You’ve heard the message to reduce sugar loud and clear from nutrition experts, including in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. And it’s sinking in. You’re trying to reduce the amount of added sugars you eat because you know that’s what is best for your health. At this point you’ve tackled the obvious – cut down on regularly sweetened soft drinks, ate fewer desserts, tried a few no added sugar recipes, and reached into the candy jar at work less often. I’ve assembled a cadre of life hacks here to help you further reduce the amount of added sugars you eat. But first, a few basics.
“Sugar” Really Means What?
When you hear the term “sugar,” you think of the white granular stuff you keep in a canister at home and see in packets when you eat out. That’s just one source of sugar in our diet. The Dietary Guidelines actually use the term “added sugars.” Added sugars are all sources of sugars (note the plural, sugars), that are added to foods by food manufacturers during processing and/or packaging. Some common names of added sugars are: dextrose, sucrose, brown sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, corn sweeteners, honey, and molasses.
So your goal is really to reduce added sugars.
Americans Eat How Much Sugar?
Truthfully, a shocking amount!
On average, Americans eat 270 calories per day, or about 13 percent of total calories, in added sugars. This translates to 17 teaspoons of sugar per day!
Where does it all come from? Beverages represent nearly half of it and that doesn’t include cow’s milk or 100 percent fruit juice. They contain natural sugars. Carbonated soft drinks contribute about one-quarter of the added sugars intake. Fruit drinks, coffee and teas and sports and energy drinks contribute another quarter. One third comes from snacks and sweets. A sprinkling of other foods makes up the remainder.
The Health Concerns?
The list of health concerns is increasing due to a growing list of research studies. There’s strong evidence that eating too much added sugars causes weight gain and increases the risk of type 2 diabetes in adults. Also, moderate evidence exists to link a high intake of added sugars with a risk for high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease and elevated triglyceride levels.
Do you need more reasons to reduce the amount of added sugars you eat?
How Much is Too Much?
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines recommend you reduce added sugars to less than 10 percent of the total number of calories you eat. That’s about 200 calories if you eat 2000 calories a day. However, many of us don’t need this many calories per day yet some people need more. If all the added sugars you ate were in the form of granular sugar, this would be about 12 teaspoons. But as noted, added sugars come from myriad foods and beverages. The reality is that the “less than 10 percent” mark is more added sugars than many people can allot in their eating plan based on their daily calorie and nutrition needs.
Life Hacks to Reduce Sugar
To eat less added sugars, take a “get the biggest bang for your effort” approach. Think about the foods and beverages that add the most added sugars to your diet. Plus, tackle first what’s easiest for you to change.
Try one, two or more of these suggestions to start:
- Cold beverages: Opt for water, sparkling water, or club soda. Add flavor and quench your sweet tooth with these drinks with these ideas. Use diet soda or sugar free versions of fruit drinks, sports or energy drinks.
- Coffee and tea: Whether you drink it hot or cold, the same advice applies. Limit the extra sweeteners and syrups. Sweeten these drinks with sugar-free and calorie-free sweeteners, such as one of the SPLENDA® Sweetener Products.
- Sweets and treats: Set limits on when and how you’re going to enjoy sweets. Focus on your favorites and limit the frequency and quantity. Don’t waste your added sugars on just so-so sweets. Make sure the ones you indulge in are sumptuous. Find ways to quench your sweet tooth with recipes for no added sugar desserts and snacks. Check out the recipes on Splenda.com/recipes and more ideas here.
- Condiments: Purchase ketchup with no sugar added. Buy low sugar jams and jellies. Look for spreadable fruit.
- Replace sugar in your sugar bowl. Fill it instead with pourable SPLENDA® Sweetener Products or another low-calorie granular sugar substitute. Use it as you would sprinkle sugar – on hot or cold cereal, on berries, on grapefruit, in hot or cold beverages and more. Use it in place of brown sugar or honey, too.
- Salad dressings, marinades and sauces: Read the ingredients of the bottled varieties. Many are loaded with added sugars. Make batches of your own with easy to stock ingredients. Here is a sugar free recipe to try: Spring Greens with Citrus Vinaigrette.
- Milk and dairy foods: Choose plain milk. Select plain yogurt and add your own fresh or dried fruit. Use a tablespoon of spreadable fruit for flavor. If you need a speck more sweetness use a low-calorie sweetener.
Don’t try to apply all these life hacks all at once. Make changes slowly and steadily over time. They’re more likely to stick. Remember, each and every step you take counts!
I have been compensated for my time by Heartland Food Products Group, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog with Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.
For more information about planning a healthy diet, visit the Healthy Lifestyle section of this blog.
Hope Warshaw, MMSc, RD, CDE, BC-ADM, is a nationally recognized dietitian and diabetes educator who applies more than 35 years of expertise as an author, freelance writer, media spokesperson, consultant and diabetes educator. Hope notes: “Healthy eating today is one tough job! The good news is that simple tweaks in your food choices and how you prepare foods can often set you on a path to healthier eating. Each positive step is a step in the right direction along the path to a long and healthy life.”