Americans are shopping smarter, eating healthier, and trying to make sense out of the new American Heart Association guidelines to limit their sugar intake to 25 grams (about six teaspoons) or less per day. Learning to read labels and look for the many disguises of added sugar in our food is a great way to reduce your sugar consumption. To learn the many names for sugar, read here. But rather than counting grams or teaspoons, simply try avoiding the biggest sugar offenders in your family diet and soon you will be enjoying a sweeter life.
Common Sources of Added Sugar
Sugary beverages (soda, fruit juice, sweet coffee, flavored diary, flavored dairy alternatives, and energy drinks)
Candy and chocolates
Baked goods such as cakes, pastries and cookies
Added Sugar is often hiding in
Whole-grain cereals and granola
Gluten Free foods
Granola bars, protein bars and cereal bars
Dried fruit, canned fruit, applesauce and fruit juices
Barbecue sauce, ketchup, salad dressing and other condiments
Tips for Avoiding Added Sugars
As mentioned, it all starts with label reading and knowing the many names of sugar. Also, look for foods that are naturally sweet due to their intrinsic sugars: whole fruit, veggies, unflavored dairy.
You have heard it before, but it is good advice for a reason, walking the outer edges of the grocery store and avoid the processed food in the center is a better way to shop. Begin by filling your grocery cart up with:
Veggies - carrots, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, sugar snap peas
Whole fruit (frozen or fresh) - apples, oranges, peaches, berries, cherries, melons
The beverage aisles are overflowing with sugary dangers! Be sure to read the labels and put back any with added sugar, your family doesn’t need the sugar, caffeine or artificial additives found in many of the drinks.
Swaps for Sugary Drinks
Water - wean the family off sugary drinks by adding juice to water or sparkling water for flavor - reduce overtime
Sparkling water - there are many choices in naturally flavored, unsweetened sparkling waters with great taste
Unflavored dairy - milk is still one of the easiest ways to ensure your children are meeting their calcium needs
You can also reduce added sugar intake by using your kitchen more often. Cooking from scratch will help you eliminate processed foods and therefore, added sugars. As an added bonus, bring the kids into the kitchen and cook together. While cooking, talk about the health benefits of the food so your children will learn to appreciate what food can do for their bodies.
Try using whole berries, cinnamon, and pure vanilla extract to sweeten plain yogurt, cottage cheese, and cereals. Use less than the called for amount of sugar in recipes, start with a quarter less and reduce overtime. Give your children whole fruit sliced up and sprinkled with fresh mint instead of a sugary snack.
Most importantly, encourage a healthy relationship with food instead of focusing on a completely sugar-free or heavily restricted diet. There are no good or bad foods and sugary treats can still play a role for celebrations and special occasions. Finally, be patient and know your family’s taste buds will adjust gradually. Continue to be positive and keep trying new, naturally sweet foods!