Trying to cut back on sugar? Here are a few tips to help.
The latest recommendations from the US dietary guidelines continue to strongly recommend limiting your sugar intake. But not all sugars are the same: Natural sugars are found in fruit and milk and are important nutrients for a healthy diet. But sugars found in drinks and foods that are added in for taste during processing only add unnecessary calories – and little nutrition. Most of the added sugar we eat comes from five categories: sweetened beverages, sweet snacks, candy, breakfast cereal and bars, and coffee and tea with added sweeteners.
Too much sugar is associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Excess calories can cause weight gain, which can increase your risk for type 2 diabetes. A high sugar intake can increase triglycerides that can contribute to heart disease. As you get older, you need fewer calories. So it’s important to monitor portion sizes and make nutrient-dense food choices, such as fruits, vegetables, lean meat, chicken and fish, dried beans, nuts and seeds.
A limit of no more than 6 percent of your daily calorie intake should come from sugar. If you consume about 2000 calories a day, only 120 calories or about 30 grams should come from added sugar. That’s a little less than the amount of sugar in a 12 ounce can of soda. And children under 2 years should avoid any food or drinks with added sugar.
But it’s not always easy to cut back on sugar. Here are some tips to help.
Cut back gradually. Reducing your sugar intake to 6 percent of calories can be hard at first.
Eat low-sugar or no sugar added foods. Try whole grain cereals with less than 6 grams of sugar per serving. Add fruit to your cereal or sprinkle cinnamon on your oatmeal. Or try unsweetened yogurt and add fruit to it, such as berries.
Limit or avoid sweetened drinks. This includes soda, fruit punch, and sweetened energy drinks. Opt for mostly water throughout the day, or make your own drink by adding a splash of orange or cranberry juice to water or seltzer. Or add fruit slices to your water.
Cut back on sugar in your coffee and tea. Ask for less syrup pumped into your coffee shop drinks.
Choose fruit for dessert. Make a mixed fruit salad with seasonal fruit, or cinnamon baked apples. Grill some pineapple or peaches. A piece of good quality dark chocolate can be an occasional treat.
Read labels. Sugar is added to many processed foods, such as salad dressing, spaghetti sauce and BBQ sauce. Compare labels and choose the one with the lesser amount of added sugar. Or make your own to control the amount of added sugar.
Remember, start slowly when cutting back on sugar. Try one or two tips at a time. It takes time to develop new habits. But you can be successful and set a good example for your family members.
Joanne M. Gallivan, M.S., R.D.N. is a registered Dietitian Nutritionist. She served as the Director of the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) in the Office of Communication and Public Liaison for the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) from 1997-2016. Previously, Ms. Gallivan has served as project manager for NIDDK’s Weight-Control Information Network (WIN), a national source of information on weight control, obesity, and weight-related nutritional disorders for health professionals and the public; as Contract Manager for the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s National Cholesterol Education Program and Obesity Education Initiative, and as Director of the Prince George’s County Health Department Nutrition Division located in Maryland.
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