It’s no secret that sugar is bad for our health. It can rot our teeth, cause unhealthy weight gain, diabetes, and more. But it’s also no secret that it’s yummy, addictive, and in a shocking amount of the foods we eat. So, exactly how can we eat less sugar? What are some tried and tested ways to sustainably reduce our sugar intake for the long-term?
1. Prioritize a low-sugar, high protein breakfast
Despite their ‘healthy’ marketing (in some cases), most breakfast cereals are packed full of sugar, with one report even discovering that some of the most popular brands contained over half their weight in sugar.
By eating a breakfast lower in sugar and higher in protein and fiber, you can feel fuller for longer and reduce the compulsion to snack. Some great alternatives to high-sugar breakfasts include:
- Scrambled eggs with cheese
- Whole grain toast
- Greek yogurt with nuts, fruits and seeds
- Oatmeal with fresh berries
2. Rethink your treats
Treats for snacks or desserts are notoriously bad for us, packed with sugar and other nasties – yummy for five minutes, but abruptly followed by low energy and mood after the blood sugar spike drops. Many ‘treats’ also contain very little nutrition, making them even less ‘worth it.’
According to research, almost 20% of the sugar ingested by Americans is through desserts such as doughnuts, cakes, pies, and ice cream.
If you need to satisfy your craving for something sweet, but want to stick to healthy alternatives, some great options include:
- Dark chocolate
- Baked or fresh fruit with cream
- Greek yogurt with a (small) drizzle of honey, (yes the honey is high in sugar but it also has health benefits, a small amount complements the yogurt perfectly and is a far better option than highly processed, sugar-filled desserts and snacks)
- Whole fruit – while containing natural sugars, whole fruits also contain vitamins, antioxidants and fiber
You can also commit to rethinking your party treats – remember, any reduction in sugar is a win, and choosing alternatives doesn’t have to mean chewing on a celery stick while everyone else munches on cake!
A great example is this Birthday Cake Drizzled Popcorn from Safe + Fair. Popcorn is a low-sugar snack and while some toppings may be a little too indulgent, snacks like this birthday cake popcorn are allergen and preservative-free, and with no high-fructose corn syrup in sight.
3. Eat whole foods
The more you stick to whole foods, the easier it will be to remove high levels of sugar, salt and unhealthy fats from your diet. Processed foods are designed to get you hooked, containing just the right combination of fats, sugars and salt to keep you coming back for more; the usual suspects include fast food, sugary snacks and cereals, and soft drinks.
Whole foods haven’t been processed or added to, they are natural bundles of goodness. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, fish and meats in their natural state can’t be beaten for nutrition and health.
The more you prepare your food at home, the less sugar and other additives you will be taking in.
4. Avoid faux ‘healthy’ processed snacks
Sadly, marketing laws still aren’t stringent enough to stop companies from peddling their products as ‘healthy’ when they are actually anything but.
Seemingly healthy snacks like protein bars, granola and dried fruits often contain as much – if not more- added sugar as chocolate or candy treats.
Low-sugar, healthy snack alternatives include nuts and seeds, dark chocolate (70% or more cocoa), fresh fruit (dried fruit is high in concentrated sugars), low-sugar popcorn and jerky.
5. Use artificial sweeteners (wisely)
Artificial sweeteners aren’t always what they are cracked up to be – but when you understand which is which, they can help to decrease sugar intake.
Sugar alternatives like aspartame are free from sugar (and calories), yet some research indicates that they can cause gut bacteria imbalance, leading to more food cravings and weight gain. Sucralose is another one to beware of for this reason.
Natural sweeteners, such as stevia, and monk fruit so far appear to be healthier, safer options. Although research is ongoing, using small amounts of naturally derived options like these are the better choice, and can help to kick sugar addictions.
6. Drink more water
Everyone knows that drinking plenty of water is good for our health, but new research shows that increasing our intake of plain drinking water can help to control our weight and lessen our sugar intake through the course of the day.
According to the study, those participants who increased their daily plain water intake by one to three cups consumed 5-18g less sugar and decreased their total daily energy intake by up to 205 calories.
The bottom line
Sugar might be yummy, but it is bad for us – especially when high amounts hide in most of our daily food intake. For some people, the prospect of decreasing sugar intake seems daunting, but just making small changes here and there can still make a big difference. Switching out soda for water, grabbing a whole fruit snack instead of a doughnut, and trying natural sugar alternatives in your coffee can set you on the road to better health.
Just 1 in 10 adults meet the federal fruit or vegetable recommendations, according to a study published in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). This report highlights that very few Americans eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables every day, putting them at risk for chronic diseases.
Studies have shown that supplementation with extracts from fruits and vegetables may improve age-related changes.
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