By Catherine Bares:
Sugar is addictive, according to all the studies and research I have read over the past couple of years. Undoubtedly, I fight sugar addiction daily; it's like a drug for me—the more I get the more I want.
I read a book called Belly Fat-Free by Josh Bezoni. While there are many "Obesity Additives" that Josh discusses in his book, "sugar is public enemy number one." He calculates that an average American eats 140 pounds of sugar per year, about 173 grams per day.
Let's look at soft drinks, energy drinks, Frappuccinos, and fruit juices, to name a few. A 12-oz portion that shows 40 grams of sugar in the nutritional content is equivalent to 10 teaspoons of sugar. (10 TEASPOONS!!!!) A very popular brand of Frappuccino has 31 grams of sugar in a 9.5-ounce bottle. They proudly claim on the front of the bottle "200 calories per bottle." What they don't say is that all those calories are pure sugar.
Daily Recommended Amount
The American Heart Association recommends limiting sugar intake to no more than half of your daily "discretionary calories" (added sugars and solid fats in food, drinks, and alcoholic beverages): no more than 100 calories per day for women (about 6 teaspoons per day) and no more than 150 calories per day for men (9 teaspoons per day). One 12-ounce drink has more than the recommended daily allowance. I don't know about you, but I can name people in my life that consume several energy drinks per day. Keep in mind these are discretionary calories. According to Josh Bezoni's Belly Fat-Free research, most women should consume no more than a total of 25 grams of sugar per day and men no more than a total of 37.5 grams of sugar per day. High intake of added sugar is linked to many poor health conditions, such as:
High blood pressure
Higher risk for heart disease
Higher risk for stroke
Seek out nutritional information. Read the sugar content in everything you eat and drink. Sugar is hiding in everything. "Low Fat" products are stuffed with sugar; read the labels. I was shocked to learn that the skim milk I was drinking had 12 grams of sugar. Milk?! Really?
Start cutting back. With addiction comes withdrawal side effects. When I made the decision to cut back on sugar, I suffered mood swings, cravings, headaches, and nausea. BE SURE TO SEE A DOCTOR OR LICENSED NUTRITIONIST BEFORE MAKING DRASTIC CHANGES. IT'S PROBABLY BEST TO START TAPERING DOWN SLOWLY TO AVOID HEALTH CONCERNS. THIS IS NOT A JOKE.
BEFORE DRASTICALLY CUTTING BACK, SEE A DOCTOR. Have a blood test performed and seek advice on how to cut back safely. There may be some underlying health concerns from chronic sugar abuse that may need some medical attention.
Chase the Devil out of your pantry. Throw away processed foods with high sugar content. Stick to natural food sources such as meat, fruit, vegetables, etc.
The Best Side Effect
The best side effect you will experience while cutting back on sugar (my favorite) is the loss of belly fat and total weight.
I had a friend that made the decision to improve his health after a scare from a routine physical. He hired a personal trainer and started eating better, which yielded fast results. Then, he hit a plateau and was getting terribly frustrated. So I asked him, "What are you eating?" He replied, "I feel like I'm starving myself. I drink nothing but smoothies." While he thought he was being healthy in drinking smoothies, he was sabotaging his efforts. Do you know how much sugar is in smoothies? So, I encouraged him to eat real, natural food: whole fruit, veggies, meat, etc. He then successfully went on to hit his goal weight and impressed the heck out of his personal trainer.
Pitfalls When Trying to Eat Healthier
When it comes to eating healthier, there are many pitfalls that can derail our attempts, sometimes we may not even realize we are being derailed.
False claims on packaging
Wordplay to hide true ingredients
Consumer belief systems on what is "natural"
The convenience factor
Take Steps to Eat and Live Healthier
The key to healthier eating is awareness. I find sticking to natural food sources yields the best results for me. Hydration is also important when living a healthier lifestyle.
Tips on taking steps to eat healthier:
Carry water everywhere you go. Even the slightest dehydration can sabotage eating habits. For me, I carry a sports bottle with water everywhere I go. Bottled water has been proven to have poisons that seep into the water from the plastic under certain conditions. I prefer to stay clear of bottled water as much as I can.
Keep boiled eggs in the fridge for an easy grab-on-the-go snack. I boil, peel, and store them in an airtight container, that way all I have to do is grab one when in a pinch for time.
Pre-plan meals. I am a crockpot queen and cook just about anything in my crockpot. If in need of recipes, Google "slow cooker recipes." There are some good recipes out there; some may even surprise you. I came across a recipe that cooks a 3-course meal at once: steaks, potatoes, and corn on the cob. What a concept!
I do not eat fast food. When I take a road trip, I pack a small ice chest with fresh fruit, Greek yogurt, sandwiches, cheese, etc. It saves time while traveling, limiting the necessary stops, and is much easier on the pocketbook. It also helps keep me on the lighter side of total calorie consumption for me and my family.
Many years ago, I started bringing my lunch to work every day. I try to prepare it the night before; oftentimes my lunch would be leftovers from supper, so I would pack up my lunch while cleaning the kitchen in the evenings. It keeps my costs down, keeps me on track with my healthier eating goal, and helps me control total calorie consumption (quality calories vs. empty calories).
When I eat out, I take it easy on the lagniappe chips and bread. My husband and I usually split the entrée. When dining alone, I order small plates (appetizers, soup, or salad) or I ask for a to-go plate when my food arrives. I get some strange looks when asking for a to-go plate before I start eating, but it assures me that I won't overeat. I don't start eating until I put half of the meal in the to-go plate. Portion sizes at restaurants have gotten out of control. Another good tip is to review a restaurant’s menu online before arrival so that you can prepare for what you are going to order.
I often wondered why meat at a restaurant is always so juicy. I discovered that most meats at restaurants are marinated in oil overnight to keep the meat from drying out during cooking. Once I learned that, I started ordering my meat with no oil or butter. It takes longer for the orders to come out since the chef must prepare a fresh piece of meat, so learn to be patient.
I limit alcohol consumption by ordering a glass of water with my drink. My goal is to drink a glass of water for every glass of alcohol; this limits calories and helps prevent hangovers. Water also fills you up more, thwarting the desire to keep filling your belly.
I don't eat microwave popcorn. I buy the kernels and pop them on the stove using virgin coconut oil and then toss in sea salt. The trick to not overstuffing a pot is to put enough kernels to cover the bottom of the pot with a single layer of kernels. Very little oil is needed. Want to add flavor? I add cinnamon and cayenne pepper for a spicy flavor. You can also cook with olive oil and a couple drops of butter extract for that buttery taste. Get creative.
Cook brown rice instead of white rice or use riced cauliflower in its place. Minute rice has good brown rice and its quick and easy.
Mashup 1/2 an avocado and put in beans instead of rice. Large white lima's are my favorite to add to avocado, but it works with any beans.
Limit sugar and stay away from artificial sweeteners. Regardless of the product claims, recent studies have shown artificial sweeteners are harmful to your health. Do the research and decide for yourself.
When buying packaged products, look for brands with fewer ingredients listed. Remember to read the nutritional information and the ingredient lists. The ingredients are listed in order of the most content it contains to the least content. If the package claims to be low in sugar, see where the ingredient falls in the lists. I have found that some packages boast low sugar, but it may be the 1st or 2nd listed ingredient. The more ingredients listed the more skeptical you should be.
Stay active: take the stairs, walk the dog, dance, play tag with the kids, perform squats while folding clothes out of the drier, park farther out in parking lots, stand up and stretch after sitting for long periods of time.
Do the Research
I am not a registered nutritionist, just someone with access to the internet who wants to lead a healthy lifestyle. Verify findings, look for credible information, make an appointment with a licensed nutritionist. Start small and work more habits in daily and weekly.
Catherine Bares is a blogger, wife, mother, grandmother, Profit Coach & Trainer in the A/C and Heating Industry, and Group Fitness instructor residing in Southern Louisiana. Her mission is to be a source of inspiration for self-improvement for others to live a happier and healthier life.