Finding "The Sweet Spot" In Healthy Eating

New Years resolution tips on reducing sugar in your diet

For many, the thrill of a New Year’s resolution can become a bit overwhelming after a few weeks.

Trying to adjust one’s lifestyle can also be very stressful and lead to potential failure, but there are steps people can make to improve their eating habits by simply reducing the amount of added sugars in their daily diets.

“Added sugars contribute to increased calories in the diet, but added sugars can also contribute to severe chronic conditions, such as diabetes, fatty liver and heart disease,” said Ann Watts, a licensed dietician and diabetes educator for the University of Vermont Health Network – Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital.

“Cutting added sugars from your diet is not only good for weight loss but decreases the chances for developing one of these chronic conditions.”

Added sugars are sweeteners that are added to foods to enhance flavor. White and brown sugar are two obvious sweeteners available, but other added sugars include corn syrup, fruit juice concentrates, honey, syrup and molasses.

“There are over 61 ingredients that are considered added sugars in food,” Watts said, noting that many foods, such as apples and other fruits, have naturally occurring sugars.

 “There are natural sugars in white milk, but in chocolate milk, you have added sugars,” she offered.

The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than six teaspoons of added sugars per day and that men consume no more than nine per day. That means it is okay to include a teaspoon or two of sugar in a morning coffee, but people need to be on guard for other added sugars that may sneak into their diets.

“Food labels can be tricky,” Watts cautioned.  “Under the line for total carbohydrates, there is a line for sugars, but that includes added and natural sugars.

“Look in the products list for anything that’s added.”

High-fructose corn syrup has been targeted as an extremely bad sugar in foods, but those other sweeteners also count toward the six or nine teaspoons allowed.

“Some people like to put honey in their tea as a sweetener,” Watts said. “That will still count as sugar in your diet, but honey is much sweeter, and people don’t use as much.”

One of the simplest steps to reduce added sugars in the diet is to remove sugar, honey, molasses and other sweeteners from the dining table.  Also, cut back on the amounts of sugar added to such things as cereal, pancakes, coffee and tea.

People who have been enjoying sugar in their coffee or tea for ages can cut down slowly until they meet their goal or eliminate the need for a sweetener completely.

Buying sugar-free or low-calorie beverages can lower added sugars, as well as buying fresh fruits or fruits canned in water rather than in syrup. Also, instead of adding sugar to cereal or oatmeal, try adding fresh fruit such as bananas and strawberries or dried fruit such as raisins and cranberries.

Try cutting down the amount of sugar used when baking cakes or other sweets by one-third or even one-half, and add extracts such as almond, vanilla or orange to replace sugars in recipes.

Foods can also be enhanced by spices, such as ginger, allspice, cinnamon or nutmeg, and zero-calorie sweeteners such as aspartame provide another option.

Added sugars are also hiding in most packaged foods, including some foods we consider healthy choices, such as yogurt and energy bars and even pasta sauce, breads, salad dressings and ketchup.

Try purchasing plain yogurt and adding your own fruit to flavor the treat. Also, try making more foods from scratch rather than purchasing packaged foods.

There might be a bit more effort needed to prepare foods from scratch, but knowing exactly what is in the meal can help reduce a lot of those unwanted added sugars as well as a lot of the stress in wondering how healthy our diets really are.