By Carolyn Brown, MS, RD
You’ve almost certainly read it somewhere over this past year: Sugar is the devil, sugar is toxic, sugar is as addictive as cocaine, sugar is killing us all! EEK! The “don’t eat that” tide completely turned from watching how much fat we’re eating to policing all things sweet. As a chocolate lover (I may be a nutritionist, but I’m human, after all), this was pretty alarming. Should we skip all things sweet? Or is it “everything in moderation”?
Well I certainly am not planning on cutting chocolate out of my life, and I don’t think the average person has to skip sweets entirely. At the same time, I don’t love the idea of the moderation argument – mostly because our idea of moderation is way off.
According to the USDA, we Americans have increased our sweet habit by 39% between 1950 and 2000. It’s estimated that the average American now eats 3 lbs of sugar a week. Holy sweet tooth! Besides, on the moderation note, as we say at Foodtrainers, who wants to feel moderately good?
Back to the sweet stuff. In March, the World Health Organization (WHO) changed the sugar guidelines, dropping the recommendation from 10% of your daily calorie intake to 5% (approximately 6 tsp or 25g/day). What do those numbers mean though? Well, consider that a can of soda has 40g; you’re well on your way to doubling your allotted sugar intake with one can of pop. And that’s not taking into consideration all the sugar snuck into most processed foods, from bread to soups and yogurts and even to deli meat/cold cuts! Ick!
Instead of moderation, let’s all practice being mindful of our sugar intake. How can you start?
- Before you reach for the calorie free sweeteners, reconsider. One of my favorite Foodtrainers tenets is “Sweet begets sweet; the more sweets you eat the more sweets you crave” Give yourself a sweet-free day (or two!) where you don’t even add sweetener to your coffee. If you must sweeten it up, try stevia, a plant-based low-calorie alternative.
- Get fruity – go for the real deal (berries are coming into season!). Fruits don’t count toward that 5% of added sugar calories. In general, 2 servings (cups) of fruit per day is a great addition and can curb that need for sweet.
- Read ingredient labels: Sugar is snuck into so many foods, and not just in the form of high-fructose corn syrup (though avoid that first and foremost). Look also for glucose, fruit concentrates, dextrose, sucrose, and evaporated cane juice. For a good list, look here.
I know since becoming more aware of my sugar intake (and skipping sweetener in my coffee), my sweet tooth has decreased big time.
So are you a sugar addict? Or have you cut back on your sugar intake recently? What foods are you most surprised to see sugar is added to?