For many people, the idea of a life without sugar is inconceivable. However, eating excessive amounts of sugar can have grave consequences as it increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
Many food items in your daily diet may contain more sugar than you realize, causing you to consume an unhealthy amount of sugar. While you do not have to cut sugar entirely from your diet, you can reduce sugar intake to lose weight and improve your health. So, follow these eight tips if you want to control and reduce your sugar intake.
Always Read Food Labels for Added Sugars
You may not realize it, but sugar is hidden in many foods you eat. These could be the sauces you add to your food or the granola you eat for breakfast. While this is disconcerting, the good thing is that food manufacturers are required to specify the added sugars on their food labels. These are different from natural sugars found in vegetables, fruits, grains, or dairy.
However, added sugar comes in many forms, like maltose, dextrose, sucrose, corn syrup, cane sugar, molasses, etc. To cut sugar, you must first learn to identify the added sugars mentioned on the labels. You can also check the ingredients mentioned on the packaging to see how much sugar is added to the product.
Eat Whole Foods
While reading labels can help you avoid foods with high-sugar content, a better idea is to steer away from these ultra-processed foods and turn to whole foods that are devoid of artificial substances and additives and are not refined or processed. Examples are whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, dairy, etc.
Processed foods with all the sugar, salt, fat, and flavor-enhancing additives are exceptionally tasty, but all the artificial ingredients and added sugars make them harmful to health. So when you go grocery shopping, stick to the fresh and whole food section and fill up your cart with these rather than the packaged foods.
Avoid Sugary Drinks
Sugary drinks are one of the major sources of added sugars in the diet. From sweetened tea to energy drinks and sodas, you may be drinking lots of sugar without realizing it. Even drinks that are perceived to be healthy, like smoothies or fruit juices, contain added sugar in abundance. Since these drinks do not compensate for solid food, you may not eat less to compensate for it, causing you to consume more calories. Hence if you want to reduce your sugar intake and lose weight, cut back on sugary drinks and replace them with black coffee or tea, herbal or green teas, plain or sparkling water, etc.
Avoid Sugar-free Foods
You may consider sugar-free foods a healthier alternative, but artificially sweetened food may not always be a good choice. Sugar-free foods have fewer calories, but if consumed excessively, they can hamper the glucose metabolism process and alter the gut microbiome makeup, causing you to crave sugar even more. Moreover, artificial sweeteners like aspartame are not considered good for health either.
Find Substitutes for Sugar in Recipes
If you are fond of making desserts, one way to cut back on sugar is to reduce the amount of sugar suggested in the recipe. You will realize that reducing sugar will not make much difference to the taste. Reducing sugar sometimes allows other flavors in the recipe to shine through, making the dish taste even better.
You can also add alternatives to reduce sugar. For instance, you can add unsweetened applesauce to the recipe to increase its sweetness. Also, focus on enhancing the flavor through seasonings and spices.
Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth with Natural Sugars
If you have a sweet tooth, eat food having natural sugar rather than desserts loaded with refined sugar. Fruits can help satisfy your sweet tooth while reducing your overall sugar intake and helping you consume healthy substances like vitamins, minerals, fibers, antioxidants, etc. Make fruit salads and top with Greek yogurt and nuts for an ultimate snack or dessert.
Flavor Your Own Food
Flavored foods like yogurt and milk are artificially sweetened. So if you want to cut sugar, using unflavored food and adding your own flavors may be helpful. For instance, you can add frozen fruit to Greek yogurt or milk. Similarly, if you like oatmeal, buy plain ones and add honey, fruits, or nuts to enhance the flavor.
Remove Temptations from Your House
Last, but not the least, you need a lot of willpower to cut back on sugar if you have previously been consuming an excessive amount. However, if you have high-sugar foods in your house, it may be difficult for you to avoid the temptation.
You may not be able to keep all such foods out of the house if you live with other people. However, you can encourage everyone to adopt a healthier lifestyle and reduce temptations from the house. Moreover, healthier alternatives must be available to cope with sudden sugar cravings.
When it comes to adopting a healthy lifestyle, your mindset plays the most important role. Sugar itself is not bad, but what matters is the amount and form in which it is consumed. If you want a healthy relationship with sugar, you must first accept that you cannot eliminate sugar from your diet.
Instead of switching to sugar-free alternatives or banning them completely, find ways to reduce sugar consumption and go for natural substitutes wherever possible. You will soon find yourself enjoying healthier treats while experiencing weight loss and an improvement in your health.