For the past week, I’ve done my best to avoid added sugar and sugary products. I haven’t had a single cookie, donut or dessert. I have not consumed processed juice, soft drinks and – probably the hardest for me – I have not added sugar to my coffee.
I wasn’t perfect, by any stretch. Earlier this week, in an effort to avoid brown sugar, I inadvertently added a load of sugar to my hot cereal via a generous helping of dried cranberries (oops). I also met a friend for coffee at Starbucks, where I requested a sugar-free Vanilla Rooibos tea latte. But I swear it tasted sweet…so I’m not sure if the cashier passed along my order properly. Admittedly, I didn’t bring it back to the counter to ask if syrup had been added.
In addition to those blatant transgressions, I’m sure there were many others. I’m learning that there is sugar lurking in so many products that I never would have thought to suspect. In fact, unless you dedicate virtually all of your time to seeking out or making sugar-free products, it is nearly impossible to avoid consuming small amounts of it. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Personally, I believe that a moderate approach is the way to go. I will never be able to maintain a totally sugar-free lifestyle. I’m simply not militant enough and frankly, I enjoy sugar. But what I’ve learned is that I do need to be more conscious of where my daily sugar intake comes from.
Based on my experience and my research, these are the key points that I’m going to strive to apply:
- Limit added sugar and/or the sugar content of a treat to 6.5 teaspoons per day (9.5 teaspoons/day for men).
- At breakfast, be aware of the high sugar levels in fruit juices, processed cereal, jams or spreads and even bread.
- At lunch and supper, pay attention to the sugar content in seemingly-innocent products like barbeque sauce, ketchup, pasta sauce and event low-fat salad dressings.
- Don’t be overly concerned with naturally-occurring sugars; eat as much fresh fruit as you’d like. If you’re craving a sweet fruit, try mangos, bananas and mandarin oranges.
- Question why you’re reaching for something sugary; perhaps you’re actually hungry for something more substantial. Try energy-boosting snacks like raw almonds. aged cheddar or crisp vegetables (it’s amazing how sweet some bell peppers can taste!).
- Cut out excess sugar where you can so that you can enjoy an occasional treat. (For me, drinking my coffee without sugar will drastically reduce my daily sugar consumption).
- If you’re craving a hot drink, try substituting a sugary coffee or tea with a flavourful, sugar-free tea such as Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride.
Hopefully I’ve offered up some inspiration for subtle change. After all, even our small, day-to-day improvements can make a big difference to our health in the long run.