If you only partake in a few sugary snacks from time to time, you might be surprised to learn that you are not exempt from the harmful effects of sugar. In fact, most of the sugar that we consume daily is not coming from your favorite cakes, cookies, or sugary soft drinks. So, where is it coming from?
According to the World Health Organization, over 18% of our daily caloric intake comes from sugars that are hidden in your foods. That is right; sugar is added to everything you pick up on the grocery store shelf, so, even when you think you are following a sugar controlled diet, you could be consuming high amounts of it.
With all that sugar consumption, we have an increased risk of diabetes, tooth decay, heart disease, weight gain and much more. Fortunately, there are things you can do to control this problem and to help you along the way, we have gathered eight ways to lower your sugar intake.
1. Read Your Food Labels
The first thing you need to do when trying to reduce your sugar intake is find the sugars that you are unaware of. There are tons of sugars lurking in your foods that you are unaware of and they are cleverly disguised behind some big words. When you go grocery shopping, read the food labels before purchasing foods and be on the lookout for words like high fructose corn syrup, or anything that ends in “ose,” like dextrose, and lactose. Try finding natural replacements for these products.
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2. Purchase Unsweetened
Now that you know where the sugar hides, you are one step ahead of the game and can start making a few changes. You should start purchasing unsweetened products now, or foods labeled “no sugar added.” It can take some time to get used to the taste, but different manufacturers may taste differently, so test different brands and see what you like.
3. Cut Back Slowly on Sugar
If you are trying to lower your sugar intake for health reasons, you are off to a good start, but you should cut back slowly and not cold turkey. For instance, if you use three packets of sugar in your coffee every morning, try cutting back to two for one week, and then one the next. Or, you can try a sugar alternative.
4. Buy Plain Foods and Sweeten Them Yourself
This is a great trick for cutting back on the amount of sugar you are getting in your diet, and it is very convenient because more and more retailers are making plain foods available. So, take a plain, unsweetened food, like a yogurt, almond milk, or oatmeal and opt to sweeten it yourself with nature’s sweeteners. To sweeten your plain foods, you can add organic honey or any fruit that you prefer.
5. Trade Sweet Foods for Sweet Fruits
This is a great trick that nutritionists love to get their clients in the habit of doing, but if you have a sweet tooth, it can be a little difficult at first. Since fruits are naturally sweet, the trick is to swap them out for anything you might be using as a sweet treat. They are an excellent substitute for jelly or jam with peanut butter, and it eliminates all the high fructose corn syrup.
Also, if you get a craving for candy, cookies, or just plain sweets, try to get in the habit of grabbing a bowl of fruit. You can warm up a half cup of strawberries for example and add cinnamon, to make a sweet treat with a lot less sugar than most sweet snacks.
6. Limit Sugary Treats to Once or Twice Per Week
If you like to have a treat now and again, it is still ok; the key is to limit how much you indulge and watch your portions. Try and choose one or two days at the most in which you can indulge in your favorite baked goods, ice cream, or sugary snacks.
7. Do Not Choose Diet Drinks
The first thing you might be tempted to do when cutting down on sugar is to grab for the artificial sweeteners or diet soft drinks, but that is a bad idea. These mess up the way your body processes sugars, which is why they have been associated with weight gain.
8. Avoid Condiments
It might be hard to accept this, but having ketchup with your fries adds up to 30 percent sugar to your meal. In fact, most condiments including mayonnaise, pickles, ranch, and barbecue sauce contain that much and more. Some sweet chili sauces are even up to 70 percent sugar. So, try to cut down by making your own with fresh produce, olive oils, or other healthy alternatives.
You do not have to follow these tips all at once, but just one of them could help you dramatically reduce the amount of sugar you consume daily, which could lead to a healthier lifestyle.