Written by SMH Outpatient Dietitian Lauren McNeil
You exercise. You try to eat a healthy diet. You do your best to avoid additives. But
your favorite pants still don’t fit, you feel tired all the time and you’re moody. So what’s the problem?
The truth is that the many of the foods you’ve been told are good for you could actually be flooding your body with an ingredient that is sabotaging all your hard work: Sugar! Sugar has plenty of sneaky names on the ingredients list and is found in roughly 80 percent of foods in the typical grocery stores.
The recommended daily allowance for sugar is about 5 percent of your daily intake, which is around 25 grams (100 calories) for women and 38 grams (150 calories) for men. However, the average American consumes close to 100 grams of sugar per day!
Sugar hides in a lot of unexpected places, including sauces (specifically, marina sauce), condiments, “low-fat” labeled products, cereals, prepackaged/flavored oatmeal, breads, and flavored yogurts. Even without dessert, you could be exceeding your daily allowance for sugar—and not even know it.
Cut It Out or Just Cut Back
Here are some tips to help you avoid sugar, so it will stop storing unwanted belly fat, causing brain fog, hindering your immune system, and wreaking havoc on your hormones.
1. Cut out all added sugar in your breakfast! Sugar should in no way be involved in the start of your day, unless it’s a big bowl of fruit. Here are some ideas to stick to a sugar-free morning:
2. “Snacky” foods can be dangerous because they tend to have hidden sugar.
- Instead of flavored Greek yogurt with all of the syrup, fructosevand artificial flavors, try replacing a plain Greek yogurt bowl. Add your own frozen fruit the night before, and let it thaw out over the yogurt, creating the perfect parfait. I like to mix in a small amount of protein powder to flavor the plain yogurt, add walnuts, and cinnamon.
- Even smoothies can be packed with too much sugar for a morning. Try adding half of an avocado instead of a full banana to your smoothies. Instead of fruit juice, use almond milk or water as your base. Add superfoods, such as hempseeds, chai seeds, or flaxseeds (or all three) for added protein, Omega-3s and fiber. These will help fill you up and make the smoothie feel more like a meal.
Packages often have multiple serving sizes per container. For example, if there are 10 grams of sugar in one serving, but five servings in the container, you could actually be consuming 50 grams of sugar. Make sure the serving of sugar is less than 10 grams, especially if the product is labeled “low-fat.” And pay close attention to protein bars or meal replacements; these tend to store excess sugar so look for bars that contain 5 grams or less and have no high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
3. Desserts, of course! Here are some quick ways to avoid some of the damage sugar in your favorite desserts can cause:
4. Sugary beverages
- When purchasing dessert, limit your portion size. In reality, avoiding dessert forever isn’t always the most logical task, but limiting yourself to smaller amounts can help to satisfy the craving, as well as reduce the amount of “sweet” your taste buds can handle.
- Whipping up your own homemade desserts? Replace the sugar with coconut palm sugar, mashed bananas, or date syrup.
*A quick word on coconut sugar: This sugar is entirely unrefined and unbleached, unlike a typical white sugar. This helps to preserve all the vitamins and minerals that the coconut has naturally. It is naturally high in amino acids, has 10,000 times more potassium, and 20 times more magnesium and iron than refined sugar. Using coconut sugar could also help to lower your risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes because its glycemic index is about half that of regular white sugar.
are often overlooked as a major source of sugar; however, they are among the main reasons that Americans’ sugar consumption is four times the recommended amount. Consider this:
- Research your favorite coffee-shop drinks; the nutrition facts are usually posted online or available at the store. Checking the sugar in your favorite drinks may change the way you look at them. If anything, choose one pump of syrup instead of the standard three, opt for a smaller size than usual, or have that mocha caramel double frap as your big treat for the week. (It shouldn’t be an everyday reward for good eating.)
- Although better than the concentrated juices, fruit juice is still processed fruit, taking out most of the fiber and nutrients of the whole fruit. Choose to eat the actual fruit instead, or dilute your juice with water or club soda.
I challenge you to keep your sugar intake under the recommended daily allowance, and notice how energetic you start out this New Year!
As a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist at HealthFit, Lauren McNeil, MS, RD, LDN, counsels clients and presents on nutrition topics throughout Sarasota. Her true passion lies in functional medicine nutrition and in cultivating a mind-body approach toward disease prevention. If you’re interested in scheduling a nutrition consult, email her at email@example.com.