Do you find yourself craving sugary treats, and often succumbing to these cravings? You aren’t alone.
From stress-eating to “quarantine snacking,” many people around the world are not implementing a daily sugar limit. In moderation, sugar can be a tasty treat but eat too much and it can have many negative health effects. An excess of sweetened beverages and foods can cause blood sugar problems, an increased risk of heart disease, and weight gain, to name a few.
The average American consumes almost 152 pounds of sugar per year, which equates to about three pounds each week. Plus, with more individuals working from home, the temptation to over-indulge is greater than ever before.
Some 37% of people gained more than a pound between March 22 and April 18 of this year amid shelter-in-place orders. Compare this to the fact that an American typically gains one to two pounds in an entire year, and it’s clear that many people are increasing their sugar intake.
There are two types of sugars in your diet: naturally occurring and added sugar. Just as the name references, naturally occurring sugars are found naturally in foods such as milk (lactose) and fruit (fructose). Added sugars are what you need to be most cautious of when it comes to maintaining a healthy diet. Many processed foods have high quantities of added sugars and syrups that you may not be aware of.
It’s easy to eat or drink more sweets than you realize, as evidenced by the 152 pounds of sugar most people consume in a year. As such, it’s helpful to implement a daily sugar limit.
Your body does not need added sugar to function properly and it contributes zero nutrients to your diet. However, these sugars do contribute added calories, leading to poor nutrition, weight gain, obesity, and heart problems. Not to mention that added sugar has also been linked to tooth decay, high triglyceride levels, and even Type 2 diabetes.
Think of your daily calorie needs as a budget. You have a certain amount of calories you can “spend” each day, so you want to make the most of your budget to meet your nutritional needs. Similar to how you would spend discretionary income, you should only use “leftover” calories on sweets and treats that offer little to no nutritional benefit.
For a more specific daily sugar limit, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting added sugars to no more than half of your daily discretionary calories. For the average American woman, that equates to about 100 calories per day or six teaspoons of sugar. For men, the limit would be about 150 calories per day or nine teaspoons of sugar.
Some added sugar snacks or beverages are easier to identify than others. For example, one 12-ounce can of regular soda contains about 130 calories or eight teaspoons of sugar with zero nutrition.
Some of the major sources of added sugars include:
On the other hand, sometimes added sugars are “hidden” in packaged foods, which is why it’s important to pay attention to the nutrition label. On the Nutrition Facts, there will always be a line for sugars showing the type and total grams in the packaged food.
Sugar also goes by many other names, so it’s important to carefully inspect the list of ingredients in processed food to determine if you are exceeding your daily sugar limit.
Keep an eye out for these ingredients:
To learn more about reading food labels, check out this helpful article.
Just because you need to limit your intake of sweets doesn’t mean you have to avoid desserts and treats. Here are a few healthy alternatives to curb your sweet tooth without harming your health:
For a comprehensive list of healthier sugar alternatives and ways to curb your cravings, download our Healthy “Cheat Day” Chart!
Good nutrition is the foundation for maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle. Combine this with physical activity and you can easily keep off the pounds and lower your risk for chronic diseases. The important thing to remember is that you don’t have to avoid sweets altogether. Enjoy them in moderation and try to avoid raiding the pantry when you are home.