Gone are the pies, cookies, candies, breads, rich desserts and heavy dinners. You have survived the holiday season yet the unforeseen causality could be your appetite for sweets and sugar. Sugar has a way of creeping into our diets sometimes unknowingly and as our intake increases so does our cravings.
During the holiday season, it becomes a challenge to avoid an uptick in sugar intake. A cookie exchange at the office, festive cocktails at the holiday party and traditional family dishes tug at our tummies and brains that say, “Yum, Yum give me some!”.
Add to this stresses of the season, such as shopping, parties, family time, etc leads us to an on the go mentality and a grab and go diet and even the best of us falter with our diets this time of year. Let’s get to work on how reset your palate and retrain your brain for acceptable sugar consumption.
Sugar – sinner and saint
Sugar is the necessary evil. Glucose aka sugar in its most basic form is the body’s preferred fuel. The muscles store glucose for energy, the liver stores glucose as a backup energy source and the brain gobbles up the glucose it needs upon consumption first. In some regard sugar is a saint, a dietary necessity as keeps our bodies in motion and brain function optimal.
Yet, with that said, sugar is also a sinner in our diets. This is due in part due to the consumption amounts and the types of sugar, mainly from processed foods we are consuming. Research shows excess sugar is not only leading to weight gain but to increasing risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and depression.
The love affair with sugar is a tainted one. Our bodies crave sugar to function, yet in excess it causes malfunction. We need to get off excess amounts of sugar not just to curb the waistlines but to prevent and stall diseased states in our bodies.
Added sugar in your diet
The recommended daily amount of added sugar is approximately 6 teaspoons for females and 9 teaspoons for males of added sugar in our diets. Examples of added sugar is sugar that we would get from processed foods or add to foods (ie sugar in coffee).
A teaspoon of sugar has 4 grams. Some yogurts we grab for an afternoon snack can have upwards of 20 plus grams of sugar, making it very easy to get to the top of the added sugar scale. Aim to get your sugar intake from naturally occurring sugars from foods such as fruits, veggies, grains, unprocessed foods. Choose unsweetend, plain versions of foods to further control the sugar content and sources.
Sugar by any other name
Sugar is called many things! Learn these and when you see them on labels, know that you are consuming essentially sugar.
A sample list of sugar nicknames are: fructose, glucose, honey, agave nectar, brown rice syrup, barley malt, corn sryup, dextrose, maltol, fruit juice & concentrate, lactose, malt syrup, maltodextrin, mannitol, molasses, sorbitol, sucrose.
Watching for these terms on labels will help you identify if this is the food for you. Also, the higher up on the ingredient list. the more of it is in that food item. If looking for an energy bar and the first ingredient is sugar well that’s a pass. If there are several types of sugar ingredients using the above list then that’s a pass too.
Sugar comes in many forms and when looking to reduce the amounts of sugar in your day, it’s important to know where you are getting the most amounts of sugar. Keep a food log of everything you eat and drink in a day and identify where the sugar is creeping in and cut it out! Liquids are often a huge source of hidden sugar as we don’t always account for what we are drinking as part of our daily intake.
If you find that you are drinking juice, sweetened beverages (including soda, coffee drinks, teas, energy drinks etc), see if you can cut back and/or swap these drinks for water. If its sugary coffee drinks, try reducing the amount of sugar (as for 1 pump of vanilla in your skim latte) or using a natural sugar substitute such as stevia.
As for what you are eating that could up the sugar tally, well that could be a number of things. Processed foods are number one on the list! Everything from condiments, frozen meals, cereals, snack foods, breads, fast foods, candy, pretty much anything that comes in a package can be contributing to your excess sugar intake.
Take a look at your log and see where there is room for cut backs. Remember fresh is best, so eat as much whole, unprocessed foods as you can and you will naturally reduce sugar intake.
Learning where your sugar intake comes from and in what form makes for a gentler transition to sugar reduction. Begin being more mindful or food choices,amounts and have an awareness of what’s going into your body. Resetting your palate to a lower sugar tolerance level will take time but it’s well worth it as your health depends on it.