Here’s some sweet news: When it comes to sugar, it’s not about cutting it out completely, it’s about making the healthiest choices. “Foods high in added sugars, such as soft drinks, candy, cookies, and cake, can lack essential nutrients and be eaten at the expense of healthier, whole foods,” says Emma Stirling, Consultant Dietician for Weight Watchers Australia and New Zealand. In fact, Canadians now consume a large percentage of their calories from processed foods, which tend to be high in sugar (as well as sodium and saturated fat) instead of whole foods that offer more nutritionally, such as fruit, veggies, lean protein, low-fat and fat-free dairy, and whole grains. Cutting back can also help lower your chances of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes. With Halloween candy looming, now’s the perfect time to do a sugar check!
Sleuth out added sugar
“The key is to cut back on processed foods and keep an eye out for added sugar,” says Stirling. “Read the ingredients to see if a food contains sugar or an alternative—high-fructose corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, maltose, dextrose, sucrose, or glucose.” (In fact, an easy way to play detective is to look for the suffix –ose, which indicates a form of sugar is lurking within.) To figure out sugar content, she adds, “look at the nutrition label and divide the grams of sugar by four—that’s how many teaspoons are in there.”
But keep in mind that fruit and milk can have naturally occurring sugar, which is present in far lower quantities and doesn’t affect the body in the same way that added sugars can. Basically, sugar that’s been added to foods serves only to jack up non-nutritive calories.
Try these smart sugar swaps:
|SWAP OUT||REPLACE WITH|
|Store-bought pasta sauce||Homemade pasta sauce|
|Flavored yogurt||Low-fat or fat-free yogurt topped with fresh fruit|
|Sweetened cereal||Plain oatmeal or low-sugar cereal topped with chopped nuts and cinnamon|
|Granola bars||Handful of nuts and fresh fruit|
|Sweetened soft drink||Seltzer or club soda with a squeeze of citrus, crushed mint|
More tricks? Mellow, “warm” spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice can lend a pleasing complexity to hot drinks, oatmeal, and applesauce. Speaking of fruit, grilling (pineapple, stone fruits) and freezing (grapes, berries, bananas) can both bring out its inherent sweetness. And keep in mind, the more you can explore new recipes, ingredients, and techniques, the easier it will be to cut back on sugar!
Sweet sides (Yes, veggies can be sweet too!)