By Jessie Funchion, MS, RD, LDN
Tis the season! For cookies, cakes, pies and more. Did you know that the average American consumes about 22 teaspoons of sugar a day? For most people, that amounts to nearly 150 pounds of added sugar a year! This far exceeds the recommended daily intake of added sugar of 36 grams (9 teaspoons) a day for men and only 24 grams (6 teaspoons) a day for women.
1) Swap out the sweet drinks
Sweetened drinks are the most common source of added sugar in American diets. To start, skip sugar in your coffee and add sweetness with a sprinkle of cinnamon. Also, nix sweetened iced tea and sodas, and switch to fruit-infused water or flavored seltzer.
2) Switch to natural sugar sources
Sugar in the form of whole fruit (fructose) or dairy (lactose) is a healthier alternative to sugary foods. Fruit and dairy come packed with fiber, protein, fat, and/or phytochemicals (the antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables). Add fruit to your oatmeal or cereal or enjoy 100% fruit juice in controlled portions (4-8oz/day). And if you must splurge for dessert, try to limit yourself to one 100-calorie treat a day or less.
3) Log your food intake for a few days
You may be surprised to find you’re consuming way more sugar than you realized. Tracking helps increase your awareness and helps you find ways to cut back. Apps like My Fitness Pal allow you to track the nutrition content of the foods you eat.
4) Check food labels for sugar content
Some foods that you THINK are healthy are often loaded with added sugar. The worst offenders include:
- Instant oatmeal
- Breakfast cereal
- Jarred pasta sauce
- Condiments like ketchup and barbecue sauce
- Salad dressings, especially fat-free dressings
- Granola bars
As a general rule, add up the grams of fiber plus the grams of protein per serving—the number should be greater than the amount of sugar. Or, simply stick to foods that have less than 5 grams of added sugar per serving.
5) Drink some water or take a nap
You may not be surprised to hear that you crave sugar when you’re tired. But, you MIGHT be surprised to find that you crave sugar when you’re actually just thirsty. Think about whether you need to rest or simply drink a cold glass of water before you reach for the sweets.