Southerners love their sugar. Learn how to reduce sugar intake and help your diet.
Paleo. Keto. Low-carb. High-protein. There’s always a new nutrition fad to be had. But one trend that’s staying strong (and backed by nutritionists) is watching out for added sugars on labels and cutting down on sugar overall.
Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Stacey K. Kendrick, M.S., health educator, warns that a diet high in sugar can lead to increased calorie consumption, which causes weight gain. And being overweight or obese can contribute to heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and other chronic health issues.
But you might already know the health risks of a high-sugar diet. The hard part is knowing how to say no to the cinnamon rolls in the morning, sweet tea at lunch and a tall Coke at dinner.
Kendrick says there are a number of reasons why people crave sugary products. It could be that you’re experiencing a range of emotions, like anger, sadness or stress. Some people use it as a reward, a habit that might have been introduced early in their lives. And some people are just hard-wired to crave sweets instead of salty foods. Kendrick suggests the following five steps to kick the habit — or at least curb it:
How to reduce sugar intake in 5 steps:
- Make fruit a healthy and delicious substitute for sugary desserts. It is naturally sweet and nutritious, too.
- Don’t drink soda. Opt for 100 percent fruit juice or seltzer water with a squeeze of lemon or lime instead.
- Treat yourself to a single serving of something sweet if you crave it once in a while. Deprivation usually backfires. Try to limit it to 150 calories and savor each bite slowly.
- Read food labels and choose options that are lower in added sugars. Many food items, such as yogurt, can vary greatly in sugar content.
- Don’t buy it! The easiest way to avoid sugary treats is to not have them on hand in the first place.
Breaking out of routine is important, too. You may love to start your day with a bowl of cereal, but try replacing it with a bowl of oatmeal with raisins or cut-up apples. Need an on-the-go option? Kendrick suggests a frozen fruit smoothie blended with a few tablespoons of apple juice. And for a midday snack, try string cheese and a handful of almonds instead of anything out of the break room vending machine.
One simple way to eliminate sugar in your diet is to make sure it never makes it into your grocery cart. Seeing a sugary product in your fridge or pantry can be too tempting. Though it may take a little extra time, get in the habit of checking an ingredient list to see if the product is a healthy choice before making the purchase.
Kendrick advises the following guidelines on what to look for:
- Choose fresh, unprocessed food whenever possible.
- The fewer chemicals and ingredients the better.
- Look for foods that are high in percentage of dietary fiber, vitamins A and C, calcium or iron. Limit sugar, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium.
- Always check the serving size and the number of servings in the package. Ask yourself if you are eating more than one serving. If so, you need to calculate that. If there are two servings in a container and you eat the entire thing, then you need to double the calories, fat and other values.
Reducing your sugar intake can taste good, we promise. Find some Healthy Snack options to get some inspiration!