How much sugar do you eat everyday? I’m not talking about the natural sugar in an orange, or a sweet potato, but the added sugars you eat. Think about it for a minute. Do you have any idea? If you’re like most people you DON’T have much idea at all. That’s not really your fault though, because food manufacturers aren’t required to list the added sugars on labels (and that’s a whole other blog post). I’ll give you a clue though, in the US the average yearly sugar consumption per person is 150 pounds. POUNDS! We eat, on average, a full grown woman worth of sugar every year! That works out to .41 pounds of sugar a day. That’s a lot of sugar. No wonder we are experiencing epidemic rates of obesity and diabetes.
But how is all of this sugar finding its way into our diet? No one uses almost a half pound of sugar in their morning coffee, or has 200 pixie sticks in a day. Where is it all coming from? And how do we get it out of our diets and out of our bodies?
The answer is both simple and complex. Sugar is added to nearly every processed food available. Peanut Butter? Yep. Catsup? Yes. Mayonnaise? Check. Bread? Oh yeah. Salad Dressing? You know it. And those are just the easiest to think of as I sit here writing this. We all know sodas are loaded with sugar, but so are those ‘healthy’ tea drinks that are so popular, as well as ‘juice’ drinks that aren’t really juice at all, but water, sugar, food coloring, and some flavorings to make them taste sort of like juice. And don’t even get me started on the energy drinks I see everyone pounding. Basically any food that is processed, or labeled as low-fat, is going to be loaded with added sugars. And the crappy part is that so much of that added sugar is High Fructose Corn Syrup, which is processed much differently by your body than cane sugar, coconut nectar, and other natural sugars.
So, how do we get the enormous amount of added sugar out of our diets? Here’s where it gets a bit tricky folks.
First, and most importantly, you HAVE to get the sweetened drinks out of your diet. STOP DRINKING SODAS! That alone will make a huge dent in your added sugar consumption. And don’t switch to diet sodas—they are even worse than regular. Artificial Sweeteners are their own topic for another day, so for now just trust me on this. In fact, stop drinking sweetened beverages in general. I’ll let you put a couple of teaspoons of raw sugar in your coffee, but otherwise—kick those sugar-bomb drinks to the curb. I know it sounds boring, but replace them with water and you will see an immediate improvement in your health. Infuse your water with fresh fruits and veggies to give it some zip and added nutrients.
Secondly, stop eating processed, refined carbohydrate foods. No more ‘healthy’ cereal bars, breads, bagels, rolls, cookies, cakes, etc. Not even the ones touted as being whole-grain. They all have added sugars.
Third, eliminate anything labeled low-fat. Nearly every single product labeled low-fat replaces fat with sugars (or sugar substitutes). You’re just trading a necessary nutrient for an unnecessary, non-nutrient.
Fourth, learn to make your own Salad Dressings, and if you’re feeling creative go ahead and make your own Mayonnaise, Catsup, Cocktail Sauce, etc. Condiments are generally loaded with sugars, but at home you can whip them up in a few minutes and customize them to your own taste. You can find recipes right here on my website, just click the 'recipe' tag in the tag-cloud.
Fifth and finally, and this is going to be a tough one for some folks, cut back on your alcohol. Alcohol is processed just like a sugar, and while some alcohol (especially red wine) is fine in moderation the facts are that most of us are drinking a lot more than the recommended limits, and a lot of those drinks are sweet cocktails, and flavored spirits that use added sugars to achieve those ‘birthday cake/s’mores/coconut flavors. So give it a try. Your liver, hormones, and waistline will thank you.
All Five of the above suggestions, lead me to reiterate my favorite Healthy Eating Mantra, Just Eat Real Food! or JERF. You’ve probably been seeing that hashtag popping up on twitter and Instagram lately, and you’ll be seeing it a lot more on my social media posts. If you can make the switch from processed crap to Real Food, you and your health are going to be unbreakable!
You can do this, I believe in you.
What color is your sugar-demon? Are you a soda junkie, a cookie monster, a cocktail maven? Let’s talk about it in the comments section. We all have our triggers—even me!
——Hey, are you on Periscope? If so, you can find me on there and join in on my live chats! I talk about all the topics you’d expect; healthy choices, nutrition, movement practices, and emotional wellness. And sometimes I bring you into my kitchen and we make yummy food. My handle is tenaciousacorn, and the App is free if you don’t have it yet. I hope I’ll see you over there soon!