What do candy, cookies, salad dressing, and yogurt have in common?
They all contain added SUGAR.
Wait, what? Sugar in my salad dressing?
Just when you’re trying to eat healthy, the food industry goes and sneaks sugar in your salad dressing. In some cases, loads of it.
It can feel disheartening, like nothing you eat will ever be right.
If that makes you want to grab a cookie and say f*ck it, know this:
The antidote to this powerless feeling is education.
As a girl with a lifelong sweet tooth, let me tell you: learning about added sugar changed the way I ate. It made me healthier (I now eat way less sugar) and it helped me enjoy the summertime ice cream cone or Halloween candy even more, knowing I’m staying within my boundaries.
Let’s do a quick crash course on sugar, empower you to make great decisions, and give you 11 easy swaps to start making today.
What is added sugar?
Added sugar in foods or beverages is any sugar that has been added during processing. You’ll see it on labels as sugar, dextrose, fructose, brown rice syrup, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, molasses, and more. Added sugar is a major contributor to weight gain, cancer risk, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hormone disruption, acne, and more.
Naturally occurring sugars are those in milk products (lactose) and whole fruits (fructose), like apples, pears, and berries.
Eating whole fruit, like strawberries or a plum, isn’t bad for you because the sugars occur naturally and the fruit has fiber. The fiber makes you feel more full and slows sugar’s release into your bloodstream. In fact, there has been no evidence to show that fructose negatively impacts your health.
When we talk about added sugar, we’re NOT talking about whole fruits.
Why does added sugar make you gain weight?
The Observer does a great job of explaining this:
“When our blood sugar is spiked, insulin floods the bloodstream. Over time, this can cause your blood sugar to stop responding to insulin. Because insulin is constantly in the bloodstream, sugars don’t get removed. This can lead to diabetes, brain fog, exhaustion, constant hunger and depression.
If cells are overburdened with stored sugar and can’t take in any more, insulin then carries the excess sugar to our liver, where it gets stored as glycogen. Once the glycogen stores in the liver are filled, this glycogen gets stored as fatty acids and triglycerides in our tissues (hello, weight gain!).”
If you eat too much refined, added sugar, your body doesn’t know what to do with it, so it stores it as fat.
The simple answer is to avoid added sugar, but here’s the hitch: it’s been shown to be as addictive as cocaine.
Read that again: refined sugar is addictive as COCAINE.
So basically, if there’s one thing you should be paying attention to to improve your diet, this is it.
How much added sugar should you be eating?
Ideally, none. There’s no need for it. The recommended daily amount of added sugar is 25 grams per day for women and 36 grams per day for men.
The average American gets 71 grams per day, according to the American Heart Association.
The crazy thing? Since sugar is hidden in so many foods, many of those people think they’re eating healthy.
How much added sugar are you eating?
To find out how much added sugar you're eating, flip over the package of any food in your house and read the nutrition facts box. The FDA’s nutrition label recently went through a major overhaul, so added sugar now has its own line. Just make sure you multiply it by how many servings you’re eating.
Looking at the nutrition facts can be a game changer. By starting to pay attention to your labels, you’ll make healthier decisions and feel confident about what you’re eating.
11 EASY SWAPS TO EAT LESS SUGAR
You curb sugar cravings by eating less sugar, and you eat less sugar by making easy swaps.
Here are some simple changes you can make to lower your added sugar intake. Remember, you’re aiming for a maximum of 25 grams of added sugar per day.
Noosa Blueberry Yogurt - 18g added sugar per 8 oz serving
Noosa Lemon Yogurt - 14g added sugar per 4.5 oz serving
Chobani Raspberry Greek Yogurt - 9g added sugar per 5.3 ounce single serve cup
EAT INSTEAD: Fage Total 2% milkfat - 0g added sugar (then add your own fruit)
Dave’s Killer Bread 21 whole grains and seeds - 5 grams of added sugar per slice
Oroweat Oatnut bread - 2 grams of added sugar per slice
EAT INSTEAD: Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted grain bread (sold in the frozen section) - 0g added sugar per slice
Nature Valley Sweet and Salty bars - 7g added sugar per bar
Kind Dark Chocolate Nuts and Sea Salt - 4g added sugar per bar
EAT INSTEAD: Larabars - any Original Fruit and Nut bars - 0g added sugar
Simply Lemonade with Raspberry - 26g added sugar in 8 oz
Gold Peak Sweetened Black Iced Tea - 32g added sugar in 12 oz
EAT INSTEAD: Water with lemon/cucumber/raspberries - 0g added sugar
EAT INSTEAD: Unsweetened iced tea that you make yourself - 0g added sugar
Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte - grande, 2% milk - 29 grams added sugar
DRINK INSTEAD: Starbucks Flat White - tall, almond milk - 6 g sugar
DRINK INSTEAD: Regular coffee - 0 g added sugar
Natural Bliss sweet cream coffee creamer - 4g added sugar in ½ an ounce
Natural Bliss cashew milk coffee creamer - 4g added sugar in ½ an ounce
Coffee Mate Pumpkin Spice coffee creamer - 5g added sugar in ½ an ounce
EAT INSTEAD: Califia Farms unsweetened Almond milk - 0g added sugar
EAT INSTEAD: Califia Farms Oat Milk - 0g added sugar
Gatorade Frost Crisp and Cool Glacier Freeze - 21 grams of sugar in 12 ounces
EAT INSTEAD: Water! Water is fine for 90% of the workouts you do. If it’s a very hot day and you’re doing a long workout, add an ounce of 100% fruit juice and a pinch of salt to your waterbottle.
Reduced Fat Wheat Thins - 4 grams of added sugar per 16 crackers
Honeymaid Graham Crackers - 8 grams of added sugar per 2 sheets
EAT INSTEAD: Mary’s Gone Crackers - 0 grams of added sugar
EAT INSTEAD: Blue Diamond Nut Thins - 0 grams of added sugar
Heinz “Simply” Ketchup - 3 grams of added sugar per tablespoon
Hunt’s Ketchup - 3 grams of added sugar per tablespoon
Trader Joe’s ketchup - 2 grams of added sugar per tablespoon
EAT INSTEAD: Primal Kitchen ketchup - 0 g added sugar per tablespoon
Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey BBQ sauce - 7.5 grams of added sugar per 2 tablespoons
Stubbs Original BBQ sauce - 4 grams of added sugar per 2 tablespoons
EAT INSTEAD: G. Hughes Smokehouse Original Sugar Free BBQ Sauce - 0g added sugar
Newman’s Own Light Balsamic Vinaigrette - 2 grams of sugar per 2 tablespoons
Brianna’s Creamy Cilantro Lime Dressing - 2 grams of sugar per 2 tablespoons
Ken’s Steakhouse Asian Sesame - 8 grams of sugar per 2 tablespoons
EAT INSTEAD: Homemade extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, shaken in a jar with a bit of salt and pepper - 0g added sugar
EAT INSTEAD: Love + Lemons Cilantro Lime Dressing - 0g added sugar
I know how hard it can be to fight off sugar cravings. But by making one small swap at a time, you can cut your added sugar consumption in half (or more!) without even noticing a difference.
It’ll make eating that dessert so much sweeter knowing you’re staying within your boundaries and keeping your body healthy.
If you got value out of this, let me know! I love hearing from you.