Bust that sugar habit in four easy steps

Tucson Medical Center is part of the Mayo Clinic Care Network.

Is hidden sugar adding inches to your waistline? Laurie Ledford, Registered Dietitian, follows this video from the Mayo Clinic with four easy steps for reducing the sugar in your diet:

Step 1 – Know Where the Sugar Is

Major Sources:

  • sugar-sweetened soda, energy drinks, sports drinks, sweet iced tea
  • fruit drinks
  • grain-based desserts (e.g., cakes, cookies, doughnuts, pies and granola bars)
  • dairy desserts (e.g., ice cream custard)
  • candy
  • ready-to-eat cereals
  • breads

Sugar can also be found lurking in salsas and sauces, such as ketchup. You have to read the ingredients label to find it. You may see sugar called by many different names on food labels. Some of its aliases are dextrose, confectioner’s powdered sugar, corn syrup solids, fructose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), invert sugar, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, molasses, nectars (e.g., peach nectar, pear nectar), syrups (corn, maple) or sucrose. If you add brown sugar, raw sugar, honey or agave syrup to your food or drink, you are still adding sugar.

But what about the sugar in fruit?

Yes, there are naturally occurring sugars in fruit (also in other minimally processed foods, such as milk), but these are accompanied by essential nutrients. Processed foods with added sugars are usually nutrient-poor. Said another way, they are just empty calories… until you see them sitting on the back of your thighs.

Step 2 – Know Your Limit

The American Heart Association recommends limiting the calories you consume from added sugars. For most women, the limit is 100 calories or 25 grams per day. For most men, the limit is 150 calories or 37 grams. You know your limit, now how to figure out how much you’re eating.

Step 3 – Know How Much You Are Eating

Read the Nutrition Facts panels on packaged foods, and remember to pay attention to the number of servings you are actually eating. If you have a smartphone try an online nutrition app like MyFitnessPal for tracking.

If you are adding sweeteners yourself be familiar with what the caloric intake is

  • 1 tsp sugar = 16 calories
  • 1 tsp maple syrup = 17 calories
  • 1 tsp molasses = 19 calories
  • 1 tsp honey = 21 calories
  • 1 tsp agave syrup = 21 calories

And if you add more than 1 teaspoon multiply the calories accordingly.

Step 4 – Cut Back Where You Can

Here are some suggestions from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, publisher of the Nutrition Action Health letter:

  • Cut back on soft drinks (which they call “liquid candy”) and sweet tea. Instead, try club soda, seltzer, unsweetened tea, low-fat or non-fat milk. Better yet, drink water.
  • Avoid fruit drinks, -ades and cocktails. These are essentially non-carbonated soda pop. Sunny Delight, Fruitopia, and others are only 5-10 percent juice. If you want juice, choose 100 percent juice and watch your portion size.
  • Limit candy, cookies, cakes, pies, doughnuts, granola bars, pastries and other sweet baked goods. Eat fruit, veggies or nuts instead.
  • Fat-free cakes, cookies and ice cream may have as much added sugar as their fatty counterparts, and they’re often high in calories. “Fat-free” on the package doesn’t mean fat-free on your waist or thighs.
  • Look for breakfast cereals that have no more than 8 grams of sugar per serving.

We all have some special sweets we don’t want to give up forever. You don’t have to. Instead, treat them as indulgences and eat them less often or in smaller portions. You can also prepare them yourself, so that you can control the amount of added sugar that goes into them. As a challenge, try gradually reducing the amount of sugar in your recipes to see how little you can get away with.

Another option you might want to try is using artificially sweetened beverages and desserts. Not everyone likes artificial sweeteners, but they can help some people satisfy their sweet tooth without the extra calories or rise in blood sugar.

Start today! Break your sugar addiction.

Challenge yourself to try one or more of these easy strategies for cutting back on wasted calories:

  • I will replace one sugar-sweetened beverage with an equivalent amount of water on at least three days during the next week.
  • I will try a breakfast cereal that contains less than 8 grams (2 teaspoons) of sugar per serving.
  • The next time I eat yogurt, I will replace half of the sweetened yogurt with plain yogurt. (Then I can save the other half of that sweetened yogurt for the next day.)
  • The next time I bake, I will reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe by 25 percent. (For example, use 3/4 cup instead of 1 cup of sugar.)
  • The next time I order dessert in a restaurant, I will share half (or more) of it with someone else.

Need support in making healthy changes to your diet?

Tucson Medical Center offers personalized nutritional assessments by registered dietitians to help you reach your goals.

Laurie Ledford MS RD aka The Nutritionista
Laurie is a Registered Dietitian from Atlanta, Georgia, the land of grits, collard greens and super-sweet iced tea. She works as a Registered Dietitian at Tucson Medical Center. She enjoys helping people improve their health through sustainable dietary changes while still relishing occasional indulgences. In her off hours, Laurie engages in foodie pursuits such as sampling unusual flavor combinations (olive oil and basil ice cream was a good one) and discovering delicious food and beverage pairings. She is still trying to find the perfect wine to serve with Brussel sprouts.

 

 


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