Taming Your Sweet Tooth: How to Cut Back on Excess Sugar

Shandra Martinez

| 3 min read

A woman stands at a countertop and stares at both a slice of chocolate cake and an apple.
Did you ever wonder how extra sugar can creep into your diet? You might not think you have a big sweet tooth – you don’t start each day with a cinnamon roll and end it with dessert – but there are still lots of ways added sugar gets thrown into our everyday routines.
Maybe it’s when you upsize your morning mocha latte to a large or get a double order of packaged dressing for your lunchtime salad. Or, you grab an afternoon soda or candy bar and it may seem like no big deal. Each one of these things can add to the overload of sugar found in many American diets.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), adults in this country consume about 77 grams of sugar each day – about two-thirds of a cup. Over the course of a year, this adds up to about 60 pounds of sugar. To put this pile of sweet stuff in perspective, the AHA recommends men should consume not more than nine teaspoons of sugar a day, which is about 36 grams or 150 calories. For women, that number is even lower: six teaspoons of sugar a day, which is about 25 grams or 100 calories.
Why too much sugar is bad for your body: Research has shown links between diets high in excess sugar and an increased risk of dying from heart disease, according to Harvard Medical School. Other red-flag health problems associated with sugar overload include weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes, fatty liver disease and inflammation.
Where your extra sugar is coming from: When health care providers talk about curbing excess sugar, they don’t mean the naturally-occurring sugar in whole fruits, vegetables and grains. The real culprit is all the added sugars. In the typical American diet, these are coming from processed foods, soft drinks, fruit drinks and energy beverages. Also topping the list are flavored yogurts, sugary cereals, cakes, candy, cured meats, ketchup and canned soups.
Only you can look at your daily meals and snacks and see where your extra sugar might be coming from. Cutting back on added sugar is a healthy move, but it does not have to be done all at once. Nutritionists suggest weaning yourself off gradually. For example, if you normally have a soda or two each day, replace one of those soft drinks with water or a flavored sparkling water for a week or two. When you don’t notice missing it anymore, swap in water for the second soda.
Here are some other tips from the AHA for cutting extra sugar out of your life:
  • Cut back on the spoons of sugar you add to coffee, tea, or sprinkle over your cereal.
  • If you eat canned fruit, avoid servings that are in heavy syrup. Choose fruit in water or natural juice.
  • Swap in spices in place of sugar. Sprinkle cinnamon over your morning oatmeal instead of brown sugar.
  • Try fresh fruit or Greek yogurt in place of cake or cookies for dessert.
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Photo credit: Getty Images

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