With Halloween a few days behind us and Christmas quickly approaching, now is a great time to get healthy eating back on track. The World Health Organization recommends that men consume no more than 9 teaspoons of added sugar daily. Women, 9 teaspoons and children 4 teaspoons. The average North American adult consumes 26 teaspoons and children upwards of 33 teaspoons, DAILY! How does this happen you wonder? Very easily in fact. If you ate a commercially prepared bran muffin and a yogurt daily for one year, you would consume 13.5kg of sugar! As we wrap up Halloween festivities and head towards Christmas, it pays to have some good strategies in place for keeping sugar at bay.
First of all, why is sugar so bad for us?
Sugar is actually considered an ‘anti-nutrient.’ This means that in order to process sugar, our body has to use up valuable resources just to deal with the sugar that is coming into our body.
Sugar also decreases immune system function for a few hours after consumption by inhibiting phagocytosis. This is the process by which bacteria and viruses are destroyed in the body. I have often wondered why children’s pain relief medicine is laced with sugar, not to mention artificial colours. I understand making it taste more palatable but it shouldn’t taste or resemble candy for several reasons.
Sugar consumption also leads to type 2 diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular issues, can disrupt sleep and promote behavioural issues.
Now, as a person who struggled with sugar consumption for years – raw cookie dough and candy were my go to sources – I do know how hard it can be to give it up.
Start slow and commit to making small changes that are sustainable.
5 Tips for Kicking the Sugar Habit
- Know what you are looking for. Sugar goes by over 40 different names. See below for all the names I could find.
- Read labels. Now that you know the alias’ of sugar, start reading labels. If sugar of any kind is one of the first 3 ingredients on a label, put it back. If there is more than one type of sugar in the ingredient list, put it back. This is usually just a trick to make you think that there isn’t as much sugar as there really is in a product. Ingredients are listed in order of weight. If a company can split the sugar into a few different types, then they can list them lower on the label, giving an inaccurate impression of how much sugar is actually included.
- 1 tsp = 4 grams One teaspoon of sugar is equal to 4 grams of sugar on the nutrition label. Start doing a little math to figure out how much sugar you are consuming. Aim to be below the World Health Organization’s recommendations. For example, being a woman, I should aim to consume no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar daily, or 24 grams.
Here are a few commonly consumed foods and their sugar values.
- Oasis Strawberry Banana Smoothie – 6.75 tsp
- Medium Tim Horton’s Hot Chocolate – 12.25 tsp
- 1 cup vanilla flavoured yogurt – 7.25 tsp
- 1 cup orange juice – 6.25 tsp
- 1 can of coke – 9.75 tsp
- 1 Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte with whip, Grande – 12.75 tsp
Did anything surprise you? You may be wondering why I included the orange juice. Here is the thing, juice, even when it is 100% pure, is just the sugar part of the fruit. It is like eating 4 or 5 oranges in one sitting! When drinking juice, we are missing out on the very important and sometimes hard to get enough of, fibre!
- Swap the sugar. Try swapping out white sugar, which is often a genetically modified crop, for more natural sources of sugar such as honey and maple syrup. Both of which contain at least a little bit of health promoting qualities such as trace minerals and antioxidants. Other options include coconut sugar, molasses, stevia and monk fruit.
- Challenge yourself. Could you go without added sugar for one day? What about a weekend? Perhaps a month? Many people who give up sugar find it difficult at first, but quickly realise how much better they feel without it. By focusing on eating whole foods including nature’s sweet gift of fruit, you are making the way for healthier eating that will serve you well for many years to come.