In good news, added sugars are only found in foods that have been processed. Whole, unprocessed foods are naturally free of added sugars.
Sadly, we humans are the architects of our own struggle, as our desire for tasty, sugary foods has led us to add sugar wherever we can.
To conquer our inborn instinct, we have to get smart about sugar. Here are ways to limit added sugar in your diet.
In 2016, the FDA began requiring all food labels to list the amount of “added sugar” instead of just the amount of total sugar. Naturally occurring carbohydrates and sugar in foods are of much less concern than all the extra added in processing. Keeping the goal of 24 grams in mind, read labels and consider if the food is worth the added sugar.
This recommendation will be challenging for some people, but long-term success at limiting added sugar intake requires new habits. Sugary treats should be for special occasions, not an everyday occurrence. If skipping a treat is a big departure from your norm, then start small. For example, instead of going cold turkey, could you go without a treat on just one or two days a week? As your willpower increases, so will your days without dessert.
Opt for a piece of fruit if you have an intense sugar craving. In addition to the naturally occurring sugar, you will also get the benefit of healthy fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
When you crave sugar, pause to assess what might be causing the craving. A desire for sweets could signal that your brain is tired and wants a quick pick-me-up. However, sugar is not the only way to get it. For example, go for a brisk walk, lie down and close your eyes for a few minutes, or drink some water to rehydrate. It’s also possible your craving is about getting the feel-good shot of dopamine. But, there are other ways to meet that need. Spend time with a loved one, listen to music or do some deep breathing. Sugar is a poor substitute for what we really need.
Fill up on healthy foods. Eating a wholesome, plant-based diet that meets your nutritional needs will reduce your desire for sugar. Let a quality diet crowd out the junk food.
Keep in mind that the goal is to limit added sugar, not necessarily naturally occurring sugars found in fruits, whole grains, and dairy. While it is certainly possible to overeat these types of foods, for most people, added sugar is the real culprit.