Sugar continues to be a hot topic. While I don’t feel eliminating sugar from your diet is necessary, I do think everyone needs to evaluate their diet now and then. Sugar provides what we dietitians like to call “empty calories” – meaning it provides calories, without any essential nutrients (no vitamins or minerals). Sugar is simply a carbohydrate (a monosaccharide).
Sugar does however provide energy (calories, that is) and sometimes is useful in the diet. Sugar serves as quick energy as well, which is useful when refueling during sport activities – a time when perhaps a sports drink does the trick (perhaps during a 30 mile bike ride, or a marathon run). But in day to day life, sugar is simply a tasty addition to what should be nutritious diets. As your grandmother may have advised, “Save dessert for last” – after you’ve eaten your vegetables and essential protein, and other nutrients.
Your diet does impact your health. A high sugar, high fat (often over-processed) diet can increase your risk for obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Your meals should be built on the platform of vegetables, grains, and some lean protein. There are a few ways to do this.
The Choose My Plate guideline is a simple pictorial of what a balanced diet may look like.
The DASH Diet is built on plenty of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, low fat dairy, and includes small amounts of protein (fish, meats, poultry, nuts)
Vegans choose to eliminate all animal products, and consume their essential nutrients from only plants.
In all cases, a healthy diet is one which limits sugar, but also includes balance, and a variety of whole foods. Here are 5 simple tips for you to work on:
- Set goals to include more fruits and vegetables in your diet can automatically displace the sugar. Have 2-3 pieces of fresh fruit daily, and you
- Don’t add sugar. Do you add sugar to coffee or iced tea? Try out an artificial sweetener. Depending on how sweet you like your drinks, a half packet of an artificial sweetener will be enough to sweeten it up.
- Stop the soda habit. There are a few options here. 1) Replace your soda with water or sugar-free seltzer, 2) Replace your soda with diet soda, 3) Reduce your portions to no more than 12 ounces daily or less may find that your candy craving disappears.
- Are you a candy fiend? Try the “out of sight, out of mind” approach. Don’t keep a candy dish on your desk. For some with severe cravings, it may be necessary to completely eliminate it. Others can do well to set limits on treats. For instance, make a conscious effort to only treat yourself to a candy bar or a donut or snack cake, once a month, and choose healthy snacks daily.
- Plan fruit into your dessert. Instead of banning dessert, consider some options. A fresh fruit crisp made with fruit and oats, is more nutritious than a cupcake heaped with 3 inches of icing.
I cut added sugars in recipes back to 1-2 tsp. per serving.