If I asked you how much sugar you had eaten today would you know? In your head you would probably add up the teaspoons of sugar you added to your tea or coffee, maybe you had a couple of biscuits mid morning or a sweet dessert after dinner?
That doesn’t sound too bad does it? However, most of us consume far more sugar than we realise. The recommended daily amount of added sugar is 40g (approx. 8 teaspoons) yet research has shown that most of us consume four times as much as this.
The problem is that sugar is hidden in so many foods we simply aren’t aware of how much we are eating. In recent years food manufacturers have more than doubled the amount of sugar that is added to their products, some of which while our love of sweet treats and soft drinks is forever growing. But too much sugar leads to weight gain and some pretty serious health implications so if you want to feel better, have more energy, reduce your cravings and lose weight then read on for my top tips to help you reduce your sugar intake.
1. Read food labels carefully. Over the last 30 years food manufacturers have almost doubled the amount of sugar added to food products, even savoury ones. They also know that if we see sugar listed as the main ingredient we are less likely to buy it so they cleverly separate the sugars within the ingredients list. Look out for ingredients such
Dextrose, Fructose, Glucose, High-fructose corn syrup, Lactose, Maltodextrin, Maltose, Molasses, Rice Syrup, Saccharose, Sucrose, Syrup, Treacle, Xylose
2. Limit your use of Natural sweeteners These ‘healthy’ sweeteners may contain more nutrients than refined white sugar but they will still elevate your blood sugar levels and trigger a surge of insulin. I wrote an article a while ago on the best alternatives to sugar which you can read here. If you really want to reduce your sugar intake then you need to limit the amount of natural sweeteners you consume too.
3. Cut back on starchy carbohydrates. If you’re reducing the amount of sugar in your diet, especially if you want to lose weight, then you should also reduce the amount of food you eat that quickly turn to sugar once you start to chew it. Foods such as bread, breakfast cereals, crackers and pasta break down into simple carbohydrates very quickly. As a result our bodies release plenty of insulin to control our blood sugar levels. A few hours after eating you will then probably experience an energy slump (a sugar crash) which is when you are more likely to crave more starchy sugary foods to give you some energy. This continuous rise and fall in blood sugar levels is often referred to as the blood sugar rollercoaster. Once you stop riding this rollercoaster you’ll find your energy levels, cravings and appetite will naturally stabilise.
4. Eat more protein. Protein is essential to help us build and repair our bodies. It has the same number of calories per gram as carbohydrate but it doesn’t your blood sugar levels like carbs do plus it will keep you feeling fuller for longer and therefore you’re less likely to be reaching for the cookie jar for a snack.
5. Eat more good quality fat. Dietary fat is not the enemy it has been made out to be. In fact, eating good quality fat such as coconut oil, avocados, nuts etc has been proven to help with fat loss. You don’t want to go mad and overdo it but, like protein, fat will keep you satisfied for longer and will really help to curb sugar cravings.
6. Eat more vegetables. Jonathan Bailor who wrote The Smarter Science of Slim suggests we eat so many vegetables with our main meal that we simply don’t have room for a sugary dessert. Vegetables are packed with fibre which fills us up so pile your plate high with vegetables of every variety and colour.
7. Avoid fat free snacks. This tip is really a combination of the advice I gave in tips 1 & 4. You see once food manufacturers remove the fat from a product it tastes pretty bad so, to make it palatable again they add sugar. A classic example of this is yogurt. There are dozens of low fat or fat free varieties on the supermarket shelves, all loaded with sugar or artificial sweeteners (see tip no.8). Your best option is to chose a natural greek yogurt (full or reduced fat) and enjoy it with some fresh fruit.
8. Beware of artificial sweeteners. There are plenty on the market, added to diet drinks and low calorie foods and there’s a comprehensive list in my blog post here. As I mentioned in that earlier post, artificial sweeteners will play havoc with your hormones, can have a major impact on your health and will seriously disrupt your metabolism system, slowing down weight loss. My advice is to avoid them wherever possible.
Everyone can benefit from reducing the amount of sugar in their diet. Not only is it my top tip for weight loss but you will feel so much better; your health will improve, your energy levels will increase and you’ll notice that cravings start to to subside.
I’d love to know your thoughts. Do you eat too much sugar? Have you reduced the amount you eat and noticed any benefits?