Whether it's an afternoon trip to the snack machine or an absolute must to have something sweet after dinner, sugar cravings are a food battle that many Americans face. Eating too many foods and drinks with added sugars pushes out room for more nutrient-dense options which makes it difficult to get in important nutrients.
Amber O'Neal Johnston, dietitian at Café Physique Fitness& Nutrition, suggests looking at nutrition labels and converting grams in sugar to sugar packets to get an idea of the amount of sugar you are really consuming. There are about four grams of sugar in one sugar packet.
"For example, a can of orange Fanta soda has 28 grams of sugar," Johnston said. "That means it contains seven packets of sugar. A 20-ounce bottle of the same drink has a whopping 73 grams, or 18 packets of sugar. Most people would never sit at a restaurant table, open 17 packets of sugar and pour it into their glass. Yet they'll unconsciously drink that much I their favorite sweetened beverage without giving it a second thought."
Understanding the amount of sugar you are eating is the first step to taking control of your intake, the next step is finding a substitute that works. Fruit is almost always the best substitute for giving your sweet tooth what it needs without wrecking your nutrition goals. Johnston suggests mixing ¼ cup of dried cranberries or raisins into oatmeal, adding ½ banana and one cup of frozen berries to a smoothie or adding chopped fruit to plain yogurt.
"Learning to enjoy unsweetened, or naturally sweetened food and beverages can be an important step to kicking the sugar habit," Johnston said. "It's tempting to rely on artificial sweeteners, but this only prolongs your body's adjustment to enjoying naturally sweetened and unsweetened items."
If you are consistently eating added sugars throughout your day, cutting back may potentially make you feel worse. With any sort of addiction, you are likely to experience withdrawal symptoms and sugar is no different.
"For those most addicted to sugar, they may briefly feel worse before feeling better, but positive change is right around the corner if they can weather the storm," Johnston said. "Weight loss is one of the most immediate changes that often comes from eliminating, or greatly reducing, added sugars. Most clients also report an increase in energy and enhanced desires to clean up other areas of their diet as they see the progress they're making with sugar."
Weight loss, more energy and a higher level of confidence nutritionally are characteristics we all don't mind hearing. Additionally, cutting sugar can reduce chances of health issues such as obesity, insulin resistance and diabetes.
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