If you haven’t figured it out by now, it is really easy to become addicted to sugar. You know the symptoms – you’re tired, cranky, and even craving sugary foods. In honor of National Diabetes Month, let’s look at strategies to break this vicious cycle.
- Identify hidden sources of sugar.
We can expect things like candy, cookies, and sweet drinks to have sugar, but many of our own pantry staples may actually be feeding our sugar addiction. Be careful of pasta sauces, ketchup, salad dressings, yogurt, dried fruit and fruit cups, granola bars, cereals, and instant oatmeals.
If looking at an ingredients list, steer clear of ingredients such as cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup, honey, and less obvious choices maltodextrin, lactose, fruit juice concentrate, brown rice syrup, evaporated cane juice, dextran/dextrose, and more. Just four grams of sugar on a food label is equivalent to one teaspoon of sugar. Yep, cereals can have three teaspoons or more of sugar.
- Drink more water.
Sweet drinks are our biggest sugar culprits. Avoid bottled teas, sodas, and powdered drink mixes. In fact, powdered drink mixes often already have sugar in them, then we have a tendency to add more sugar to them for a double dose.
Keep a water bottle on hand. Often we confuse thirst for hunger, which can cause us to give into cravings. Stay hydrated!
- Eat more whole, unprocessed foods at meals and snacks.
When we avoid processing, we often avoid sugar. This month, encourage your family to have snacks with two food groups (ideally a fruit or a vegetable and lean protein). Options include low-fat cheese sticks and grapes, apple slices with peanut butter, or plain yogurt with fresh fruit. Trade white bread for whole grain bread. White products or refined flours act more like sugar in our bodies, so make the trade for whole grain breads, pastas, crackers, rice, and more.
Teach these tips to your family this month. After all, each bite of sugary food activates a reward system in your brain. The more we activate this system, the more we crave. Take one small step to free yourself from sugar today.