A Sweet Challenge – Cutting back on sugars
January 28th, 2021
Most people are aware that overindulging in sugar can lead to poor health conditions such as, decaying teeth, gum issues and an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
But, not all sugar is your enemy.
To put it simply, there are two kinds of sugar in our diet. Sugar that is found in many fruits and vegetables naturally and the sugar that is added to many foods and drinks we consume.
The natural sugar is not as harmful to your health as the sugars that are added to processed foods. But, it is important to look at the quantity of sugars consumed. If you don’t overindulge on the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat, and never eat any processed foods, your health will not suffer. If however, you eat fruits and vegetables and a high quantity of processed foods and drinks you will be eating far too much sugar.
In reality, we don’t often realize how much added sugar is hiding in foods and drinks. Look at the chart below and consider that the recommended limit of added sugar intake is 9 teaspoons for men and 6 teaspoons for women.
PRODUCT & NUMBER OF ADDED TEASPOONS
- Coca-Cola (355ml): 10
- Nutri-Grain cereal bar (39 g): 9.7
- Heinz tomato soup (1 can): 5
- Pasta sauce (1/2 cup): 2
- Orange Juice (200 ml): 4.5
- Fruit flavoured yogurt: 3.6 *
- White bread (1 slice): 0.6
- Whole grain bread (1 slice): 0.8 *
- Baked beans (100 grams): 2.5
- Ketchup (1 TBSP): 2
- Creamy peanut butter (2 TBSP): 0.6 *
- Smuckers strawberry jam (1 TBSP): 4.4
** eating a peanut butter and jam sandwich on whole grain bread and a fruit yogurt exceeds the daily added sugar intake limit for a woman!
It is clear that reducing consumption of processed foods will help reduce added sugar intake and, since 68% of processed foods contain added sugar it is also clear that consumption of whole foods and plant-based products must increase to replace those processed foods.
Becoming a label reader can help you identify amounts of added sugar in a product. But, beware. Sugar can hide behind many names: sucrose, cane crystals, high fructose corn syrup, molasses, glucose, stevia and fruit juice concentrates to name just a few.
Being aware of and reducing the amount of sugar in the foods and drinks you consume is the first step towards increasing longevity, reducing cancer risk, increasing better moods and energy, experiencing weight loss, clearer skin and better dental health.
But, how do you do it? Small steps daily will help you gain control of your sugar intake. The 6-day sugar challenge found below can help.
Breakfast is usually the sweetest meal of the day because many grained based foods whether it be cereal, muffins, sweet fruit yogurts, toast, or granola bars have added sugar. Even plain toast can have as much sugar as a small chocolate bar!
So today, you will take the sweet and grains out of your breakfast menu and will continue to do so for the duration of this challenge.
Tip: To change up your breakfast go for high protein or plant-based foods. You can find some great no grain, no sweet breakfast ideas online but here are a few ideas:
- eggs (cooked any way — or a frittata with vegetables);
- berries and a handful of nuts;
- lettuce boat with mashed avocado and tomato (meat eaters add bacon);
- breakfast salad with feta, avocado and hard-boiled eggs
- plain, whole-fat yogurt with fruit and nuts; and
- Smoked salmon with or without eggs.
Those processed foods! Today and, moving forward, start cutting just one packaged food item from what you eat in a day. Replace it with a single ingredient whole food. For example, instead of a bag of chips or a granola bar eat plain, roasted nuts or a piece of fruit.
Tip: Unpackaged food is likely to be unprocessed. Packaged food with a label identifying only two to three ingredients, is also likely unprocessed. A packaged food product, with a label identifying more than three ingredients is likely highly processed and contains lots of sugar. Be wary of those ingredients ending in “ose” (sucrose, glucose, fructose) as they are usually added sugars.
Eat more fruit. Remember, the natural sugars found in fruits, vegetables dairy products are not the enemy. Not only will the natural sweetness of fruit satisfy your sweet tooth after meals, but the fiber in fruit will fill you up so you won’t snack later.
So, add some berries or an apple to your lunch today. And, if you keep fruit handy you will soon find you are reaching for it as your go-to snack.
Tip: Don’t juice your fruit. Doing so destroys the fiber and makes a healthy fruit turn into a sweet beverage containing almost as much sugar as a soft drink.
Increase your water consumption. In fact, today and for the rest of the sugar challenge, drink only water – still or sparkling. Always have a filled water bottle nearby. Soon you will reaching for it whenever you are thirsty. Soon enough you won’t be missing sweet drinks at all.
Tip: An unsweetened morning coffee or tea with only milk added is ok. But skip sugar laden lattes and frappuccinos, fruit juices, sports drinks, and soft drinks!
Spice it up!! Adding various herbs and spices to your food can introduce you to flavours other than sweet.
So, go ahead. Get adventurous and start creating flavourful dishes that your palate will enjoy.
Tip: Some studies suggest eating spicy meals cuts down on sugar cravings. Bonus!
Find the sweet in vegetables by roasting them. When vegetables are roasted at a high temperature the water content in them is reduced and the natural sugars are carmelized. This means the veggies taste sweeter than if you had boiled or steamed them.
Tip: Root vegetables are popular “roastables” but, think beyond them. Try roasting asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts and corn. And roasted cauliflower is the new popular “roastable.” Roast with a little olive oil and salt for a sweet snack comparable to many desserts. Honest!
By following the 6-day sugar challenge you will have become more “sugar-aware” and will have learned some strategies to reduce your sugar consumption. To make those strategies a habit, place the list below in a location where you can see it readily. Every so often, ask yourself which strategies you have adopted and which you still need to work on to make it a more regular part of your diet.
- Starting your day with a no-sugar and no-grain breakfast.
- Limiting the packaged foods you consume.
- Adding berries and other fruits to your diet.
- Drinking only water or seltzer.
- Adding spice to your meals.
- Roasting your vegetables.
New York Times
Alberta Health Services
Posted in Health