The holidays fly by and before anyone is really ready, it’s January 1! For some, the new year is a time of change, a time for goal setting and making newer, healthier lifestyle choices. One truly positive lifestyle change is cutting excess sugar from your diet. Too much sugar from processed foods, sweets, and even juices can cause many health issues, like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
Interestingly, the federal government only recently adopted guidelines for limiting sugar intake. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting the amount of added sugars in your diet to no more than 10 percent of daily calories. That’s about 12 teaspoons of sugar a day, which is equal to ¼ cup of sugar. To put that in perspective, a can of Coke contains nearly 10 teaspoons. Here are nine tips to aid in transitioning to a low-sugar lifestyle and removing the excess sugar from your diet.
Cutting sugar cold turkey, while not impossible, can be very difficult. Sugar is in just about everything at the grocery store, whether it occurs naturally or added to processed foods. Your body is addicted to sugar, so cutting it out of your diet can cause withdrawal symptoms such as headaches and fatigue. Start slow by removing one major source of sugar like soda or juice from your diet at a time.
Eliminate Processed Foods
Eliminating processed foods can be difficult since many foods are processed and pre-packaged. Transition to one-ingredient foods, like fresh or frozen vegetables and fruits, and fresh meats. Making these items the bulk of your diet cuts down on a great deal of excess sugar.
Read Food Labels
Become an expert on reading food labels. Sugar has at least 61 different names on food labels. Even organic, packaged food can be full of sugar. Be your own advocate and choose foods wisely.
Planning meals is good to do on many levels. Not only will planning help to manage how much sugar is in your diet, it can help to save money as well. Making sure that all of the ingredients are on hand for what is needed is important. Additionally, cooking a bit extra can be used for lunch the next day.
Make a List and Stick to It
Along with planning meals, create a grocery list and stick to it. And don’t shop when you’re hungry. In general, poor eating decisions are made when you’re low on energy. With fast food options so readily available, it can be hard to keep on track in choosing low-sugar foods.
Choose Foods with a Low Glycemic Index
The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking system of carbohydrates based on how they affect blood sugar levels once consumed. A high GI food is rated at 70+ and will create a spike in blood glucose levels, which affects insulin release. Low GI foods, rated at 45 and below, provide longer lasting and sustained energy. Not only do low GI foods reduce the incidence of diabetes, but protect heart health, increase brain function, and manage acne. The Harvard University Medical School publishes a glycemic index of 60 foods, which may be found on the Internet.
Get Rid of Condiments
Ketchup has 17 grams of sugar in one tablespoon, and you know you never use only one tablespoon. Barbecue sauce, mayonnaise, salad dressing, marinades, and teriyaki sauce all have a lot of sugar. It’s not possible to eliminate everything, but there are many options for making your own low- to no-sugar condiments. Here is a list from greatist.com of low-sugar condiments you can make at home.
The best bet, as mentioned earlier, is to not to get too hungry. Keeping low-sugar snacks on hand at all times is truly helpful when running around is unavoidable. Simple foods to pack are nuts or a protein bar with 7 gram of sugar or less. Hummus, vegetables, or string cheese are great to grab on-the-go as well.
It’s Okay to Falter
Going sugar-free is not easy. Sometimes you eat food without even realizing the sugar content until after you have consumed it. Chalk that up to a lesson learned, and don’t eat it next time. Furthermore, it’s okay to choose to eat a sweet snack once in a while. The overall goal is to lower the daily sugar consumption.
Eliminating excess sugar is a great goal as you head into 2019. The health benefits are numerous and are felt relatively quickly. Moderation is key in eliminating the sugar and moving forward with a new lifestyle.
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