Eating too much sugar is known to contribute to heart disease, obesity, tooth decay, cancer and numerous other health problems. Yet, the average American eats 22 teaspoons of added sugar per day, according to the American Heart Association. Many studies have linked high-sugar intake to an increase in cardiovascular disease (CVD) and mortality due to CVD. As people living with diabetes, we must be especially mindful of the amount of sugar we take in. Limiting our added sugar can help us manage our blood sugar, avoid weight gain and improve our overall health.
Here are some realistic and manageable ways to cut back on your sugar intake. Making these small changes can lead to a healthier version of you!
1. Step Back and Re-evaluate
Make healthy changes in other areas of your life. For instance, make sure to get adequate sleep so you’re not relying on coffee laden with sugar to get you through the day. Also, adding some structure to your day can help you avoid making last-minute food choices that are usually out of convenience and less healthy than those snacks and meals we eat at home. Being prepared means less haphazard choices that may not be the best for your overall health.
2. Don’t Fall for the Low-Fat Trick
Many food companies love to boast their low-fat products but what they don’t tell you is that these foods often contain more sugar and calories than their low-fat alternatives. When fat is removed from a food, it takes away from the natural flavor, therefore they add sugar to sweeten it up. Opt for full-fat versions, and keep in mind that there are also plenty of benefits of adding fat to our diet!
3. Cut Back on Sugar-Filled Drinks
Thankfully, there are so many healthy beverage options now on the market. With options like Vitamin Water, Kevita probiotic drinks, a host of flavored sparkling seltzers, and many more, it is a lot easier to avoid those more sugary drinks that can quickly lead to both weight gain and high blood sugars. If you are a fan of coffee and/or tea, its best to keep it black or use a natural sweetener such as Lakanto’s Monkfruit Sweetener.
4. Experiment with Rubs Instead of Sauces
Condiments like ketchup and barbecue sauce are commonly used but come loaded with sugar. One tablespoon of ketchup usually contains about 1 teaspoon of sugar. Check for reduced-sugar or sugar-free versions which still pack the flavor. Also, when cooking your own food, try using dry rubs of flavorful herbs and spices instead of sauces. Some other low sugar options to consider are pesto sauce, mayonnaise and even avocado. They are absolutely delicious and can spice up any meal, even a slice of bread!
5. Consider Diet-Friendly Sugar Substitutes
While some people can take their coffee black others may cringe at the thought. Thankfully there are plenty of healthy sugar substitutes that you can use in place of the real deal. This doesn’t only go for your morning coffee but for your cooking and baking needs too. You can easily take a high sugar dessert and replace it with one of these flavorful and healthier options. And the best news is we longer have to be tempted by sugar-free treats that contain sorbitol or maltitol and are known for causing stomach upset.
6. Change Your Mindset When It Comes to Snacks
We are all quick to grab packaged goods when we need something quick to eat. Processed foods are loaded with sugar so are not the best choice for a snack to help fuel you. Consider opting for cheese, nuts, hard-boiled eggs, and beef jerky to name a few. And if you are hosting a get-together or need an idea to bring elsewhere, consider healthy options that are low in sugar such as hummus and vegetables, shrimp skewers and meat and cheese charcuterie boards.
It is important to remember that some sugar in moderation is okay. And some people may be able to better manage eating sugar in moderation than others. Listen to your body and do what works for you. Having a healthy mindset when talking about any type of food group will help to avoid any negative feelings or emotions that could come along with eliminating something altogether.
8. Technology Is Your Friend
Some like to take advantage of apps like Myfitnesspal to track their calories and track macros. It is eye-opening to track a day of eating and see how much you are really consuming. For example, when I did this exercise I learned that I wasn’t taking in nearly enough fiber so I was able to adjust my daily intake. Another great app is by Companion Medical for the use of InPen. Here you will be able to enter the number of carbs and it will tell you exactly how much insulin you need based on your doctor recommended settings. Use technology as your guide and keep the sugar to the amount that you are comfortable with while still feeling in control.
9. Increase Your Protein Intake
The benefits of protein in your diet are endless, and it is vital in helping fuel our body and give us energy. It also helps us build muscle mass, helps keep our bones strong, and helps keep us satiated. By adding more protein to your diet you can avoid those sugar-laden snacks since you will be fuller for longer. Try making all meals protein-dominant, with a small portion of any foods that may spike your sugar or add on pounds if you are weight conscious.
10. Know What to Look for on the Label
Back in 2016, the FDA changed their rules so that companies would have to disclose how much added sugar was in their products along with the % of the daily value. This is helpful but there are over 50 other names for added sugars, making it even more difficult to detect. Check out the nutritional label and be sure to pay attention to the order of ingredients as they are listed with the highest % first. Some of the common names to look out for are: high-fructose corn syrup, cane sugar or juice, maltose, dextrose, molasses, rice syrup and caramel.
If you are looking to get better control of your blood sugar or are looking to lose or maintain your weight, cutting back on sugar is an easy way to better your health. Taking the steps above will ensure you much success in your diabetes and weight management efforts.
Have you tried cutting back on your sugar intake? What measures did you take and what were the results? Comment and share below!