At a recent company-wide lunch meeting, a health and fitness coach stopped by to give a presentation. She gave us some small tweaks we could make to improve our health and fitness both at work and at home.
“Yeah, yeah,” I thought to myself. “I’ve heard it all before.” I need to get 7-8 hours of sleep a night, exercise regularly and eat lots of veggies. I already do all of that (er… for the most part), so I’m good, right?
It’s when she started talking about sugar that my ears began to perk up. I loooove sugar. It’s probably one of my favorite foods! I even have a memory as a kid sneaking sugar cubes from the cupboard as a snack.
I thought I had a pretty good handle on my sugar intake, but I was dead wrong.
The Deep Dark Truth About Sugar Intake
During her presentation, I learned about the American Heart Association’s recommendation for maximum sugar intake:
For most American women, it is no more than 100 calories per day and no more than 150 per day for men (or about 6 teaspoons a day for women and 9 teaspoons a day for men).
As a big baked goods fanatic (my KitchenAid mixer gets a lot of use), I know exactly how much 6 teaspoons is — not a lot. I learned that I should be aiming for 25 grams of sugar or less each day. OK, so how much is 25 grams?
Here’s some info from Sugar Stacks, a cool website that displays the amount of sugar in popular snacks in sugar cube form:
- Craisins — 26 grams
- Clif Bar — 21 grams
- Yoplait Strawberry yogurt — 27 grams
- Light Yoplait Strawberry yogurt — 14 grams
- 2 Reeses Peanut Butter Cups — 20 grams
- 16-ounce Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino — 47 grams
- 16-ounce Jamba Juice Sunrise Banana Berry — 59 grams
Starting off the Day with Big Hit of Sugar
I started thinking about the things I eat that I think are healthy, but perhaps aren’t because of their high sugar content.
I thought I was doing my body good eating a hearty breakfast of Chobani yogurt, fruit, and granola. But on further investigation, I realized pretty much every flavor of Chobani is packed with sugar. Even the varieties I assumed were healthier because they didn’t have that fruit-on-the-bottom sugary gook were pretty sugary. (My favorite flavors are lemon and lime, which clock in at 17 grams and 16 grams, respectively.) Even the plain Chobani greek yogurt has 4 grams of sugar — that’s not a lot, but why does plain yogurt have sugar in t?
I also drink protein shakes for breakfast and have been known to sweeten them up with fruit, cream of coconut or peanut butter. But once I looked at the nutrition information for cream of coconut, I realized I was adding 20 grams of sugar to my morning shake on top of the already sweet chocolate. That must be why they tasted so good — because they were totally unhealthy!
I didn’t even realize I was feeding my sugar addiction so vigorously with foods I thought were healthy, but weren’t at all.
Kicking the Sugar Habit
Now that I’m more aware of how much sugar is hiding in some of the things I eat on a daily basis, I’m trying to scale back. The nutritionist’s tip was to read the nutrition label on everything; if the sugar is in the double digits, put it back. It’s actually quite hard to find something that contains sugar in the single digits, so for the moment I am trying to stick to anything below 11 or 12 grams.
I tried plain greek yogurt with raspberries and a teeny bit of granola the other day, which was… certainly not very sugary. It definitely tasted a bit bland, but I think I can get used to it. I’ve also been trying my protein shakes plain with just a dash of cinnamon. It’s definitely bearable, and I think I can reserve my favorite shake (chocolate + cream of coconut + a dash of almond extract, a combo that tastes like a delicious Almond Joy candy bar) for a special treat instead of a daily ritual.
My hope is that as I cut back on my sugar intake, the overly sugared foods will start taste worse to me — and perhaps as I wean myself off the sugar, I won’t want to eat as much of it anymore. We’ll see how it goes!
What’s your nutrition weakness?
Betsy Mikel | betsymikel.com