Sugar. Sugar, sugar, sugar. The sweet and silent killer (in some cases- literally!). How about this for a new year’s resolution: mindfulness. Let’s be mindful of our sugar intake. Sounds simple right? Well, it is! On a daily basis, Americans consume a total of thirty teaspoons of added sugar a day. That is ALOT of sugar. Now, not all sugar is created equal..added sugar is much different and more dangerous than naturally occurring sugar like fructose, natural sugar found in fruit. Well, what’s the recommended daily amount of sugar we should consume. According to the American Heart Association, men should eat no more than about 9 teaspoons per day (38 grams), and for the ladies? Women should eat no more than about 6 teaspoons (25 grams). So essentially, Americans are consuming more than triple the recommended amount of added sugar a day. YIKES! So how can we kick this habit? It helps being abnormal and not having a sweet tooth (me), but that’s not the reality. People like sugar, people are addicted to sugar..sugar addiction is real and it is sweeping this country! So, since sweet tooths are real I’ve put together a simple guide on how you can eat less sugar in the new year. Let’s commit to make sustainable, easier changes that we can commit to. Small changes to long term success, who’s with me?!
1. Start Slow & Eat Breakfast
Kicking the sugar habit is not going to happen over night. As soon as you understand this, and forgive yourself for the moments where you may eat one cookie too many..you already are ahead of the game! Be kind to yourself. Always eat breakfast! Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, it has been proven that if you start your morning off with a healthy breakfast you are more inclined to make healthier choices throughout the day..so, do it! No time for breakfast? How about this simple Peanut Butter Overnight Oats recipe? Put some oats in a jar, milk of your choice, leave it in the fridge..wake up, eat! That simple. Or my Clean Chick’s Chia Seed Pudding recipe, same concept..just as delicious! Even if it is a bowl of fruit, a piece of toast with almond butter, get some sort of healthy protein in your belly for a kickstart to your morning.
2. Start A Food Journal
A food journal is a great way to help you track down exactly what you are putting into your body. This often can be a very eye opening exercise! If you hold yourself accountable you are more likely to stay strong to your kick the sugar habit commitment. If you know you have to jot down everything you eat at the end of the day you are less likely to reach for the second frosted donut because you don’t want to write it down in your food journal or let yourself down. Try it!
3. Fructose vs. High Fructose Corn Syrup vs. Coconut Sugar
Not all sugar is created equal. Fructose, the naturally occurring in fruits is not harmful, despite tons of misinformation out there! A bowl of strawberries is not going to kill you- trust me. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is an artificial sweetener (GMO) that is added to sodas, cereals, and even breads that has been linked to several inflammatory conditions. Limited testing has been done on GMOs and HFCS, and the additive is banned in several countries throughout the world so it is really best to avoid it at all costs. If I ever add any sugar to anything, baking, oatmeal, or pudding I only use coconut sugar. Coconut sugar has a low glycemic index which means it does not convert to glucose in the body as quickly as other sugars do.
4. READ LABELS!
Read all labels of everything before purchasing. Time consuming? Maybe. Important? Absolutely! Did you know that there are over fifty different names of sugar for food labels? Yep! It’s never just sugar..sometimes you’ll even see multiple names of sugar, and what’s even worse is that our current food labels don’t label the amount of added sugar! A new label will be introduced to the food industry in the coming years (the first label revamp in twenty years..but that’s a whole other story!) Anyway! Sugar can be called beet sugar, aspartame, dextran, diatase, maltodextrin, glucose or sucrose. You’d think there would be more transparency in our food system right?
5. Identify Your Sugar Culprits
As I’ve mentioned before, sugar can be hidden in almost anything and what’s worse it can be hidden under so many different names- you may not even know it’s actually sugar! It is important to identify your main sources of sugar in your lifestyle. Perhaps you eat artificially flavored juices to which there are loads of artificial sweeteners in those! Or you eat a lot of “low fat” foods to which there is often tons of added sugar in those foods- take out the fat, the taste is gone, so what do they do..add sugar! Once you’ve identified your main source of sugar in your daily lifestyle it is best to significantly reduce that food or attempt to cut it out all together! Remember, start slow though!
6. Limit Sugary Beverages
Replace soda, fruit juices, or flavored water (usually sweetened with artificial sweeteners that require no labeling!) with fruit infused water! Try slicing up some strawberries, kiwi, lemons or berries and placing them into water for a more natural sweetened beverage.
7. Snack on foods high in fat and protein
Fat is NOT the enemy. Good fats (avocados, coconut oil, macadamia nuts) are essential for brain health and nutrient absorption. To kick the sugar habit, try snacking on sliced apple with almond butter, avocado on a piece of toast with sprinkled cayenne pepper, or even make your own homemade trail mix with nuts and add goji berries for some natural sweetness (and added boost of Vitamin C!).
8. Make Your Own Salad Dressing!
Ditch store bought dressing for your own homemade salad dressings. Olive oil and vinegar is a tastier (and healthier alternative!) than store bought salad dressings that are loaded with artificial sugars and preservatives. Flaxseed oil, hemp oil also make for tasty and nutritious salad dressings if you lean more towards the simple salad dressings. If you’re feeling ambitious, try my Golden Turmeric Dressing here! By making your own homemade dressings you can control the ingredients, therefore controlling how much sugar may or may not be in your dressing. Remember, you are in control of your health!
9. Get A Good Night’s Sleep!
Going through the days without enough sleep will leave us feeling groggy and wanting to reach for the sugary snacks to help perk us up. However, getting the recommended eight hours of sleep each night will help the body detoxify and regenerate for the next day. With a good nights sleep, better and healthier choices will be made.
10. DRINK WATER!
I cannot stress the importance of the final step of kicking the sugar habit. Water is your best friend. Drink it daily. You want to drink five glasses, you want to drink eight, or maybe you want to drink ten..just make sure every day you drink water! *Refer to step #6 if water is too “bland” for your tastebuds, but this can be a result excessive exposure to sugar our tastebuds are not used to the taste of regular water without added sugar. Adding fruit can be a great way to get some antioxidants into your body but I recommend learning to love the taste of regular, plain ol’ water!
Here’s to a healthier, happier, and naturally sweet 2016!