Six strategies to help cut sugar from your diet

sugar cubesBy Jeffrey Field
October 16, 2017

Taking charge of your health means making smart choices with everything you eat, and one of the smartest choices you can make is cutting down on sugar.

Diets high in added sugar have been linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, depression and tooth decay. Sugar is believed to slow cognitive function and memory. It’s also addictive and inflammatory.

Minimizing or even eliminating added sugar in your diet can help with blood sugar balance, weight management and lowering inflammation.

But cutting added sugar isn’t easy, and not only because it’s pervasive in popular treats like candy, soda and ice cream. It’s also often added to foods during processing, including many foods you might not expect.

The University of Kansas Health System Integrative nutritionist Leigh Wagner suggests some strategies to help minimize how much added sugar we consume.

salad ingredients labelChoose Food without Labels
Opt for fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, meats, poultry and seafood that haven’t been processed. The Food and Drug Administration exempts these “conventional” foods from labeling. Packaged foods designed to be ready to eat or with little preparation usually have added ingredients, often sugar.

Check the Label
If there is a label, check the ingredients list for sugar, but also watch out for other words that mean sugar has been added. High-fructose corn syrup, dextrose and maltodextrose are all forms of added sugar. Cane juice, a liquid extracted from sugar cane stalks, is also sometimes listed as a sweetener. It’s sugar juice!

You’ll also want check the label for artificial sweeteners, including acesulfame K, advantame, aspartame, neotame, saccharin and sucralose. These chemicals mimic the sweetening effect of sugar in much higher concentrations and might make us crave more sweets. They’ve also been linked to weight gain and blood sugar problems.

Be wary of condiments and packaged foods
Many foods you don’t think of as sweet may also be hiding sugar that was added during processing. Many commercial salad dressings, ketchups, pasta sauces, relishes and tomato soups carry more sugar than you might expect. Check those labels!

sodaCut sugar from the things you drink
Sodas, sweet teas, energy drinks and flavored waters have sugar or artificial sweeteners – usually a lot of it. Fruit juices – orange, apple, tomato, grape – are also likely to be sugary, unless the label identifies it as 100% juice.

Water remains your best beverage bet. For a sugar-free flavoring, try adding a squeeze of lime or lemon juice.

Be smart at breakfast
Breakfast is loaded with sugar traps, and not just doughnuts, muffins and cereals with “frosted” in their names. Even healthier-looking processed cereals, instant oatmeals, flavored yogurts and granola bars will list added sugar among their ingredients.

To cut sugar, opt to start the day with eggs and sautéed or leftover vegetables. You’ll feel full longer and likely avoid the spike and crash that comes along with sugar-heavy foods.

berriesBreak the dessert habit
Why bother to find a healthy meal if you follow it up with a sugary dessert? Try going for a week without having something sweet after dinner and you might find yourself craving it less. If you must have something sweet as a dessert, go with a cup of fresh berries.

Good nutrition is essential to your overall health. The University of Kansas Health System’s Integrative Medicine can help guide you toward your ideal food choices. Call our clinic at 913-588-6208 to schedule an appointment with integrative dietitians Leigh Wagner or Randy Evans.

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