According to the CDC, Americans eat far too much added sugar. Routine consumption of excess added sugar can lead to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. If you want to live longer and feel better, managing your sugar intake is essential. Examples of added sugars are honey, syrups, table sugars, and ingredients that sometimes end in “-ose” such as dextrose and sucrose. Naturally occurring sugars, such as those in whole fruits and milk, are not considered added sugars, unlike those in processed foods. Fruits contain fibers that help the body to breakdown the sugar; whereas, added sugars can cause the body to have unnatural spikes and drops in insulin.
To identify how much added sugar is in a food product, check the Nutrition Facts label. The recommended intake for added sugar is 10% or less of your daily total calories. The typical American eats more than double that. Children under 2 years of age are not recommended to have added sugar at all. Though, if you try to buy snacks intended for children, even infants, you will be hard-pressed to find options without added sugar. Do you have a salty or savory snack that you do not consider a sweet? Check the added sugars, and it may rival a dessert in its sugar content. Most processed foods contain added sugar, regardless of sweetness. Processed foods that claim to be low, or no, sugar often contain added sweeteners. If you make it a habit to read the labels, you will be shocked at how much added sugar is in our regular diet.
Although it is ideal to avoid processed foods entirely, our demanding lives rely on these conveniences. When I attempted to limit sugar for myself and my family, I encountered challenges in the grocery store, in the kitchen, and at the dinner table. As a busy, working parent, I do not have time to make everything from scratch. I do not want to add futile arguments with my family to our limited hours together. I cannot spend hours reading labels and finding low sugar recipes. The search for healthy, convenient, and (ideally) appetizing options has been a long one.
Our family continues to fight the good fight, slaving over scratch meals when we can, and compromising on the days we cannot swing it. We limit obvious added sugars, like cake, to special occasions, and make a fuss over more natural sweets whenever we can, such as delicious protein smoothies with unsweetened chocolate and frozen cherries. This has helped us to appreciate and enjoy replacement foods, rather than feeling deprived. If we drink lemonade, for example, we water it down a bit, and savor the cool sweetness. Most of the time, you cannot tell the difference, or it is even more refreshing. The less added sugar and artificial sweetener you eat, the more satisfying that natural sugars, such as whole fruit, will taste to you. The more artificial sweeteners you use, which are sweeter to your brain than sugar, the more difficult it will be to enjoy sweet tastes.
Then again, a piece of chocolate cake will ALWAYS taste good. Just save that scrumptious cake for when it counts. On the other days, take advantage of these taste-tested products we routinely stock in our home which contain no added sugar, or low amounts of natural sugar, and are available at grocers and online.
YOGURT: Yogurts, especially those for children, are FULL of added sugar. Several brands of almond based, or even milk-based yogurt have an unsweetened vanilla option. Top with fruit, shredded coconut, and granola to avoid the added sugars.
PEANUT BUTTER: Buy peanut butter that only has peanuts in the ingredients (or only added salt). If the oil separates from the pulp, stir it well with a long spoon such as a teaspoon, then refrigerate it to avoid further separation.
PANCAKE SYRUP: Buy canned peaches without added sugars and blend. Store in the refrigerator and pour as fruit syrup on your favorite whole grain/low sugar pancakes. Use moderately because canned fruit does not have the fiber of whole fruit.