Weekly Challenge: Eat Less Sugar

Hey friends! Happy Sunday! I hope you're having a great weekend! I'm popping in to share our second weekly challenge: eat less sugar! April-6-Challenge

There's a lot of research that suggests Americans are on a sugar overload and it's affecting our health in detrimental ways. The American Heart Association, for example, reports added sugar increases one's risk of heart disease and contributes to obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

You’ve probably heard a sugar-is-bad message before, but if you’re like me, you weren’t really sure what to do with that information except to avoid donuts and the other obvious sugar culprits, like candy and ice cream. But here’s something you may not realize: sugar is in otherwise-healthy foods too, like yogurt, granola and dried fruit (raisins are especially high). It’s also in the most unsuspecting places- I’ve seen it on the nutrition label of precooked shrimp at Costco, a canister of sunflower seeds, and even in Morton’s “Lite Salt.”

Sugar is everywhere!

It's laced in your breakfast, lunch, and dinner disguised as dextrose, evaporated cane juice, maltose, sucrose, frutose, lactose, and high fructose corn syrup... just to name a few of the other names for sugar. And, it's highly addictive.

It's in your coffee creamer, your salad dressing, your salad toppings, such as craisins, and in your energy bars and sports drinks. Did you know just one 12-ounce bottle of Gatorade (fruit punch flavor) has 21 grams of sugar?

You may think you can’t escape sugar, but you can and more importantly, you should!

According to a new study in JAMA Internal Medicine, suggests that Americans who consume the most sugar — about a quarter of their daily calories, or 500 calories (the equivelant to 31 teaspoons of sugar) — were twice as likely to die from heart disease as those who limited their sugar intake to 7 percent of their total calories.

Which group are you in? Do you limit your sugar or is it in a quarter of the foods you eat? Think of it this way:

The American Heart Association advises that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar daily.

To know how many teaspoons you're consuming, you'll need to know that there's approximately 4 grams of sugar in every one teaspoon. So, when you check the label for sugar, divide whatever the total grams is by 4. For example, that Gatorade, at 21 grams, has about 5 teaspoons of sugar… pretty close to the recommended daily serving!

Another easy way to watch your sugar is to log your food.

MyFitnessPal provides the nutritional breakdown of all the foods you log, making it really easy to see where the sugar in your diet is coming from! Take a look at my food log for last Tuesday:

Sugar

My total sugar intake for the day was about 33 grams, or 8.25 teaspoons. That's not bad, but let's look at where the most of the sugar came from: my coffee creamer. One tablespoon of Lucrene hazelnut coffee creamer has about 5 grams of sugar in it. Remember, 4 grams is the equivalent of one teaspoons, so 5 grams is a little more than a teaspoon. What's that tell me? Well, more than a teaspoon of the tablespoon of creamer is sugar! It's basically ALL sugar!

Learning this has been eye-opening for me and I've already taken steps to cut back on the coffee creamer. Of course, keep in mind, this was a good day for me! There were no donuts for the office at work or afternoon cookie attacks. I don't always have good days but if I can set myself up to get in the habit of not eating sugar, those little splurges every now and then won't be as big of a deal.

I'd love for you to join me in this challenge to eat less sugar, and share what you learn along the way! Whether it's finding that there is sugar in one of your favorite "healthy" foods or finding a good sugar substitute (and I'm not talking about fake sugar--that's a post for a different day), please share your experience!

Remember: This challenge is meant to last the entire week! If you can, continue logging and see where the sugar in your diet is coming from. If you don't like to log, check the label on foods-- look for those sugar disguises or just do the math and see how many teaspoons you're taking in! Feel free to share your findings back here!

To read more about the JAMA Internal Medicine study, read (or listen to) this article from NPR and to learn more about sugar, I highly recommend watching this video on how sugar affects the brain.

Do you have a slight sugar addiction? Do you watch how much sugar you eat?