Imagine Yourself Sugar Free!

Let’s pretend for a moment that sugar is good for you–loaded with vitamins, minerals, essential amino acids and everything healthful.   A tall icy glass of cola with every meal (or orange juice if you prefer–they have about the same amount of sugar). Syrup drenching your french toast and sausage for breakfast.  Luscious ice cream sandwiches for lunch.  An evening repast of tender honey baked ham and maple glazed carrots.  And don’t forget a hot fudge sundae for dessert.

Can I get a refill?

Can I get a refill?

Enjoying the visual?  Salivating?  Good.  Because imagining that you are devouring all that sugar can actually reduce how much of it you consume.

Believe it or not, you can fool yourself into eating less of the foods you shouldn’t be eating.  It’s called habituation.  Thinking about your cravings can actually decrease your desire for them.  It sounds counterintuitive, but it works.  Check out more about the study here.

I’m speaking from personal experience.  Taking that pretend bite, chewing and tasting it (in my imagination) helps me say no thanks to the real thing.  Imagining can make a pretty good substitute for the actual experience.

At this point I know I need to limit my sugar intake.  And I need to help Sam be mindful of his.  The American Heart Association guidelines for added sugars were specific.  With only 6 to 9 teaspoonfuls of added sugar a day (and less for younger children), we have to be selective about when and where we’re going to consume them.

Here are 3 more ways we’re minimizing sugar consumption in our household:

  1. Drink water.  Or natural seltzer.  Add a lemon slice or some mint leaves for interest.  Cut the soda from your diet.  Number one way to reduce sugar.  
  2. Eat fruit.  When you need a snack, grab an apple.  Pack fruit in your child’s lunch instead of cookies.  Dried fruit (in small quantity) makes a great after dinner treat.  I love a piece of mango or papaya.
  3. Put the sugar bowl away.  Stop adding sugar to foods by the teaspoonful.  Squeeze lemon into your tea.  Add sliced banana to cereal.  Spices like cinnamon also help food taste sweeter.

What do you do to hold back the sugar tidal wave at your house?

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Pack an apple in your lunch.

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Is Sugar The New Fat?

How about laws regulating sugary purchases?  Should people be “carded” when buying a candy bar?  Is sugar really as bad as all that?

Let's see some I.D.

Let’s see some I.D.

Education and self-control aren’t working according to Robert Lustig, author of a new book about the evils of sugar, Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar.  Sugar is addictive, and it is making us fat says Lustig.

And it’s everywhere.

Nearly 80% of the foods we can buy contain added sugars.  Pasta sauce, bread, crackers and salad dressing to name a few of the more unlikely suspects.

For years we’ve been told that we needed to reduce fat–not sugar consumption.  Non-fat and low-fat varieties of standard products became the norm, the haven of health we all sought.  But that’s old news apparently.

Acclaimed food activist and writer, Michael Pollen has a lot to say about it. The notion that fat is bad, particularly saturated fat, has been the public health message foisted on us since the ’70s.  According to Pollen, the science linking fat to inflammation and disease is tenuous at best.  Read his position here.

So what’s it to be–sugar or fat?  Will the real villain please stand up?

Personally, I think that sugar has the edge.  But it often goes hand in hand with fat in the form of highly processed “food”.  And what sugar lacks in nutrition, it makes up for in calories.  Ugh.  It’s serious enough that the American Heart Association has, for the first time ever, set sugar intake guidelines.

American Heart Association nutritional guidelines for added sugar:

  • Women should consume no more than 100 calories of added sugars (6 teaspoons)
  • Men should consume no more than 150 calories of added sugars (9 teaspoons)
  • Pre-teen and teens should consume no more than 5 to 8 teaspoons
  • Children 4-8 should consume no more than 130 calories (3 teaspoons).
  • Preschool children should consume no more than 170 calories (4 teaspoons)

The reality is about as far from that as you could imagine.  The average American consumes slightly more than 22 teaspoons of sugar every day.

Are you an average sugar consumer?

Are you an average sugar consumer?

Here’s a list of common food items that Rodale came up with to help us gain some perspective about total and added sugars:

Plain bagel: 5.05 grams of sugar, 4.8 of which are added

Whole-wheat bread (one slice): 5.57 grams of sugar, 5.0 of which are added

Regular sodas: 8.97 grams of sugar, all of it added

Fruit punch: 11.29 grams of sugar, 4.4 of which are added

Bowl of corn flakes: 6.11 grams of sugar, all of it added

Fruit-flavored yogurt: 19 grams of sugar, 11.4 of which are added

Italian salad dressing: 8.85 grams of sugar, 6.9 of which are added

Fruit cocktail canned in light syrup: 13.93 grams of sugar, 6.4 of which are added

Smooth peanut butter: 9.22 grams of sugar, 3.1 of which are added

Granola bars: 21.8 grams of sugar, 20.4 of which are added

Low-sodium spaghetti sauce: 11.57 grams of sugar, 6.5 of which are added.

While law enforcement of the new sugar guidelines might not be practical, it couldn’t hurt to police ourselves.  What do you think?

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