It has long been said that human beings are creatures of habit. I am certainly no exception; one of the main things I’ve learned over the past six days is that much of my sugar intake is simply a mindless, daily habit.
How many years have I had my daily coffee (or three) with sugar? Well, I started drinking coffee in high school. There was so much fun stuff that I wanted to do after classes ended that I often didn’t crack open my textbooks till 10 p.m.; I needed the coffee to stay awake. At first, I didn’t particularly like the flavour – so I added sugar. So it’s been…(gulp!) 20 years.
After two decades, I’ve dedicated one week to not adding sugar to anything; I’m also avoiding all blatantly sugary culprits in an effort to experience seven sugar-free days. Switching to sugarless coffee has definitely been one of the biggest challenges for me. But I recently learned that women should try to keep their daily added sugar intake to 6.5 teaspoons per day. So how much sugar do I take in my coffee, anyway?
Today, I measured; I approximated how much sugar I used to put in a single (large) mug of coffee – using a soup spoon. Then, I dumped it into a small bowl and measured it back into the sugarbowl using a teaspoon. It turns out I typically put a whopping 2.5 teaspoons of white sugar in a cup of coffee. Often, I have two or three cups of coffee per day. That equates to 7.5 teaspoons for three cups; I am already over my recommended daily sugar intake with my coffee alone! Multiply over 20 years and that’s a LOT of sugar.
If my sugar habit abruptly ended there, it might not be so bad. But it doesn’t, of course; I often indulge in Nutella on toast, fruit juice, an afternoon cookie (or three) or a soft drink to pep me up in the afternoon. Factor in all those surprising sugar culprits (like pasta sauce or yogurt) that I am just learning about, and I’m sure there are days when I double or even triple the amount of added sugar that I should be having – as recommended by Nutrition Action.
So my personal rationale is this: If I can eliminate the sugar in my coffee, I will be much better off in terms of my overall sugar intake. Having sugarless coffee will free me up to use my daily ‘sugar ration’ elsewhere, whether it’s barbeque sauce on my burger or a piece of birthday cake at a party.
Obviously, less is more; I would likely be even further ahead health-wise if I could stay consistently below the daily recommended sugar intake. But let’s face it – Rome wasn’t built in a day. It’s not very likely that I can maintain a sugar-free lifestyle forever, nor do I want to. I just want to take small steps to improve my overall health, and be conscious of my family’s sugar intake as well.
Where can you cut back on your daily sugar intake to improve your long-term health?