Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Three ways to cut added sugar from your diet

Rise and Shine at 5 a.m.? Not typically my style, so to speak. My attempt to cut Captain Negative dead in his tracks results in my morning Joe ritual--a little sugar, some skim milk, and after a taste (and a slight scald to my upper lip), a little more sugar. I’m replaying this in my mind as I come across and article about increased consumption of added sugars in the American diet by the American Heart Association. This includes me. I, for example, add sugar to my coffee, and there’s already so much sugar in soda and many pre-packaged foods. I’m not the only one eating too much sugar—a recent survey suggests that Americans consume 355 calories, or 22 teaspoons, of added sugar a day! And although there isn’t a direct scientific link, it’s likely that the weight gain in our population is related, in part, to our increased intake of added sugars.

I pose a question to myself: “How much sugar can I eat and how can I try to eat less?”

I pushed my contemplations about sugarless coffee aside and continued with my research to find out just how much sugar I could and should eat.

Here’s what the AHA statement says about how much sugar to eat:

  • Most women should eat, or drink, no more than 100 calories per day from added sugar, about 6 teaspoons. For men the cutoff is 150 calories from added sugars, or about 9 teaspoons. As a point of reference, a 12-ounce can of cola contains approximately 130 calories or about 8 teaspoons of added sugar.
  • The AHA recommendations only apply to added sugars—those that are added to food by consumers (Ahem, my coffee!) or added during manufacturing (that means the sugar added to your crackers, cereal and other packaged foods) counts as an added sugar. The naturally occurring sugar in fruit, vegetables, grains and dairy does not. (I’ve had more than one individual come to me with concern and serious consideration of cutting out fruit because of the added sugars in their diet. No. Way.)
Here are my top RD suggestions for cutting back added sugar in your diet.

1. Have fruit for dessert. Skip the cookies and ice cream and reach for that bundle of grapes or bowl of strawberries for your after dinner treat. You’ll avoid added sugar and get some naturally enriched cancer-fighting antioxidants and fiber from the fruit.

2. Drink smarter. Ditch regular soda and sugary drinks and instead seek out the lower calorie drinks, unsweetened iced tea or just simple water. Squeeze in some fresh citrus for added tasty benefits. Soda still number one? Try the diet versions.

3. Make your own yogurt parfait. Flavored yogurt (even vanilla) and milk contain added sugars. Instead, make your own custom creation by topping low-fat plain yogurt with fresh fruit, as in this breakfast parfait with fresh pineapple, strawberry or mango chunks.

So, while I am okay with adding the little bit of sugar to my coffee cup, I’ll be taking a closer look at just how much added sugar I eat every day and use these tips to help me reduce the amount. It’s probably time to forgo the office jelly bean jar on a more regular basis.

Say ‘yes’ to breakfast. A little low fat dairy (15% daily value of calcium) and some vitamin-rich fruit (30% daily value of vitamin C) and you've just started your day right, nutritionally speaking.

Breakfast Fruit Parfait
  • 3/4 cup low-fat/fat-free cottage cheese, or low-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup pineapple chunks, mango chunks or strawberries 
  • 2 teaspoons toasted wheat germ or flaxseed
Place cottage cheese (or yogurt) in a small bowl. Top with fruit and sprinkle with wheat germ.

Per serving (cottage cheese, pineapple): 248 calories*2 g fat*35 g carbohydrates*23 g protein*3 g fiber.

Amber Massey, RD, LD
Registered Dietitian
Executive Health Program
Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth

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