Cutting Down on Sugar? We Can Help.

Granola for breakfast. A sweet mid-morning latte. A 3 pm pick-me-up… Some days, your sugar intake can spike above recommended levels without even realizing it. And while we all love a sweet treat every once in a while, this is one area of your diet it’s best to keep track of. Eating too much sugar is one of the worst things you can do for your body, and it’s been linked to everything from diabetes to heart disease. So how much should we be eating? No more than 5-10% of your daily calories should come from added sugar. For an average 2000-calorie diet, that means about 12 teaspoons, max – and ideally more like 8. To put that in context, just one can of soda pop contains about 10 teaspoons – that’s 85 percent of your daily allowance!

But wait a minute…aren’t some supposedly “healthy” foods high in natural sugar? Yep – fruits, veggies and milk all naturally contain some sugar. But, because they’re also packed with fibre, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, they still absolutely have a place in a balanced diet.

So…want to try and get your sugar intake under control? We promise it’s not that hard. Here are some tips to keep in mind.

Avoid Sugary Drinks

Remember what we said about a can of soda in the opening paragraph? Yep. Soft drinks are an easy way to exceed your daily dose of sugar in one shot. Try and make them a once-in-a-while treat rather than an everyday indulgence. This applies to seemingly “healthy” sweet drinks, too – sports drinks are high in sugar, with no nutritional value…and do the same job as a glass of water…or some hydrating fruits and veggies! And even 100% fruit juice is generally best avoided. Sure, it’ll give you many of the vitamins and minerals of a piece of fruit – but it also has a lot more sugar, and next to no fibre.

So next time you’re feeling thirsty, try to reach for sparkling water or an iced herbal tea. Still need to jazz things up? Try adding sliced fruit or fresh herbs to your water. It’s easy and oh-so refreshing.

Start the Day Off Right

We’ve been over this before…breakfast really is as important as people say. It’s also one of the easiest meals to accidentally overdo it on the sugar. Many seemingly wholesome breakfasts, like muffins, cereals, granola and instant oatmeal, can be absolutely loaded with sugar. Instead, go for homemade oatmeal with fresh fruit and cinnamon, yogurt with fruits and nuts, eggs or some Instagram-ready whole-grain toast with avocado. If you take a minute to think about added sugar, it’s easy to see what the smart choices are. And eating a healthy breakfast really does set the tone for the rest of your day.

Eat Whole Foods

This little piece of advice will come up again and again, no matter what topic we’re addressing. The fact is, eating whole foods is one of the healthiest choices you can make. That means selecting ingredients that haven’t been processed or refined in any way, like whole grains, dried beans and fresh produce. By eating whole foods, you’re automatically avoiding added sugars, artificial flavours and trans fats. Home cooking isn’t always possible in a hectic lifestyle – but the health benefits are undeniable. Make an effort and cook real food from scratch whenever you can. That way, when you have to “cheat,” you have no reason to feel guilty about it.

Eat More Fat and Protein

How do you prevent sugar cravings? Eat meals that satisfy you for longer. That means getting enough fat and protein.  A diet high in heart-healthy fats might seem counter-intuitive for weight management, but studies show that it actually reduces your appetite. Plus, it’s great for heart health and cholesterol levels, which is a score all around. And protein is a great way to get control over your snacking schedule – in fact, one study found that eating 25% more protein can reduce cravings by up to 60%! That’s good math any way you look at it. So if you’re trying to skip that mid-afternoon chocolate bar, try to eat a diet high in nuts, avocados and fish.

Snack Smart

Oh, snacks. They get you through the mid-afternoon slump. They make a late-night movie viewing so much more enjoyable. And, more often that not, they cause your sugar intake to skyrocket. Bummer, right? But if you use common sense to select your snacks, you can munch away without worry. Instead of cookies, chocolates and chips, try reaching for nuts, trail mix or fresh fruit so you get some nutritional value out of what you eat. And remember, even so-called “healthy” snacks are often anything but. Even fibre-rich dried fruit can be shockingly high in added sugar. In other words, best enjoyed in small doses only.

Skip Dessert

It’s sad, but true. Sugar-laden desserts don’t bring much to the table in terms of nutrition. And many cause your blood sugar to spike then crash, which leaves you feeling tired and hungry just a couple hours later. Of course you should enjoy every last bite of cake or pie at special occasions – that’s just common sense for a happy, balanced life. But when it comes to your everyday sweet tooth, try ending your meal with a fruit salad, a piece of dark chocolate, baked fruit with cream or a cheese course.

Read the Labels

We get it…spending time squinting at Nutritional Fact Tables is a bore. But some inconspicuous foods hide a lot of sugar you wouldn’t even think was there. Like many supposedly healthy granola bars? With 8 teaspoons of added sugar, you may as well just eat a cupcake. And sweet condiments like ketchup and barbecue sauce? They’re kinda like having dessert for dinner. The fact is, if you read the labels, you’ll know how much sugar you’re eating. And that makes it way easier to keep it in check. This way, you can treat yourself to a sweet snack after lunch – but know when to skip dessert in the evening.

Sound a bit daunting? Trust us. Once you get into healthier eating habits, it’s next to no effort to rein in your sugar intake. Just remember the most important lesson of all: don’t be too hard on yourself. If you do give into a craving, just enjoy it…and try to do better the next day. If you beat yourself up about the occasional slip-up, that just makes it easier to give up altogether.

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