When trying to adopt a healthier lifestyle, cutting out excess sugars is usually a recommendation. (A pretty good one at that!). But still, there is a lot of confusion when it comes to sugars. How much should one consume? What about sugar substitutes? Sugar alcohols? Natural vs. added sugars? Natural sweeteners such as honey and maple syrup? The list goes on!
Here are some general recommendations when it comes to answering the questions above and what to look for on the food label.
- How much sugar should I have in a day? - The least amount possible - that is - from ADDED sugars such as white or brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, etc. These added sugars are what increases your risk for heart disease, diabetes and what increases your weight over time. When trying to eat healthy and to lose weight, cutting out processed carbohydrates (white breads, buns, snack foods, junk foods, etc) and added sugars is always my first recommendation!
- NATURAL sugar is the sugar that comes from fruit, yogurt and milk products (AKA, lactose and fructose). These sugars are okay in moderation. (I advise 2-3 servings of low sugar dairy products like milk, light yogurts and 2-3 servings of fruit a day to minimize your natural sugar intake).
- Sugar substitutes are okay in moderation but I do suggest eating "real" wholesome foods vs. a lot of fake/sugar-free foods (i.e. sugar free jellos, puddings, cookies, etc). You will be more satisfied and crave fewer sweets if you treat yourself every now and then to the "real" food. If you are going to use artificial sweeteners, I recommend Truvia, Stevia or Splenda. (I do also recommend decreasing as much diet drinks as you can out of your diet and increase the water!).
- "Natural sweeteners" such as table sugar, honey and syrup... are still added sugars so decrease as much as you can.
- Don't forget to look at the ingredients on ALL of your food labels. Sugar sneaks its way into a LOT of foods!
The less sugar you eat, the less you crave! I recommend eating small frequent meals with a combo of whole grains (think foods HIGH in fiber) with some lean proteins to help minimize sugar and carb cravings.
By Kelly Devine Rickert, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN
Registered Dietitian/Health Coach, Franciscan WELLCARE