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One Lump or Two – Ten Easy Ways to Reduce Your Sugar Intake

Who doesn’t love dessert?

After a delicious savory meal, there’s nothing quite like something sweet to finish off the meal. But too much sugar can take a toll on our bodies, everything from our complexion to our waistline to our teeth. While it can be tasty as a sporadic treat, having too much sugar in your diet just isn’t healthy.

Your dermatologist would recommend reducing sugar; your doctor certainly would do the same; and anyone in the field of general dentistry will agree. Sugar can especially wreak havoc on your teeth, leaving you with cavities or worse.

One thing to note about sugar is that while some of the sources are obvious, such as ice cream or cookies, many pre-packaged foods contain a surprising amount of sugar. So while some of the suggestions below seem strange when you are looking to reduce sugar, just check the labels on your food products and they will probably make sense.

Here are ten easy ways to reduce the overall amount of sugar in your regular diet:

  1. Reduce the packaging of your food. While you may not have control over the packaging of your food, the less packaging usually means that that food is less processed. Think about how much packaging there is on your box of macaroni and cheese versus your fresh spinach. Even if the packaged food item does not taste outright sweet, it probably has a generous serving of sugar included. Everything from ketchup to salad dressing has added sugars.
  2. Increase the quality of your sweets. That’s right, I know that sounds strange. However, if you allow yourself to truly enjoy a square of high-quality rich dark chocolate, you will probably eat less than if you settle for the cheap mass-produced chocolate cookies. Just remember to savor the bite you do have in order to have the result of eating less. Otherwise, you could end up mindlessly eating the entire box of truffles.
  3. Physically remove the temptations. Don’t keep a candy jar on your desk at work, and certainly do not buy the family size bag of vanilla sandwich cookies. If they aren’t right at your fingertips, it is much easier to avoid eating them. And if they are not calling your name from the kitchen cabinet, you are probably less likely to go to the store just to fulfill that temporary craving.
  4. Find alternatives if necessary. If you like to bake, sugar is a typical part of that process. But with diabetes on the rise, there are hundreds of recipes available that use sweeteners that are not refined white sugar. Intake should still be limited, but the impact of a homemade muffin made with natural applesauce is significantly reduced. Just make sure that the applesauce itself does not have added sugar!
  5. Stop drinking your sugar. Sodas are basically liquid candy bars. And the diet versions really are not any healthier, when you look at the long-term impact of most artificial sweeteners. But also keep in mind that the cream and sugar in your coffee or tea also adds up. Try slowly reducing your additives until you can enjoy it black. Certain teas also taste delicious with a squeeze of lemon.
  6. Trade liquids for solids. Instead of having a glass of apple juice with breakfast, try having a whole fresh apple. Yes, the piece of fruit still has some naturally occurring sugars, but it won’t have the added sugar of the juice. Not to mention the fact that the whole apple also contains the other vitamins and minerals and fiber that your body needs.
  7. Take your new plan with you. Plan ahead if you are going out to eat so that you are familiar with the menu(s) and can order accordingly. Most restaurants have their nutrition information available on their websites so that you can take a look at the items that have hidden sugars. When in doubt, you can always ask the wait staff what is appropriate for a diabetic because those meals must have less sugar.
  8. What not to do. One thing to keep in mind is that cutting out sugar drastically can have a ‘hangover’ or ‘withdrawal’ effect on the body, depending on how much you consumed before the change. One way to help your body adjust is to slowly wean your consumption down, and to make sure that your meals contain healthy fats such as olive oil or avocado. Having these in your meal helps reduce your brain’s desire for something sweet afterwards.
  9. All in balance. Make sure to watch your salt intake while you are actively reducing your sugar. I know that may sound counterintuitive, but when you eat foods that are overly salty, your body will naturally crave something sweet as a balance. Besides, avoiding extremely salty foods is better for your overall health anyway.
  10. Educate yourself. Sometimes the sugar on the label is obvious, and sometimes it isn’t. It can be listed as all kinds of ‘hidden’ things such as fruit juice concentrate, rice syrup, corn syrup, cane juice, and pretty much anything ending in -ose. Manufacturers like to break up the sugar so you don’t quite realize just how much the food contains. Also remember that refined white starches are the digestive equivalent of sugar.

And for a little extra motivation, here’s a quick look at the benefits of minimizing your sugar intake:

  • Avoiding the crashes that happen as part of the sugar cycle.
  • Maintaining a healthier weight.
  • Improving the elasticity of your skin.
  • And of course, your teeth will thank you tremendously!

It really isn’t as hard as it sounds. All it really takes is a little forethought, and education. And of course, everything in balance. There are alternatives to the sugar “addiction” that can make the transition so much easier. Some of the healthier options include maple syrup, agave syrup, raw honey, and stevia, as well as some more exotic options like date sugar, coconut palm sugar, and lo han fruit.