We all have been there! That late night trip to the ice cream store in your pajamas for a giant sundae, right? Not so quick! Sugar cravings can wreak havoc on the greatest of nutrition plans.
If you're like most people in the U.S., you eat 19 teaspoons or more of added sugar a day. That adds up to 285 calories, which health experts say is way too much. Added sugars are sugars and syrups put in foods during preparation or processing, or added at the table. Added sugars are digested more quickly than natural sugars, which can lead to a more dramatic increase in blood sugar levels. Naturally occurring sugars are found in milk, vegetables, grains and fruit. As good as it tastes, excessive consumption of added sugars can increase the risk for tooth decay, obesity, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and certain cancers.
Change the craving from "Added to Natural"
If you crave and consume a lot of sugar, it may be hard to change your diet pattern. But, the truth is that you don't need sugar as much as your body is craving. Try to limit foods with added sugars. When craving, try to choose foods with natural sugars such as milk, vegetables, grains and fruit food groups. Instead of grabbing for a cookie or candy, choose an apple with peanut butter. The sugar found in these foods is natural and offers a variety of other nutrients, such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Consumption of natural sugars helps to stabilize blood sugar and promote better food choices. Reducing intake of added sugars is a goal in the Dietary Guidelines. For 2015-2020, the Dietary Guidelines recommend added sugars be less than 10% of total calories. Limit your consumption of foods with high amounts of added sugars, such as sugar-sweetened beverages. Just one 12-ounce can of regular soda contains eight teaspoons of sugar, or 130 calories and zero nutrition.
How much is just right?
The American Heart Association(AHA) recommends limiting the amount of added sugars you consume to no more than half of your daily discretionary calories allowance. For most American women, that's no more than 100 calories per day, or about 6 teaspoons of sugar. For men, it's 150 calories per day, or about 9 teaspoons.
Graphic from the American Heart Association, daily sugar limits.
Making a plan to conquer sugar cravings!
Be a smart shopper:
- Sugar is added to many products; it's one of the main ingredients in ketchup, barbecue and spaghetti sauces and some salad dressings. Take the time to read labels. Check the ingredient list for added sugars.
Be mindful of sugar in the kitchen:
- Try a granulated sugar substitute or cut back on sugar using 2/3 to 3/4 cup for each cup in a recipe.
- Use spices and herbs such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger to enhance the flavor of foods.
- Make homemade sauces and dressings.
Replace added sugar with natural sugar snacks:
- Avoid the candy dish and cookies in the break room at the office!
- Cure a craving with a cup of plain Greek yogurt sprinkled with pomegranate seeds and walnuts.
- Try hummus with celery and carrot sticks.
- Eat regular meals, don't skip and starve.
- Drink plenty of water; sweet cravings can be a sign of dehydration.
- Add 30 minutes a day of activity to your routine.
Try some of the suggestions, start small and make gradual changes for successful outcomes. After a couple of weeks, the unstoppable cravings for something sweet become more in control. Using natural sugars as a new way of eating sweets promotes better health and saves you money from that unplanned trip in your pajamas for that giant ice cream sundae!
Today's post was written by Susan Glassman. Susan Glassman, MS Ed, is a Nutrition & Wellness Educator serving Bureau, LaSalle, Marshall and Putnam Counties. Susan believes that with the right tools and proper knowledge, we all can live a healthier and active lifestyle. Small changes create healthy outcomes in lifelong health and well-being.