I am a firm believer of the goodness of natural whole foods. So when I refer to reducing your sugar intake it refers to only reducing your added sugar intake and not the natural sugars present in fruits and vegetables.
WHO recommends adults and children to reduce their intake to less than 10% of their daily energy intake. That roughly translates to about 38gm (9 teaspoons) for men, 25g (6 teaspoons) for women and 12-25g (3-6 teaspoons) for children per day. If you are saying to yourself now that you don’t really consume 8 teaspoons of sugar, think again. That can of soda that you had the other day has 40gm of sugar (that’s about 10 teaspoons), thats about twice the amount recommended for women and children. A bottle of Ice tea has 26g of sugar.
You can read about the negative effects of added sugar on your health here. The key to reducing sugar in your diet is by reducing the amount of added sugar that you consume, sometimes without even knowing. Below are 7 tips to reduce your added sugar intake
1. Avoid packaged products as much as possible
The number one tip I have to reduce added sugar intake is to reduce buying packaged products. Added sugar is hiding in 74% of packaged foods. Most of us think that added sugar is present only in desserts like cakes, cookies or muffins, but its also found in many savory products that you find in your grocery store like cereals, pasta sauce, bread, etc. Even products which are promoted and labeled as ‘healthy’ have a good amount of added sugar in them. Avoiding packaged products (or reducing, since I know its really hard to totally avoid packaged products these days) is one of the best things you can do for your health.
2. Read labels on processed food
Tip number 2 is closely related to tip 1, since we can’t really avoid all packaged products its good to read the labels before buying so that we make well informed decisions. If you find sugar mentioned within the 1st 5 ingredients of that product that means its high in sugar. A rough indication would be that anything more than 10gm per 100gm of the products means thats its high in sugar. Now, the confusing part is that sugar comes with so many names. There are 61 names for added sugar in food labels. Some of the most common ones you should look for are:
- Anything ending with sugar of course (castor sugar, brown sugar, coconut palm sugar, date sugar, grape sugar)
- Ending with syrup (Corn syrup, golden syrup, malt syrup, rice syrup)
- Ending with ‘ose’ (Maltose, fructose, dextrose, glucose, sucrose)
- Fruit juice concentrate
3. Eat enough protein
We generally crave for sugary food when the body needs a quick energy fix or mood uplift. Foods high in simple carbohydrates raise the blood sugar and soon enough you’ll get a dip of energy mid-morning and you’ll reach out for that unhealthy snack.. Getting enough protein throughout the day helps the body stay satiated and you will be less likely to snack on sugary food. Protein helps to keep the blood glucose levels steady and it prevents glucose spikes which in turn, reduces the sugar cravings. Consuming a minimum of 15-20g of protein with every meal can help your sugar craving in check throughout the day.
4. Eat enough good fat
Although fats have gotten a bad repo, experts are finally realising that healthy fats are in fact good for your body . Along with protein a good intake of fat can keep your blood glucose levels steady and hence reduce your sugar craving. Fats also gives you a feeling of fullness since it doesn’t get digested as quickly as simple carbohydrates (rice, white flour etc). Some of the best fats that you can add to your diet are nuts, seeds, avocados, coconut oil, fatty fish. You can read more about the effects of fat and protein on the glucose levels here.
5. Be careful of drinks
We all have got accustomed to getting a drink to go with our lunch / dinner. But be mindful that drinks can contain a lot of added sugar. Especially the canned/bottled drinks. You can find a list of amount of added sugar in some of the popular drinks here. If you are so used to having a drink go for natural alternatives like butter milk, kombucha etc or better yet just have flavoured water (lemon in water, herbs in water)
6. Keep sugary snacks out of reach
One of the easiest ways to load ourselves up with sugar is by having sugary snacks around the house. When that hunger pang or craving hits and if you have a sugary snack in sight you are more likely to reach for this sugary snack than a healthy snack say carrots with a dip. You are less likely to go to a shop, buy a sugary snack and eat it in the middle of your hunger.
Also, keep healthy snacks in your reach. Always keep a snack box of some nuts/seeds with you when you travel. Or you could even make it a bit interesting by adding something special when you really feel like it. Adding fruits or dried fruits can help satisfy that sweet craving that you have. One of my favourite ‘dessert’ to have at home is greek yogurt with some dried berries, a perfect balance of sour and sweet and also enough protein and fats.
7. Have occasional treats.
And finally, have occasional treats. If you avoid it totally you are more likely to get back to it. And there is no harm in having a treat once in a while. That way you are not completely denying yourself of anything. After all, eating well is all about balance.
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