linked to many other health conditions including:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Type II diabetes
The Great Sugar Debate
As you look for ways to reduce added sugar in your diet, you may have heard the debates over which sweeteners are better or worse. This involves a comparison of high fructose corn syrup, sorghum syrup, barley malt, agave nectar, honey, rice syrup, and other “natural” sugars. But don’t get caught up in this debate. While there may be a minor difference in how they are utilized and absorbed by your body, the bottom line is that all of these substances are just “sugar” in the end.
Even products marketed as “natural” sugar substitutes like erythritol, xylitol, or stevia are refined products. Use these in moderation if at all.
How to Spot Sneaky Added Sugar in Your Foods and Beverages
Sugar comes in several forms and types so it’s important to know what to look for. Turn over your products and look for these in the ingredient list:
- Brown sugar
- Corn sugar
- High fructose corn syrup
- Invert sugar
- Raw sugar
- Turbinado sugar
If you see any of these listed as an ingredient, be sure to check how much the product contains by scanning the Nutrition Facts Label. The American Heart Association recommends the following guidelines for sugar consumption:
- Women – no more than to 100 calories per day (about 6 teaspoons)
- Men – no more than 150 calories per day (about 9 teaspoons)
Easy Steps to Reduce Added Sugar in Your Diet
Your task this month is to learn to spot sugar in your foods and beverages. Start by making a plan to reduce added sugars in your diet and make more conscious choices about the amount of sugar you and your family consume every day. You don’t have to give up all sugar to move towards better health. But you do want to be an educated consumer. Follow these solid tips to reduce added sugar in your diet:
- Read labels and choose lower-sugar items.
- Opt for fruits and berries that will satisfy your sweet tooth without added sugar.
- Switch your cereal to a lower sugar version.
- Buy plain yogurt and “sweeten” with berries, fresh fruit, or a drizzle of honey.
- Enjoy smaller portions of your favorite treats.
- Buy plain oatmeal and top with dates, apples, berries, and other fruit.
- Eat the whole fruit instead of drinking the juice.
- Drink more water.
Alicia Hyatte is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Family Wellness Expert, and Health Educator. She creates impactful, evidence-based health and wellness content and programs for individuals, families, and communities.