According to https://www.statista.com 42% of Americans have made the resolution that this year they will eat healthier! Is it because we’ve all been at home doing more baking and trying new recipes? Is it because we’ve been hesitant to sign up for The Wellness Center’s Virtual gym and the pounds are packing on? Is it because we are now working from home and just well…eating more and moving less? All of these are great possibilities! And where there are great possibilities, there is also room for great success! Let’s look at how sugar can be super confusing and sometimes the biggest robber to steal away our will power, goals and energy!
First things first…Are you in the club? Do you know the sugar tooth club? The “I can’t say no to baked goods gang?” Maybe the “I’ll just eat half,” juxtaposition. You aren’t alone! Americans eat WAAAAY too much sugar! Sometimes, we don’t even know it! We see things that say, “no sugar added.” Yet, when we check the nutrition facts, it is filled with sugar! We see things that say, “all-natural sugar,” oh that must be healthy, right? Sugar is sugar! Your body isn’t that fancy to process all those “healthy, natural organic sugars,” and then just ditch the refined ones. So, say it with me, “sugar is sugar.” And before you trick yourself into thinking maple syrup and honey are safe, get realistic. Don’t trust everything you see, even salt looks like sugar sometimes! (that’s supposed to be funny.)
“Sugar” is the basic term for a class of chemically related, sweet-flavored substances, most of which are used as “food.” These carbohydrates are composed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. There are different types of sugar derived from different sources. You may know of white sugar, brown sugar, dark brown sugar, light brown sugar, cane sugar and even raw sugar. Yet, at the end of the day, they are all sugars, just with different names. There are also sugars that we hear of that are called beet sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, light corn syrup, and the list goes on. These too are carbohydrate sweeteners with little to no nutritional value. For those who struggle with sugar and that sweet tooth seems to win each battle, here are a few tips to help.
First and foremost, make the decision and commitment to yourself to eat less sugar and identify where the sugar is coming from. Do you eat sweetened cereal, chew gum, or enjoy sweetened beverages? All of these items add up, and before you know it, you are consuming more than your daily intake in one serving. Learn to read nutrition facts and look for sneaking hidden sugars in food. Remember, they aren’t always called “sugar”; it may be listed as a syrup or in many different forms with the ending “ose”, i.e. fructose, glucose, etc.
A second way to cut sugar is to stick to natural foods. Yes, fruit has sugar in it but enjoying a crisp and refreshing apple is always better, more filling and usually lasts longer than a handful of M&Ms®. You may find that eating fruit helps you get your “sweet tooth fix” just as well as the other non-nutritious options, and without the “sugar rush.” Not to mention, fresh fruit is full of vitamins, minerals, nutrients and filling fiber. Play around with fruits to see what ones you may like. To save money, look for what’s on sale and in season. Right now, citrus is a great option and it’s in season. If you like the idea of “popping” treats in your mouth, go for grapes and berries. Need more variety? Make a fruit salad! Fruit is the original taste of the rainbow!
Lastly, and ooh this is hard. It may be time to remove all those unhealthy sugary treats from your home and then of course, stop buying them. If there isn’t ice cream readily available in the freezer, chances are you are less likely to eat it. And don’t try to bargain with yourself to make these sugary items healthy, we all know the tricks of “ice cream is my calcium” and “that juice flavored drink has vitamin C.” If you have to talk yourself into eating something, maybe that item is not for you. Go through those cupboards and get rid of all the items you know you don’t feel good about eating. Then the next time that sweet tooth hits, you won’t automatically hit up your candy drawer, because it won’t be there. Sometimes the extra effort of having to fulfil your sugar craving is enough to kick it. BUT, if you have a nice selection of fresh fruit handy, you may be able to curb that craving instead.
No one says you must go cold turkey or quit sugar altogether, this is your life! Just be mindful of the empty calories that aren’t servicing your body or your health. Make your daily food priorities revolve around veggies, lean protein, low-fat dairy, whole grains, nuts, seeds and fruit. Filling up on these will literally leave less room for a sweet fix. When in doubt or when cravings hit and you can’t say no, remember serving sizes and moderation. Sweet treats will feel that much more special if they aren’t your regular go to’s. Little tricks like these add up to lots of sugar saved- and over time become more natural habits. Cutting out extra sugar may also help you maintain/lose weight, achieve healthy blood sugar, have more energy, sleep better, reduce brain-fog and so much more! Who doesn’t want all that? Stepping away from sugar could be one step closer to a new life of feeling like the “true you,” that is healthy, happy and mindful. There’s more to life than sugar!
Director of The Wellness Center