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10 Ways to Cut the Sugar

By: Dianne Villano - CPFI

Americans typically consume 20 percent of their daily calories as sugar. This is about double the generally accepted amount.

Most people are not aware of most of the sources from which they get their sugar. Nore are they aware of the many myths associated with carbohydrates (i.e., sugars). Here are some simple ways to eliminate the nutritionally (but not caloricly) void sugars from your diet--and the extra pounds from your waistline.

1. Beware of sugar's many disguises

Sugars are found naturally in milk, fruit, vegetables and grains. We (and most food manufacturers) also add sugars to many foods we eat. These added sugars are the ones that we most need to be aware of.

No matter how you slice it, or what name it is disguised as on your food label, these sugars are basically empty calories because they provide very few (if any) other nutrients.

Here's a list of some of the many disguises of added sugar to watch for on the food label:

  • brown sugar
  • corn sweetener
  • corn syrup
  • dextrin
  • dextrose
  • glucose
  • fructose
  • high-fructose corn syrup
  • honey
  • invert sugar
  • lactose
  • malodextrin
  • maltose
  • mannitol
  • molasses
  • natural sweeteners
  • polydextrose
  • raw sugar
  • sucrose
  • syrup
  • turbinado sugar
  • xylitol

Pretty big list, isn't it?

2. Read the label

You may be aware of how much sugar you do or don't add to foods, but are you aware of the hidden sugars in many of the food products you eat?

Read the label ingredients and narrow in on the many different forms of sugar mentioned above. If any of these appear first or second or many of them are listed among the food ingredients, it's most likely a high-sugar food.

Please don't confuse these added sugars to the sugars found in your high quality carbohydrate sources, such as fruits and vegetables.

3. Don't be blinded by fat phobia

Fat Free does not mean calorie free.

Most people who are focused solely on counting fat grams miss the fact that "low fat" foods typically contain quite a few calories. (most of them sugars). In fact, the caloric count is usually higher than in the unmodified version. And, there may be other problems as well (for example, a glycemic effect that stokes your appetite).

Remember: if you eat more calories than you burn you will store those excess calories  as, yup, you guessed it--fat.

4. Switch to fruit for dessert

A nice piece of fruit can easily satisfy a sweet tooth. And, yes fruit contains sugar. But it also contains many vitamins, minerals, and fiber. This fiber slows absorption and blunts the glycemic effect that stokes your appetite. Plus, fruit sugars tend to be "bound," meaning it takes extra digestive action for the body to get at the sugar.

If you like fruit yogurts, read the label. To fix the problem that you see there, buy frozen fruit and add it to plain yogurt. A dash of nutmeg or cinnamon may be a good idea, too.

5. Think small

If you really crave a particular food, your waistline will forgive you for eating small amounts of it. Ice cream is a great example—if you're going to have it, stick to a 1/2 cup serving size (which is, incidentally a single serving size) and you should be able to keep the calories under 200 while still satisfying your craving. If you are not quite up to the task of self-monitored portion control, stick to single serving containers. Always check the serving size before indulging in your favorite goodie. Remember, though, these are very small servings. And you can have only one.


6. Eat before you become ravenous

If you let yourself get too hungry, chances are the first foods you reach for will be high in sugar and fat and low in nutrients. As you've heard me say many times over, eat frequent meals and snacks with plenty of lean protein and whole grains. If you have a cookie urge on a well nourished stomach, you will be more capable of limiting yourself to the serving size of 2 instead of plowing through an entire dozen.

7. Don't ban sugar completely

Sugar is included in the Food Guide Pyramid (just remember that it's only the tiny tip on top of the pyramid). Although sweets may not contribute much in the form of vitamins and minerals, a little sugar can add enjoyment and variety to your diet. Your diet does not need to be perfect to be healthy. A small amount of a favorite sweet temptation can be part of your healthy diet.




8. If chocolate is your weakness…

Try cocoa powder. Most of the fatty part of chocolate (the cocoa butter) is removed. A tablespoon of cocoa can have less than 20 calories with only 0.5 grams of fat. (e.g., 4 tablespoons would be equal to 1 from the "bread" group) Use cocoa instead of chocolate when baking to help satisfy your hankering for chocolate.

You can also try flavoring smoothies, cottage cheese or yogurt with a little cocoa powder. Chocolate-flavored syrup drizzled on fruit is another sweet treat to satisfy your chocolate craving. If you must have milk chocolate, three Hershey Kisses have less than 80 calories and 5 grams of fat.

9. Reduce sugar in recipes

As a general rule, you can cut the sugar in most cookie, cake and pie recipes by one-third and the finished product will turn out fine (you probably won't even notice the difference).

10. Use spices

Cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, anise and mint can add a sweet taste to foods without adding sugar or calories.


Bonus tip (contributed by Supplecity staff)

Jack LaLanne says, "If it's made by man, I don't eat it." Managing sugar can become complicated and lead to less than optimum results. If you find your snack needs spinning out of control, feel free to eliminate processed foods and added sugars from your diet. Many people have such a lifestyle and feel they are missing nothing. Try it for 90 days, and see what you think. Or, you can take the advice of Bill Phillips and make 6 out of 7 days free of processed foods and added sugars. Give yourself a free day, once a week.

The idea of all the above tips is to moderate your caloric intake in a manner that is sustainable for you. If you make your meals unenjoyable, you will soon find yourself scarfing down copious quantities of empty calories. Instead of screeching to a halt and slamming into the diet windshield, apply the brakes gently.

Copyright © Custom Bodies, Inc. 2005

Article written by Dianne Villano, President of Custom Bodies. Custom Bodies has been serving the bay area since 1996 with weight loss & fitness programs for every fitness level. Dianne is a personal fitness instructor certified through the National Academy of Sports Medicine and a frequent speaker on health and fitness related topics with articles published in over 20 media outlets including Weight Loss & Obesity Resource Center, Women’s Exercise Network, Self Growth , Gateway to Beauty & Life tools for Women.

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