‘I eat only whole wheat bread’, said one client as part of her health plan. ‘I eat healthy digestive biscuits as a snack’, said confidently another client. I am going to start this article with some facts that I share with my clients and in my workshops and corporate talks. A small packet of digestive biscuits of 250gms has 13 teaspoons of sugar. A slice of bread (whole-wheat or gluten free) has half teaspoon of sugar. A cup of flavoured yogurt of 100gms has 3 teaspoons of sugar. Mixed fruit juice of 200 ml has 4 teaspoons of sugar. One box of muesli of 400gms has 9 teaspoons of sugar. Isn’t this an eye opener? Some of this we eat regularly and do not even know that we are consuming so much added sugar right? It tricks the brain to want more food because of the blood sugar spiking and dropping and then we land up having many more cravings.
It might be hard to go cold turkey and quit sugar altogether but we can always do this with some simple rules. In fact, constantly trying to cut sugar can lead to anxiety and fail as a long term sustainable diet. I have eaten sweet food all my life because of my culture so I do naturally have a liking for sweet but today it has mindfully become conscious with much healthier options and it has also changed my taste palate where I am not able to consume things that have refined sugar because I just do not enjoy it anymore.
1. Food journal: Make a list of your daily food for a week and the weekend as well. Detail out your options for all meals so that you bring awareness to everything you are putting in your system.
2. Read the ingredients: Of all the food that you are consuming, read the ingredients (please note labels might not have this put clearly) to check which items have added sugar. Reference is what I started with in this article. Your breakfast oats brand could be, for example, one of them or your choice of gluten-free bread that you consume often.
3. Eliminate the unnecessary ones: The ones that you were not aware of but could easily eliminate, for example, the bread or ketchup that has loads of sugar or flavoured yogurt, which you had no idea about. I know this can make you a bit worried but for now just figure those items as the ones that need to leave
4. Replace: You will be surprised with how many options you can come up with to replace the ones that left. If you like flavoured yogurt, then replace that with natural yogurt and some fruits. If you liked bread, instead choose an organic one and if you have time even bake your own bread or completely replace with a gluten free grain that has no added sugar.
5. Low fat versions of dessert: Breakfast and evening snacks is a big one to look out for. We either have packaged oatmeal or muesli and then protein cookies as a snack or a diet bhel that might be with added sweeteners such as High Fructose Corn Syrup, Brown Sugar, Cane sugar so on and so forth and you had no idea!
6. Sweet cravings: Consciously go for options that have natural sweeteners for desserts such as organic jaggery or honey. However please note they are also forms of sugar so it needs to be consumed moderately. One way to do this is make you own desserts with loads of recipes available online so you become more aware when you eat them outside.
7. Natural food: There is natural sugar in fruits, whole grains and dairy items we consume daily and those are fine as they are part of whole foods diet. Objective is to stick to them as much as possible for all our meals and to consume them also in moderation.
8. 21-day challenge: If you want, you can try this just to know what food item did you miss the most. For 21 days, eliminate all added and refined sugar and even try without the desserts and then identify what you craved, so you can listen to your body and then add back a healthy alternative. This will be more specific to your needs.
Make a priority to learn and decode sugar. It is harming us in ways we do not even realize so consciously figuring a way out is important.
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