The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has long recommended reducing added sugar intake as an effective way to lose weight and maintain optimal health. In fact, the new dietary guidelines recommend a maximum of only 10 percent of your daily calories as coming from added sugars. For someone who is on a 1400 calorie diet, this means a cap of 140 calories from added sugars. That translates to a little over 2 tablespoons of honey or just under 9 teaspoons of sugar.
You can easily reduce your added sugar intake by following these simple tips:
Read food labels
Added sugars don’t just come in cookies and candy. It’s in your sauces, salad dressings, crackers, and other common food items too. Reading the nutrition facts label is a surefire way to consistently make healthy choices. First, note how many grams of sugar there are per serving. Next, check where the sugar is coming from. Is it natural sugar, such as sugar found in dairy or fruit, or is it added sugar? Look at the ingredients: if sugar is one of the first ingredients, there are not only added sugars, but there’s a whole lot of them.
Know your clues
“Unsweetened,” "No Added Sugar," and "Sugar-Free" are all good indicators of little or no added sugars in the product. Many products come in unsweetened versions, and these can easily replace their higher sugar counterparts. Unsweetened almond milk, sugar free jelly, and no added sugar jello are conveniently located side by side the sugary versions. Just don’t reach for the wrong one!
Be creative when adding flavor
It’s easy to reach for the sugar jar when what you’re eating needs just a touch of sweetness or added flavor. By using things like citrus or cinnamon for an added flavor dimension, you can leave out the sugar entirely! Some great combinations to consider are low-fat cottage cheese with cinnamon or freshly sliced lemons in water. As an added bonus, both citrus and spices like cinnamon have anti-inflammatory properties which can help fight infection and aid in internal tissue repair.
Trade out sweetened foods for fruit
Naturally sweet and full of valuable vitamins and minerals, fruit is Mother Nature’s candy. Have prepared, sliced fruit on hand whenever your sweet cravings come knocking. Here at F Factor, one of our favorite high fiber fruits is raspberries. One cup of raspberries contains only 65 calories and 8g of fiber, which naturally aids in lowering your blood sugar levels.
Sweeten plain food yourself
By buying plain foods and sweetening them yourself, you can cut out a large portion of the sugar content from foods you love. Pre sweetened yogurt and oatmeal can contain upwards of 20g and 15g of sugar per serving respectively. Swap in plain yogurt and oatmeal, which can be sweetened at home with a zero-calorie sweetener packet, and enjoyed just the same!
Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a Registered Dietitian in New York City and the author of two bestselling diet books: The F-Factor Diet and The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber.