Kicking the Sugar Habit
Need some help curbing your sweet tooth? These recommendations can help.
Sugar can be found in everything from cookies and soda to catsup and salad dressing. In fact, the average American downs about 22 teaspoons of sugar a day. That’s way more than the five to nine teaspoons now recommended by the American Heart Association.
If you’re used to a daily sugar high, curbing your sweet tooth may be a challenge. Experts offer these tips:
Eat regular meals and snacks
Sugar cravings often strike when your stomach is empty. That’s why it’s important to try to eat at regular intervals – at least every three to four hours.
Include protein and healthy fat with meals and snacks
These two nutrients take longer to digest, which helps keep your blood sugar in check and sweet cravings at bay.
- Lean proteins include fish, chicken, lean meat, low-fat cheese and cottage cheese, low-fat milk, eggs and beans.
- Healthy fats include avocado, nuts and seeds, natural peanut butter, olive and canola oil.
Let your taste buds adjust to less sugar
Can you imagine downing a glass of whole milk? It’s likely you’ve gotten used to low-fat or skim, simply because you have been drinking it for some time now. The same rule applies to sugar. Eat less, and your taste buds will get used to enjoying food with less sugar.
At the same time, also limit artificial sweeteners. There are no data to show they help with weight loss. And using them may contribute to sugar cravings.
Modifying your favorite foods
Following are some ideas for limiting sugar from popular foods.
Soda and fruit drinks
Sodas and soft drinks are the biggest contributors to excess sugar in the diet.
- Instead of sugary drinks, squeeze fresh lemon or lime juice into water or seltzer, or add a splash of cranberry juice or lemonade.
- Buy frozen 100 percent juice and add an extra can or two of water to dilute the sugar.
Many yogurts are full of added sugars, including high-fructose corn syrup. Light yogurts have artificial sweeteners. If you are looking for healthier options, try these suggestions:
- Mix plain yogurt with fruited or flavored yogurt and cut the sugar in half.
- Buy “fruit on the bottom” yogurt. Spoon out the top white portion, down to the fruit, and place into another bowl. Leave goopy fruit on the bottom. The top part is surprisingly sweet!
- Try Greek-style fat-free or low-fat yogurt. With much of the water removed, it lends a much creamier and richer taste than regular yogurt.
- Add fresh fruit and top with a handful of walnuts or almonds.
Many cereals are loaded with added sugars.
- Mix together a low- or no-sugar cereal with a sweeter version.
- Use fresh fruit, such as bananas, berries and/or a small handful of raisins or craisins, to sweeten your cereal.
- Add a handful of nuts for extra nutrition and crunch.
Instead of heaping on loads of sugar-laden fat-free dressings, opt for a small amount of heart-healthy olive oil mixed with a flavorful vinegar.
- Try naturally sweet balsamic, rice or apple cider vinegar.
- Mix a small amount of olive oil with lemon or lime juice, a dash of salt and pepper and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.
Cookies, cakes, muffins
There is not much you can do about store-bought brands, but if you like to bake, consider making your own … with a few revisions.
- Use half the sugar listed in recipes.
- Add nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, lemon and/or orange zest.
- Toss in raisins or dried cranberries.
- Use mashed fruit in place of some of the oil or butter, such as natural applesauce, mashed pears or bananas.
- Try adding fresh diced fruit such as apples, pears, peaches or berries.
Fresh fruits and veggies can take the place of processed sugars as the base for your snacks.
- Natural peanut butter spread on apples or bananas
- Carrots and sweet red peppers dipped in hummus or low-fat yogurt dip
- Cottage cheese topped with fresh fruit and nuts
- Fruit smoothie with skim milk, vanilla yogurt and frozen berries
- Rice cakes spread with low-fat cream cheese and sliced strawberries
- Natural applesauce sprinkled with cinnamon