Sugar Sugar

♪ Oh sugar, pour a little sugar on it honey
Pour a little sugar on it baby
I’m gonna make your life so sweet, yeah yeah yeah ♪

When you think of sugar you naturally think of things like cupcakes or cookies or muffins or soda or other sweet things. When you think of sugar you don’t think of ketchup or protein bars or baked beans or white bread or canned soup but some of these items can have more sugar than blueberry muffins! The food industry figured out that sugar was addictive and started adding it to everything. Food that used to have a low sugar count now counts the same or worse than the sugary treats we eat.

Ketchup, for example, two tablespoons of ketchup has about eight grams of sugar, according to the USDA. That’s about as much sugar as you’ll find in a large store-bought chocolate chip cookie. A single slice of white bread can have up to two grams of added sugar. Some restaurants even coat their fries with a mix of salt and sugar. Flavored yogurt can have almost 20 grams of sugar per serving. Yogurts are deceivingly packed with crazy amounts of added sugar and then labeled as a “health food.” Another doozie are drinks like Vitamin Water who pack in 32 grams per bottle of Focus Kiwi-Strawberry. They make you think that their “water” is healthier choice. That is just 6 grams shy of a Sprite! You might as well just have the soda.

The World Health Organization guideline recommends adults and children reduce their daily intake of free sugars to less than 10% of their total energy intake. This means if you are on a 2000 calorie diet your sugar should be no more than 200 calories which equals less than 50 grams of added sugar (or around 12 teaspoons). How exactly are we supposed to stick to these guidelines when there is sugar in practically everything!?!

When my sister worked for NBC she sent me a copy of Eat This, Not That! Thousands of Simple Food Swaps that Can Save You 10, 20, 30 Pounds–or More!. They had talked about the book on the show Biggest Loser and it really is a book of useful information. I’ve long since lost my copy but I haven’t lost the understanding of how to look at my food as fuel. Obviously they market this book as a diet plan but the eye-opener for me was the calorie comparisons.

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Look at the difference between those two healthy snacks. I mean, even healthy snacks can be loaded with calories and sugar. In addition, the type of food you’re putting in your body can influence satiation. We see that the king size candy bar package says two servings but who can eat just half? Take a look at the graphic below… calorie count is important to make sure we’re getting the most bang for our buck.

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In college I had severe IBS. I went to my primary doctor who said I was perfectly healthy and couldn’t see why I was complaining of stomach pain. He referred me to an Internist who then used ultrasound to see what was going on in my abdomen. Since he couldn’t see anything wrong he referred me to a Gastroenterologist. I really thought that I had an ulcer or something was seriously wrong but the GI doctor didn’t even run any tests he just told me to do an elimination diet (which I did) to see what was going on.

Turns out my body was super sensitive to tomato products, sugar, things that cause gas, and anything white. Great. But you know what? We figured out how to work around my sensitivities and I can happily eat a giant plate of spaghetti every now and then. The crazier thing is that I don’t even miss the things I’ve cut way back in my diet and I find myself craving all the healthy food my body needs each day. It’s awesome.

The major thing my GI told me was to cut out sugar. Like, if there was only one thing you do it would be to cut sugar out of your diet and the rest will solve itself. So, I READ MY LABELS and to try and limit added sugar to 8 or 9 grams per serving (his suggestion). This has been a game changer folks! Do you know how hard it is to find packaged items with such little sugar? Yes, of course you do. We all do. I’m that person who stands in the aisle for what seems like forever comparing labels. And it’s made a HUGE difference in my life. I hardly ever drink soda and when I do it is such a wonderful treat! It is so nice to have treats and to enjoy food and not feel an ounce of guilt.

I say all this because I truly believe it is possible for everyone to do this. You can buy the low sugar or sugar free jelly and the low or no sugar peanut butter and the low or no sugar wheat bread and it is just as delicious as a regular PB&J. Now that I know what cereals or bread or granola bars or yogurt or whatever it is that I’m buying has the low or no sugar it’s really easy to shop and it doesn’t cost a fortune. I’m not buying all organic either.

Take a look at your diet and add up the sugar throughout the day. You may not be over your limit in your calories but you may be WAY over your limit in your sugar. This is why almost 10% of the U.S. population is diabetic and that number is rising. Next time you’re in the grocery store I encourage you to really look at your nutrition labels. Don’t just buy the cheapest item on the shelf (although I will say that the store brand is usually the least amount of sugar). Do yourself a favor and take a second look at your diet and read your nutrition labels. You’ll be amazed at how better you feel!