Too much added sugar in the diet may contribute to diabetes, inflammation, oxidative stress, and cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association’s recommended daily limit on added sugar for women, young adults, and children is six teaspoons (100 calories or less). For men, the limit is nine teaspoons (150 calories or less). Many people already consume more than that amount regularly. That makes managing the amount of added sugar in the diet extra challenging during the holiday season due to the high sugar content of many celebratory foods and the ubiquity of sweets.
Added sugars defined
Added sugars include any caloric sweeteners added to foods or beverages during processing or preparation (such as putting sugar in your coffee). Primary food sources of added sugar include sugary drinks, sweetened breakfast foods, flavored yogurt, syrups, sauces, candy, frozen treats, and sweet baked goods. In contrast, the naturally occurring sugars in fruit, milk, and plain yogurt are a part of a healthy diet.
Check the label, know the limits
When shopping for processed and packaged foods, urge individuals or your plan members to read the Nutrition Facts label for added sugars or check the ingredient list for any added sugars. There are many names for added sugars consumers should be aware of—especially those who should avoid added sugars due to a health condition. Advise them to look for any word with “sugar, nectar or syrup,” cane juice, evaporated cane juice or crystals, corn sweetener, fruit juice or fruit juice concentrates, honey, molasses, muscovado, panela (raspadora), sugar molecules ending in “ose,” sweet sorghum, and treacle.
It is easy for people who do not monitor their sugar intake to exceed their daily limit. For example, one can of soda has twelve teaspoons of sugar—twice the amount recommended for women and one-third above the guideline for men.
Cut sugar cravings by breaking the cycle
While your members may find it difficult to cut added dietary sugars, especially this time of year, remind them that overindulgence in caloric sweeteners, even for a short time, may be setting their diets up for failure.
The more sugar someone consumes, the more their body will crave it. Therefore, people can break the cycle by simply reducing added sugar in their diet; over time, they will crave it less. For example, we suggest reducing the sugar someone typically adds to cereal, coffee, or tea. Try cutting this by half and weaning down from there.
Here are other tips to share with people in your care, to help them cut back on added sugars during the holidays (and any day) and keep cravings in check:
- Fuel your body with well-balanced meals every day to avoid snacking on sweets.
- Set your daily sugar quota where it matters most to you. If dessert is important, get your added sugar from that rather than foods with hidden sugar like condiments, cereal, and yogurt.
- Avoid temptation. Keep sugary foods, like candy and cookies, out of the house.
- Remove sugar, syrup, and honey from the table. Out of sight, out of mind!
- Rethink dessert. Enjoy rich and decadent goodies in small portions only once daily, or choose fruit instead.
- Choose sugar-free or low-calorie beverages. Or better yet, drink water.
- Buy fruits canned in water or natural juice versus canned in syrup, especially heavy syrup.
- Instead of adding sugar to cereal, oatmeal, and plain yogurt, add fruit instead.
- Bake and cook at home, cutting the sugar by one-third to one-half from the original recipe.
- Instead of adding sugar in recipes, use fruits like unsweetened applesauce or ripe, mashed bananas, extracts such as almond, vanilla, orange, or lemon, or spices like ginger, allspice, cinnamon, or nutmeg.
- While artificial sweeteners play a role in reducing sugar intake, use them in moderation.
Manage added sugar with medically tailored meals
Those with chronic health conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, may find it easier to avoid added sugars by eating medically tailored meals that are designed by dietitians. LiveWell with Traditions provides a meal program that delivers nutrient-dense, low-sugar, ready-to-heat meals directly to the homes of post-discharge or chronically ill individuals. In addition to assisting members in controlling their sugar consumption, our nutritious chef-inspired menus provide a satisfying dining experience that will help with portion control.
Explore our specialty diet plans and menus to discover how LiveWell with Traditions’ medically tailored meals can help break the sugar cycle with good nutrition in every bite—during the holidays or any time of year.