Recent guidelines from the World Health Organization recommend that added sugar should not exceed 10% of your diet. That translates to about 30-50grams per day or 6-10 teaspoons of sugar depending on the age. Many persons have consumed free sugar from childhood, so stopping may be much more difficult than they think. Have you ever considered stopping or reducing sugar intake? How successful was it? Although, you may desire to reduce sugar intake, without a clear strategy or plan, you may become overwhelmed or discouraged.
Consider 5 simple ways of reducing sugar intake:
1. Find a motivation to reduce sugar consumption
Find a reason for reducing free sugars. You can consider the health problems associated with excessive intake. For instance, some people have found out that they are unable to reduce weight because of their consumption of sugary foods. Others may have dental caries or other health problems. It does not matter if your source of motivation is personal, work or family related. What matters most is whether you truly care about reducing sugar intake of not. If you are not motivated, it will be more difficult to sustain a low sugar life style.
2. Understand nutritional information and product labelling
Look out for labels that indicate that sugar has been added. Rather than call sugar what it really is, manufacturers sometimes use unfamiliar terms like sucrose, fructose, maltose, molasses, lactose, glucose, starch or dextrose on product packs. Do not be misled. Know what it is and when to say no to products with unusually high levels. Some individuals may choose to quantify sugar intake.
Many resources, charts, websites and apps provide much information about quantity of sugar in food items. For instance, a teaspoon of peanut butter is the equivalent of a teaspoon of sugar. Some labels only list ‘total sugar’ which includes both natural and refined sugar. Nevertheless, high levels of total sugar also suggest that a lot of free sugar has been added. According to the NHS, you may need to avoid items having total sugar levels in excess of 22.5g/100g. This may include some cereals that are coated with refined sugar or honey, so look out for these when buying wholegrain cereals.
3. Cut down or stop taking sugary drinks.
Do not reach for a bottle of soft drink every time you are thirsty. Many persons have found out that the thirst for sugary drinks diminishes significantly when drinking water is readily available. If there really a need for sugary drinks, consider diluting fruit juice with water, low fat milk or yogurt. Indeed, fruit juice has the added benefit of containing vitamins. Always remember that a bottle of soft drink contains about 7-9 cubes of sugar. That’s roughly equivalent to the recommended daily sugar requirements assuming you didn’t take sugar from other sources (which is almost impossible).
4. Be familiar with non-sugary alternatives and try them out.
Sugar essentially sweetens our meals, making food more enjoyable and palatable. Therefore, to maintain that delicious taste, use non sugary alternatives. Rather than having jams, syrups or honey on bread or pastries consider using healthier alternatives like cheese and avocado. Adding fruits like banana to cereals could help you reduce sugar consumption. You can also include oats and wholegrain bread. Instead of biscuits, cakes and other snacks, go for fresh fruits such as carrots, mango, pawpaw, banana and apple. In fact, some of these healthier items can be transformed into delicious treats such as banana milkshake, apple, peanut butter and popcorn.
5. Wean yourself off sugar
It may not really be easy to completely stop sugar intake at a go. So, try to wean yourself off.
- Decide in advance to reduce sugar consumption over a period of time.
- Actively look for and try out healthy alternatives to sugary products ahead of time. Then make them available. Stock your shelves with non-sugary foods such as peanuts.
- Identify sources of refined sugar at home and work by reviewing nutritional information on them.
- Review your eating habits. You may need to keep a food diary to accurately record your eating pattern. What triggers your craving for sugary drinks? At what time of the day does it usually occur? Having a sugar free snack available at home or office helps to deal with a sudden crave for sugar when blood glucose levels drop.
- Then make a conscious decision to cut added sugars by half while increasing healthier alternatives to make up for this.
- Inform and seek the support of your close friends and family member.
- Don’t be discouraged by a relapse, learn from the experience and try again.
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