We hear it all the time. Sugar is the enemy. We're all addicted to the sticky sweet monster and it's ruining our lives by making us sick, fat and sluggish. Whenever an actor drops weight and packs on muscle to take on the latest superhero franchise, what do we inevitably hear? That he cut out sugar—both processed and in the form of carbohydrates. Now, if your job doesn't require you to take off your shirt or fit into a skintight suit, you don't need to go as extreme as those leading men. And thank God. Because that'd be really hard.
But we can make simple choices to consume less sugar day to day. But it will take some effort, because added sugar sneaks into our lives in the form of breads, chips, salad dressings, soups and sauces. It's added by food manufacturers in the form of syrups or words ending in "ose," like sucrose, fructose and maltose. Thankfully, in the summer of 2018, "added sugar" will be added to the FDA's Nutrition Facts label on packaged foods. Until then, your goal should be to cut unnecessary added sugar from your diet.
So, how much is the right amount? Well, according to the American Heart Association, the maximum amount of added sugars a man should eat is 150 calories per day (which works out to be around 37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons). Make these easy changes to the way you eat and you'll make a significant cut in the added sugars you consume. You'll also notice that you will lose weight, be more alert and have less sugar crashes and, according to the best medical authorities, live longer too. Not a bad deal, right?
Don't Drink Your Sugar
According to the National Institutes of Health, the third largest source of food calories in the American diet comes from soda, which is also one of the biggest sources of sugar. For example, one 12-ounce can of Mountain Dew packs a whopping 52 grams of sugar—almost double the daily maximum outlined by AHA. Of course, you could always grab a can of diet soda, but the science is still out on most artificial sweeteners and doctors warn that they often lead to craving more sweets. So they suggest drinking plain water. But if that seems too bland (or uncaffeinated) for your tastes, try an unsweetened iced tea with lemon or mint. If it's the bubbles you want, opt for sugar-free sparkling waters and seltzers such as La Croix. A regular soda drinker can shed over ten pounds in a year simply by making this swap.
Have a Savory Breakfast
The typical American breakfast is usually sweet. Even if you're not reaching for a donut or pouring syrup over a stack of pancakes, you could be getting more sugar than you realize. Even the healthiest-sounding cereals are often loaded with added sugars. And get this: starting out with a sweet breakfast will set you up for all day long sugar cravings. Experts say a protein-rich breakfast boosts levels of dopamine, a chemical in the brain which boosts your mood and attention while regulating cravings. Plus, something like a veggie omelet or breakfast burrito is much more filling—thus, give you less of a need to snack before lunch.
Upgrade Your Coffee
Your cold brew is cool, but there's a better option, especially if you're looking to cut out the sweeteners. Nitrogen brew—or nitro brew for short—can be found on tap at your local coffee shop. Or in cans from such cult brands as Stumptown and La Colombe. The chilled brew is infused with nitrogen gas, making the coffee bubble up, resulting in a creamy, chocolaty taste that's been described as being as smooth and satisfying as chocolate milk. Or a chocolate stout. The flavor is clean, the texture is pleasing and it all helps to cut through coffee's naturally bitter taste.
Make Smart Snack Swaps
Your easiest swap when it comes to sweets is to add more fruit to your diet. Fruit has plenty of sugar too, of course, but nature has a way of making sure things balance out. A ripe piece of fruit encases the sweet stuff in a ton of healthy fiber. That fiber works by preventing the body from absorbing too much of the fruit's sugar, plus it won't cause the same crash-and-crave cycle as added sugar. Other smart substitutions? Try fresh cut vegetables (carrots, celery, peppers, radishes and snap peas) dusted with spices instead of sugary, starch-laden potato chips. Or try crunchy, 100% cheese snacks like Moon Cheese. Mixed nuts or dark chocolate make for low-sugar substitutes for the usual vending machine fare.
Eat More Salads
An easy way to have a filling meal without all the added sugars, starches and carbohydrates is to have a salad. Pack it full of veggies, top it with the meat of your choice and choose your dressing wisely. Don't mess with those "light" or "low-fat" options. Because when food brands strip the fat out of dressings, they replace it with added sugars and a heavy dose of salt. Now your "light" dressing doesn't have the healthy fats you need to help absorb the vitamins from those nutrient-rich vegetables. Keep calories and sugar in check by sticking to a tablespoon or two of an olive-oil or yogurt based dressing (we really like the options from Bolthouse Farms).
Sleep is always the answer:
Studies have proved that the less you snooze, the more appetizing sugary snacks and meals become. Plus, if you're not staying up late, you already remove the temptation to grab something from the pantry or fridge.