Apple crisp. Warm chocolate chip cookies. Pumpkin pie. Donuts. A giant scoop of ice cream…
Do I have you running to the kitchen yet?
Some days, nothing sounds better than a huge serving of your favorite sweets.
And from the strike of Midnight on September 1st, on through the holiday season, sweet treats seem to be in your face more than ever. But not only are these things tasty — for many of us they have a strong emotional tie that only seems to get stronger when the weather turns cold and we’re in search of comfort food.
But while there’s nothing wrong with the occasional sugar-filled splurge, like anything in life, too much of a good thing can get you into trouble.
A high-sugar diet can have a seriously negative impact on your weight-loss efforts, as well as your overall health.
The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 25 grams of added sugar per day for women and 38 grams per day for men. (For reference, a 12-ounce soda may contain as much as 46 grams of added sugar — far exceeding the daily recommendations in a single serving.)
It's also important to remember that we’re talking about added sugars. These don’t occur naturally in the foods you eat and add calories to your diet without any essential nutrients.
(Foods with natural sugars — like fruits, vegetables, and milk — offer a quality source of energy along with protein, fiber, and important nutrients for your body. These are the types of sugar you can feel good about including in your meals.)
But while you probably already know that you know that you need to limit the amount of added sugar in your diet, how the heck do you go about doing it? Should you swear-off the cookies and shun the ice cream at all costs?
Nope! It’s not an all or nothing situation, folks.
Cutting back on sugar doesn’t have to be a huge battle, and it shouldn’t have to involve depriving yourself of sweets, altogether.
Here are eight easy ways to take control and keep your sugar intake in check.
Learn to recognize sugar on the label.
This might sound like a no-brainer, but if you’ve ever really studied a nutritional label, you’ve probably seen how tricky it can be. In fact, food manufacturers seem to go out of their way to make identifying sugar (and many other ingredients) incredibly difficult. And added sugar isn’t only an issue with sweet treats — many savory foods have added sugar, as well. Check out this list of 61 Names for Sugar so nothing sneaks by you.
Opt for single-serving sweets.
It can be tough to fight the urge for sweets when a serious craving hits — and once you give in, it can be even harder to stop. Instead of buying a box of cookies or pint of ice cream, try purchasing your sweet treats in single-serve portions. You’ll still be able to scratch the itch for a sugary treat when it strikes, but you’ll be less likely to overindulge.
Ditch the soda (even the diet ones).
We’ve already mentioned that a single, 12-ounce can of soda can have more than the recommended amount of added sugar for your entire day, but switching over to the diet version might not be the best solution, either. Artificial sweeteners have a stronger taste than table sugar, which can lead to overstimulation of your sugar taste receptors. Over time, this can trick your brain into thinking naturally-sweetened foods — such as fruit — aren’t as satisfying, and can even trigger stronger cravings for a sweet fix. Instead, try switching to naturally flavored seltzer or minerals water — you’ll get the bubbles without the unwanted sweeteners.
Start with a savory breakfast.
Pancakes and donuts might be what breakfast dreams are made of, but they can quickly max-out the sugar before your day even gets going. Instead of heading for the sweet stuff, try picking savory options for breakfast. Swap out an omelette with veggies (ideally with a side of sausage or bacon, if you ask me) to get a protein-packed breakfast that still feels like a feast — without all the added sugar.
Slash the sugar when baking.
That recipe might call for a cup of sugar, but you might be surprised how unnecessary it is — especially with desserts like pies, which already have fruit to bring the sweetness. Often, you can reduce the additional sugar by as much as ⅓ or more, and still have a great result. Don’t be afraid to experiment and see what goodness you can come up with!
Stick with seasonal fruits.
Fruit is at its best when it’s ripe and in-season. (Anybody who’s ever bought a watermelon in December knows what I‘m talking about.). Out-of-season fruit is more likely to be tart and dull tasting — definitely not what you’re after to satisfy a craving for something sweet. Just remember that seasonal fruits may change based on your location, so don’t hesitate to ask your grocer or local fruit vendor to point you in the right direction, particularly in the fall and winter months.
Beware of the Kryptonite.
We all have those foods that seem to make us powerless against overeating. Once you start in on that pint of ice cream or slice of cake, there’s no stopping you. Whatever food it is for you — that is your kryptonite. And because these foods are so often of the sweet variety, it's not uncommon to consume a heavy dose of sugar without even realizing it.
You don’t have to swear-off your kryptonite foods for good, but you should be prepared to set some hard limits. Maybe it's allowing yourself one piece of fancy chocolate after dinner every night, or maybe it's reserving the indulgence only for special occasions. However you choose to approach it, set your limit and stick with it.
Get to bed.
We all know that not getting enough sleep can make you crabby, but did you know it can have a direct effect on your eating habits, too? Studies have shown that poor sleep can lead to increased cravings for sweet foods. That means it might be tougher to fight the urge to binge-eat those Oreos when you’re not getting enough sleep. By making a point to set a regular sleep schedule, you’ll help your body keep to cravings at bay.
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