By: Rachel Gargano MS, RD, LDN, CSSD
Added sugar is ubiquitous in our processed food supply — it’s hard to get away from it! Given sugar’s highly addictive properties, you’ve got a dangerous combination.
Eating too many carbohydrates (which break down into sugar) causes spikes in blood sugar, which may lead to increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and many other ailments.
So what steps can you take to help reduce the amount of sugar you consume? One of the first things you can do is avoid the “junk” aisles. These processed foods offer very little nutrition but plenty of calories. Cutting down on them will help you save money, save your waistline and save your health.
Here are some other tips for reducing sugar:
Replace a variety of processed snacks with a variety of produce.
Studies show that when we have multiple types of crackers or cookies or other goodies, we are likely to eat more. This is because the novelty of seeing a different cookie, even after we’ve had one (or two or three), will make us think we’re hungry even if we’re not. The same goes for eating at a buffet or putting serving dishes on the table — the more we see, the more we eat.
But variety of produce is good! The greater variety and amount of produce we eat, the healthier we are.
What to Do: Instead of buying lots of different processed snacks for the family, purchase an abundance of fruit and vegetables.
Keep produce in sight.
To help re-train the brain and reduce added sugars, choose a piece of fruit every time a sweet craving hits. This way you are telling the brain that these foods satisfy your hunger as well as your sweet tooth. The more often you do this, the more your brain will begin craving produce rather than processed sweets.
What to Do: Keep the produce in sight – such as on the counter or at eye level in the fridge. This way you are triggered to choose that first. Hide any processed foods in cabinets or behind other foods so that they are “out of sight, out of mind.”
Replace soda with seltzer water.
One can of soda has 12 teaspoons of sugar and one bottle has upwards of 16 teaspoons. When our goal is to have only 6-9 teaspoons (women/men) per day…a soda pushes us way over.
What to Do: Have a glass of unsweetened (no artificial or regular sweeteners) flavored seltzer water and add squeezes of lime, lemon or orange for zing.
Doctor your desserts.
Purchased dessert-type foods are often laden with sugar and empty calories, so make your own delicious and nutrient-packed snacks!
- Apple “pie”: Cut and apple, sprinkle with cinnamon, and microwave until just tender.
- Chocolate “pudding”: Mix together ½ cup unsweetened almond milk, 2 tbsp chia seeds, ½ – 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 tsp (real) maple syrup, ½ tsp vanilla. Stir and let sit refrigerate at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. (You can double or triple batch this for multiple servings over the week!)
- Berry “sherbet”: Mix together ½ cup frozen blueberries with 6 oz plain Greek yogurt (Optional: add ½ tsp honey or (real) maple syrup and/or cinnamon).
- Banana “ice cream”: Blend together frozen banana chunks, cinnamon, and 1 tsp nut butter.
- Pumpkin “pie” smoothie: Blend together banana, 1/2c canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling), ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice, 1–1.5 cups unsweetened almond milk, ½ tsp vanilla.
For more information on how to reduce the sugar in your diet and reduce cravings, check out our special new 30-Day Guided Reboot for Sugar Addiction! During this Reboot, I’ll share smart tactics to help you cut sugar and eat healthier in general. As with every Reboot, you’ll commit to five days of eating, blending and juicing only whole fruits and vegetables, followed by 25 days of consuming only juice. As well as getting daily online support, you’ll also have five live webinars, and meal plans, recipes and shopping lists that’ll help you re-train your brain to crave healthy, good-for-you foods. Sign up today!