Let’s face it – we have a love affair with sugar.
On average, Americans eat about 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day. That’s more than double the recommended amount you should consume: six teaspoons for women and nine teaspoons for men.
Added sugars are found in processed foods to make them more appealing to consumers. For example, yogurt is somewhat tart in flavor. Food companies add sugar, including cookie pieces, to make yogurt sweeter, so we increase our consumption. The major sources of added sugars are regular soft drinks, candy, cakes, cookies, pies, fruit drinks, dairy desserts and milk products, and some grains (cereal and waffles).
Excessive sugars have a negative impact on our health – from weight gain to a fatty liver. Obesity can contribute to diabetes, heart disease, joint problems, and even cancer.
Food labels have been updated to include the link between diet and chronic disease. Added sugars in grams and as a percent daily value will be added to food labels in 2018. Natural sugars are different than added sugars and are found in many foods like dairy products (lactose) and fruits (fructose).
Here are some tips from Judy Siebart, WVU Medicine dietitian, to reduce your sugar intake:
Start with your beverages. Portion size for sugary drinks, like juice or soda, has increased in the last 30 years from four or eight ounces to a whopping 20 ounces per container. Reduce your soda intake by switching to water, sugar-free sparkling water, or fruit-infused water. Dilute juices with sparkling water. Use less sugar in coffee and tea. Keep drinking beverages with less sweetener until you acquire a taste for a sugar-free drink – it can happen.
Rid your cupboards and office of tempting sweets and replace them with healthier options, like unsalted mixed nuts or fresh fruit. Swap the sugar in cereal or oatmeal for bananas, cherries, strawberries, or dried fruit, like raisins, cranberries, or apricots.
Try plain yogurt instead of flavored. Add a small amount of honey or sweetener, nuts, or fresh fruit. Start your day off right with this protein-filled Greek yogurt parfait.
Make your own salad dressing or try oil and vinegar. You’d be surprised – even if your salad dressing may not taste sweet, sugar has probably been added to boost the flavor. This delicious strawberry and spinach salad recipe uses one tablespoon of balsamic vinegar as dressing.
Try spices instead. Allspice, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg are healthier alternatives.
Experiment with extracts (lemon, almond, vanilla, etc.). Add vanilla extract to coffee or tea, even plain yogurt, instead of sugar.
Treat yourself once in a while. A little indulgence is good for the soul. On occasion, go out for ice cream or have dessert with dinner. Better yet, split dessert with your dinner partner. Try these dark chocolate blueberry clusters or sea salt dark chocolate stuffed strawberries for healthier dessert alternatives.
For more healthy recipes, visit wvumedicine.org/recipes.