Clever Ways to Scale Back on Sugar

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Do you ever track your daily sugar consumption? The majority of us probably don’t. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), Americans ingest an astounding 22 teaspoons of sugar per day! This alone may play a significant role in the rapidly escalating rates of obesity in the U.S., not to mention diabetes and other health problems.

Avoiding sugar takes a concerted effort since it’s added to so many foods and beverages. In fact, many products contain multiple sweeteners. While you may not want to delete sugar entirely, scaling back has many wellness benefits. These tips can help:

Read labels carefully

Scanning labels is the best way to determine the level of sugar in products, which may appear in many forms, including sucrose, lactose, dextrose, maltose, fructose, high-fructose corn syrup, cane juice, honey, agave nectar, molasses, and fruit juice concentrate, among others. Note that ingredients are listed in descending order of quantity, so if sugar appears in the first few ingredients, the product contains a significant amount.

Beware of sweetened drinks

Did you know many popular sodas contain the equivalent of 10 or more teaspoons of sugar in a single can? Many “sports drinks,” coffee and juice drinks harbor similar amounts. By some estimates, one-third of the average woman’s daily sugar intake comes from sweetened beverages alone! Healthy alternatives include water, dairy, soy and almond milk, low-sugar lemonade, sugar-free hot or iced tea, coconut water, zero-calorie natural sodas like Zevia, and 100% natural, organic fruit juice.

Monitor processed foods

While you would expect to find sugar in cookies and cakes, you might be surprised to learn just how much lurks in non-dessert items like dry cereal, BBQ sauce, packaged oatmeal, canned soups, condiments, muffin mixes, pasta sauce, and more. The more processed a food is, the more salt and sugar it may contain, especially “fat-free” items. You can combat this by basing your meals on natural, whole foods like fresh produce, beans/legumes, whole grains, and lean protein.

Splurge on natural treats

It’s easier to avoid sugary items when you come to appreciate natural goodies. Why not make fresh fruit the focal point for treats? Think exotic mangoes or papaya, blueberry parfaits, pears poached in Port wine, dark chocolate-dipped strawberries, almond butter-stuffed figs, or frozen banana “ice cream.” Find 21 sumptuous fruit-based dessert recipes here: http://www.marthastewart.com/853315/easy-fruit-dessert-recipes/@center/856055/lunch-recipes#/282597

When you do choose a sweet treat, less is more when you select the best─like that perfect fair-trade, organic dark chocolate bar. Here’s to your health!

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