Sugar is a major cause of tooth decay, obesity and other related diseases, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Many experts now claim that sugar is even more harmful to your health than smoking, leading health organizations, medical experts and even celebrities to advocate a significant reduction in sugar intake. Here are 10 simple ways to cut the amount of sugar in your diet.
Most food manufacturers provide a list of ingredients on their product packaging, allowing consumers to make informed choices about the food they eat. However, sugar can be listed under many different names, including fructose, glucose syrup, molasses, sucrose, maltose, corn syrup and hydrolysed starch. Always check food labels to look for hidden sugars.
Choose Sugar-Free Options
Many soft drinks are available in sugar-free varieties, often labelled as diet drinks. Although sugar-free drinks contain artificial sweeteners, they can taste just as sweet as regular drinks, but without the negative health implications associated with sugar. Avoid excessive intake of sugar-free drinks, as some artificial sweeteners can have a laxative effect.
Fruit juices and fruit juice concentrate are loaded with natural sugars that can cause just as much harm as added sugars. Diluting fruit juices and fruit juice concentrate with still or carbonated water can halve the sugar content of fruit drinks. Similarly, you can cut the sugar content of milkshakes by adding extra milk or plain yogurt.
Avoid Processed Foods
Processed foods are high in sugar and salt, both of which are used as preservatives. Ready meals, canned foods and processed meat and fish are laden with sugar and artificial preservatives. Switching to fresh or frozen foods cuts the amount of sugar, salt and other harmful ingredients in your diet.
Cans of fruit and vegetables are often preserved in sugared water. However, most supermarkets provide alternatives with reduced sugar and salt. Choose vegetables canned in plain water, rather than brine or sugared water. Choose fruit canned in natural fruit juice, rather than syrup, and drain off the juice before serving.
Switch to Wholegrain Cereals
Many popular breakfast cereals are covered in sugar and provide little nutritional value. Switch to wholegrain breakfast cereals, such as oatmeal or bran flakes. Avoid adding sugar, honey or maple syrup to cereals. For a little extra sweetness, try adding a chopped banana or handful of raisins.
Cut Sugar in Recipes
Most recipes can be altered without significantly affecting the taste. Try reducing the amount of sugar, syrup, jam and other sugar-based products used in recipes. Some cake recipes can work just as well using half the amount of sugar normally used, although you may need to add extra flour, cocoa powder or other ingredients to achieve the right texture.
Experiment with Ingredients
Mashed banana, crushed apple and grated carrot are among the many ingredients that can provide natural sweetness to dishes. Try adding sweet vegetables and fruits to recipes in place of sugar. Dried fruits, such as raisins, prunes, dates, dried apricots and banana chips, are all excellent natural sweeteners.
Take Care when Eating Out
Fast food, restaurant food and take-out is often packed with sugar, but there are usually healthier options available. Sweet and sour sauces, tomato-based sauces and caramelized dishes are among the biggest culprits for excess sugar. Some restaurants and fast food outlets provide a list of ingredients on their website, enabling you to check in advance for healthy alternatives.
Consider Alcohol Mixers
While alcohol contains sugar, it’s often the mixers in alcoholic drinks that provide the highest amounts. Cocktails and pre-mixed cans and bottles can contain a great deal of sugar, particularly those mixed with soft drinks, lemonade and energy drinks. Try mixing spirits with club soda or sparkling water and adding a twist of lime.
Cutting the amount of sugar in your diet is one of the best ways to stay fit and healthy. There are plenty of alternatives out there that are well worth switching from normal sugar in the long run!