According to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, Americans consume about 150 pounds of sugar per year, on average. This is equal to 6 cups of sugar consumed in 1 week. Yikes! That’s a whole lot of sugar! Why should we be worried about our sugar intake, though?
To put it simply, foods and drinks that have high amounts of sugar in them are more fattening and can contribute to weight gain. How exactly are they fattening you might ask? Well, when you eat foods that have high amounts of sugar in them, you will experience a spike in your blood glucose (blood sugar). This large spike in blood sugar causes a surge of insulin to be released in order to get the sugar out of your bloodstream, into your cells, and therefore bring your blood sugar levels back back to normal again. However, when this happens, you will experience a sudden crash in your blood sugar and will be left feeling hungry yet again, causing you to consume more calories than you need and therefore, gain weight. That is why it is so important to watch our sugar intake!
When we talk about reducing your sugar, we aren’t saying that you need to cut out fruits in your diet. We are talking about watching your intake of the “less healthy” sugar choices such as soda, candy bars, cake, etc. Not only are these foods more fattening, they also have less nutritional value than the more wholesome foods such as strawberries, bananas, etc.
Strategies for Limiting Sugar Cravings
1. Don’t let yourself get too hungry
Be sure to space out your meals and snacks adequately so that you don’t wind up getting too hungry in between. Whenever we allow ourselves to get too hungry, we tend to over-consume foods at the next meal and typically crave the foods that have lower nutritional value.
2. Replace ice cream, candy, etc. with healthier options
We aren’t saying that you have to completely cut out those yummy treats like chocolate chip cookies, but it would be beneficial to reduce your intake of them. Replacing these treats with yummy, "good for you" fruits can be a great strategy in overcoming that sweet tooth. I know, because I definitely have a sweet tooth and this is one of the strategies that I personally use!
3. Exercise on a regular basis
This strategy may not work for everyone, but I know that when I am exercising on a regular basis, I also tend to be more conscious of the foods that I am eating. This may be a helpful strategy for you as well. You might even try getting some form of exercise in whenever you have a craving for something sweet!
4. Swap out soda and other sugary beverages for flavored fruit water
There are some healthy options in the store for flavored fruit water, but if you have the time, making your own flavored fruit water is a great option as well! There are many flavored water recipes out there that you can try and it doesn’t just have to have fruit in it. You can even add some herbs and spices to your homemade flavored water as well. One of my favorite flavored water recipes is to cut up apple slices and add a few cinnamon sticks to my water. It is so good!
5. Read food labels
Sugar can be labeled under different names on the ingredients list, so be careful. Some common names you will want to watch out for are: high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, and evaporated cane juice.
These are just a few strategies that you can implement today in order to help you with limiting your sugar cravings. If you need help with learning how to pick healthier foods or just need some accountability along the way, we are here for you!
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Health and happiness,
Alicia Williamson RN, BSN, MSNW, CHC
Kylie Glastetter BA, MS, EP-C, CHC
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