By: Wendy Haaf
According to the World Health Organization, people should ideally get only five percent of their daily calories from added sugars, to lower the risk of dental decay and obesity (which itself is associated with an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and many cancers). For the average person, that’s roughly 100 calories – equivalent to six teaspoons of sugar, or 24 grams. One can of pop (10 teaspoons), and you’re already well over that limit. But cutting back on sugar isn’t as simple as just dropping soda (though that’s a great first step), since surprisingly large amounts of the sweet stuff are hidden in many foods. Here’s how to curb your consumption.
Rethink your drinks. As much of a third of the sugar we consume comes from beverages, including sports drinks, smoothies, and fancy coffees. How much are you drinking? Wean yourself off sugary drinks by swapping them for sparkling water with a splash of fruit juice, or iced fruit tea.
Read labels. Unfortunately, sugars naturally found in foods (like lactose in milk) aren’t listed separately from added sugars on food labels, so you’ll have to read the ingredient list. Many processed foods contain multiple sources – look for words ending in ‘ose’, corn syrup, brown rice syrup, molasses and honey. Here’s a more complete list.
Substitute fruit. Serve fruit, like fresh or frozen pineapple or melon, for dessert. Add sliced banana or frozen berries and a drizzle of maple syrup to plain yogurt – you’ll usually use far less sugar than you’ll find in most flavoured varieties. The same goes for unsweetened cold cereal and oatmeal. Try cooking up a big batch of steel-cut oats with sliced apples, cinnamon and nutmeg, and reheating portions in the microwave. Or make this in the slow-cooker overnight.
Stir up sauces. Many canned and bottled sauces and salad dressings are high in added sugars, and home-made substitutes are a snap to prepare. What could be easier than mixing together balsamic vinegar and olive oil to splash on your salad? Making tomato or meat sauce for pasta is as simple as sautéing some garlic and onions, and adding a tin of tomatoes and some spices – prepare a double or triple batch and freeze the extra. Or simmer some plain marinara in your slow cooker.
Make muffins. Low-sugar, scratch-baked muffins are a delicious alternative to snacks like granola bars and cookies – for healthy recipes, search here. Mmm…mocha cherry!