Sugar is hidden in many everyday foods for the simple reason that it is an easy and cheap way to preserve foods. While reducing consumption of added sugars is important, it is also crucial to make educated choices with other foods. Here are simple ways to better understand sugar intake and make more nutritious choices.
Story by Abby Morgan
Illustration by Vanessa Astronoto
Know How to Read Food Labels
Food labels aren’t required to differentiate between natural sugars that occur in food and what is added during manufacturing. However, the ingredients list has to list any added sugars such as agave, high fructose corn syrup or sucrose. The added sugars can be any of a dozen forms so it’s important to know the varying forms of sugar that will be on the labels. To learn more about the different forms of sugar on food labels, visit Choose My Plate.
Avoid Grocery Shopping When Hungry
Even the best laid plans can be thwarted by the smell of fresh-baked items or cravings when passing through the ice cream aisle. This problem can only be exacerbated by a growling stomach. A clear mind and a full stomach is a successful combination for making decisions about foods worth buying.
Buy Unsweetened Processed Foods
When looking over the food labels in a grocery store, look for alternative options that are unsweetened. Canned fruits, almond milk and peanut butter can often be packed with added sugars. If the label reflects this, opt for the unsweetened version.
Try Alternatives To Sugary Drinks
Sugary drinks are one of the main ways that people consume excess sugar in the United States. There are many different options that can trick a sweet tooth. Tea flavors such as mint, cinnamon and chai can help balance out sweet cravings.
Add Fruit Instead of Sugar
Sugar is often used as an additive to many different foods, such as oatmeal. One way to cut that out is to add fruit instead. This creates a naturally sweet dish that doesn’t diminish the food’s health benefits.
Bake With Applesauce
As an alternative to adding sugar when baking a cake or cookies, try using unsweetened applesauce. While cookies baked with applesauce may not be the most nutritious option, it is important to have an occasional treat to avoid depriving yourself from tasty food.
Try Dark Chocolate
Indulgences should be spread out through the week, but they don’t have to be packed with sugar. Dark chocolate contains a significantly lower amount of sugar than milk chocolate while still satisfying any sweet tooth.
Adjust Your Recipes
College students often have a few favorite recipes. If sugar is a vital part of those recipes, switch it up and make the effort to learn new ways to cook. For example, switching out ketchup for fresh tomatoes or salsa on a grilled chicken breast will cut out half the sugar. Maybe you’ll discover a new favorite recipe!
Get Enough Sleep
Many studies have shown a link between sugar cravings and a lack of sleep. When the brain is restless, decision-making is less stimulated and the desire/reward function is more active. This means the brain is less motivated and seeks rewards, so it will be easier to opt for the more sugary option.
There are so many different ways to reduce the sugar consumed in everyday life. It can be a slow process, but one day at a time can allow for a more well-rounded diet and an overall healthier life.