Sugar – a love-hate relationship
The average American consumes about 130 lbs of sugar per year¹. That is a frightening number and to make it worse, only the smallest part of it is self-added sugar. Like, for example, the spoonful of sugar in the morning cup of coffee. The lion’s share of your daily sugar consumption hides in food. During the James Beard Foundation Food Conference, Prof. Robert Lustig presented 56 different names the food industry uses for sugar. The food industry uses this to prevent you from becoming aware of your sugar consumption. By this, food can still be sold as healthy and natural even though it contains a high sugar content.
These are some examples for names describing sugar:
Maltose or malt extract
It is even more confusing that sugar hides not only in the obvious foods such as jam, juice or sweets. Often savory ready-made meals, sauces or sausages contain just an equally high sugar content.
But why demonize the sugar?
Yes, yes, diet, you might say now. We should all eat no sugar and be slim. But aesthetics is in my opinion not nearly as crucial, as the fact that sugar is a considerable health risk. Science has proven that too much sugar intake is directly linked to many serious diseases. Obesity, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, cancer, Alzheimer, and carious are just a few examples from a long list. And yes, the fact that nowadays one in three people in the world is overweight gives us cause to seriously overthink our sugar intake.
Now you’re all frightened and feel bad about your candy stock for the bad days? All this has to stop?
You know I am not a supporter of extremes and I do not believe in radical changes or radical diets. As my mom always says: life is too short for crisp bread. And that is also how I calm myself when I become weak again over a piece of cake. So, do not worry, eat up your candy stock. You should attempt, however, to become more aware of your sugar consumption and to reduce it accordingly more and more. The following three steps will help you to reduce your sugar intake severely. In order to achieve sustainable success, always adhere to the principle: step by step. If you immediately throw away all your candy, forbid yourself every piece of cake, banish the jam, etc., you will probably get a total relapse in two weeks and no longer withstand your cravings. Instead, replace one sugary habit after the other until you REALLY have no problem with living without your candies.
1. Do it yourself
You can only control the ingredients of food that you have prepared yourself. Are you passionate about pizza? No problem. Continue eating pizza, but try to make a pizza all by yourself. You will be amazed how easy it is to make a yeast dough and as a bonus: you can add whatever topping you like. You life is worth nothing without cookies? Eat cookies, but try baking some on your own. First, you will plan twice to bake a bunch and then find no time for it. (Muhaha, you accidentally omitted to eat cookies already twice). Second, you will value your home-baked cookies much more than the cookies from the supermarket. Third, you can decide upon the ingredients again. Use the at least somewhat healthier brown cane sugar instead of white sugar. Also, add a smaller amount of sugar to your dough than is in the recipe. Last, substitute whole milk chocolate chips with the higher-quality dark chocolate chips.
Conclusion: In this step, you will not miss anything while you are now in the position to control your sugar intake. You know and control exactly which kind of and how much sugar you eat.
2. Stop adding sugar to your beverages
Ok, this step you may feel hard, but, believe me, even from my own experience, sugar and sweetness are a matter of habit. Taste is trainable and usually arises from the eating habits of your family/childhood. You can train your sense of taste to react more sensitive to sweetness. Attempt a total sugar withdrawal for a week and avoid to add sugar in any of your drinks. You will probably dislike your coffee or tea at the beginning. Yet, after a week, you will no longer be able to imagine how you could ever add sugar. If you do not get along with the cold turkey, try to reduce your sugar gradually. Do you like your coffee with 2 tablespoons of sugar? Decrease to just one, then half, then none.
Conclusion: This change may seem a bit difficult at the beginning, but your sense of taste is trainable. Become aware of this fact and reduce the amount of self-added sugar.
3. Replace your guilty pleasures
You are a passionate chocolate fan and the saying you cannot please everyone, you are not a bar of chocolate describes your life? Stressful situations or tough times are unimaginable without the support of chocolate? Your ultimate long-term goal is to permanently renounce on chocolate (or any other candy). It is never good to combat stress or grief with food. One day, you should channel your stress or grief by for example physical activity or other activities that have nothing to do with food. Until then, try to replace your chocolate first by healthier dark chocolate. Dark chocolate gives you a feeling of higher satiety and it makes you want less quickly sweets again. In general, pick foods that you also love to eat and replace your candy with them. I, for example, like to eat nuts (there are various tasty mixtures) or fruit. Of course, even here people argue about sugar and fat content, but everything is better than a pack of Haribo. I have also made some good experience with homemade granola bars. Try for example this one before you reach for the next Twix.
Conclusion: Find new and healthier sweets. There is a lot of food that tastes sweet, but is healthier than candy. Banish all industrially produced candy. A Little trick to avoid falling back into old patterns: simply buy no sweets anymore.
How do you try to control your everyday sugar intake consciously? What are your favorite healthy treats?
Have a look at the Forbes infographic for further details on the American sugar consumption.