In a 2015 report, the Dietary Advisory Committee recommends that sugar should make up only 10% of our daily calorie intake at the most. So if you consume 1800 calories per day, less than 180 of those calories can come from sugar. The problem is, we eat way more than that on average. The CDC says that men eat an average of 335 calories from sugar per day, and women eat about 240. This means that most of the population needs to cut back on sugar.
This doesn’t just mean saying no to that extra piece of birthday cake. Sugar is in a lot of foods that don’t even taste sweet. Remember the 90s were when everything and anything became low-fat or no-fat? Those foods are probably loaded with sugar to compensate for the taste that was removed. Other foods like sauces, ketchup, salad dressing, and even flavored yogurt have lots of sugar.
So how do you cut back on your sugar intake, so you are eating the recommended amount? Here are a few tips to help get you there.
The FDA requires food companies to list their ingredients and the amount of each ingredient per serving. In 2014, the FDA proposed a new label that includes the percentage of daily value for sugars in food. Right now, it just has the amount of sugar, without that percentage. The change would also separate added sugars as a separate line item. It hasn’t gone through yet, and major American food associations are opposed to the change. So, in the meantime, you’ll have to do some math.
If you are eating 1800 calories per day, you should eat between 90 and 180 calories from sugar. For the sake of easy math, let’s say you eat 100 calories of sugar per day. Divide that by 4 to get the grams. 100 Calories equals about 25 grams. Divide by 4 again to get the teaspoons, which is about 6 teaspoons.
The first step to cutting back on sugar is knowing how much sugar you eat. Take a few days, and write down how many grams or teaspoons of sugar you are eating per day. Then figure out how much you want to cut back to, and start replacing some of those sugary foods with not-so-sugary ones.
Learn the Many Aliases of Sugar
While most packaged foods require a nutrition facts label, some of the food you eat may only have a list of ingredients. These ingredients are in descending order by a predominance of weight. In other words, if the main ingredient in something is water, you will see that listed first. There are a lot of different names for sugar, other than—well, sugar. Look for ingredients that end in ‘ose’ like fructose, sucrose, or glucose. Also, anything with words like malt, nectar, juice and of course, sugar. Here’s a helpful chart that lists 56 (yes, 56!) other words for sugar.
Cut Out Flavored Drinks
Everyone knows that sodas are full of sugar, but pretty much any flavored drink has added sugar. Even a bottle of iced tea could have more than eight teaspoons of sugar in it. That’s more than the daily recommended amount in just one beverage. Drink more water— it’s the best option for your health, and it’s usually free!
Cut Back Slowly
If you cut back on sugar too abruptly can lead to some intense withdrawal symptoms. You can get anxiety, mood swings, and headaches. Slowly cutting back will decrease or even eliminate these symptoms, making it easier to stick to your guns. Slower changes tend to have a better chance at lasting, especially when it comes to a diet or lifestyle change.
Eat More Protein and Healthy Fat
A diet higher in protein and fat will keep you feeling satisfied while you ease off your sugar consumption. Rather than simply cutting foods, replace them with alternatives. Try foods high in healthy fats like nuts and avocados, and foods high in protein like lean meats, legumes, and eggs.
Once you cut back on sugar, you may notice a difference in your energy level, and you’ll significantly cut down on your risk of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. And I almost forgot; your teeth will thank you too!