America is a country drowning in sugar. In fact, the amount of sugar we eat and drink every year has soared nearly 30 percent since 1983 and is likely a major contributor to the soaring rates of overweight and obesity in this country.
Even worse, since sugary foods often replace more healthy foods, nutrition experts say the influx of sweets indirectly contributes to diseases like osteoporosis, heart disease, and cancer — all of which are directly affected by what we eat.
Although the USDA recommends we get no more than 10 teaspoons of sugar a day, the average American downs about 34 teaspoons — more than three times as much. Here we’ll show you ways to get your sugar consumption down to healthy levels. But beware: Uncovering all the sugar in your diet isn’t easy. Sugar often hides under several pseudonyms and turns up in even the most innocuous foods (like bread, crackers, salad dressing, ketchup, and mustard). But with the following tips, you should be able to have your cake and eat it too.
1. Cut down slowly. Forget going cold turkey. Therein lies failure. Instead, if you normally have two candy bars a day, cut to one a day. Then next week, one every other day. The following week, one every three days, until you’re down to just one a week. If you normally take 2 teaspoons of sugar in your coffee, use the same routine, cutting down to 1 1/2 teaspoons for a week, then 1, then 1/2. Eventually, get to the point where you’re using artificial sweetener if you still need the sweet taste. The more sugar you eat, the more you’ll crave. So cutting down slowly is the best way to tame a sweet tooth gone wild.
2. Go half and half. Mix half a regular soda with half a diet soda. Half a carton of sweetened yogurt with half a carton of plain yogurt. Half a cup of regular juice with half a cup of seltzer. Do this for two weeks, then cut back to one-quarter sweetened to three-quarters unsweetened. Continue until you’re only drinking the unsweetened version.
3. Grant yourself a daily sugar “quota,” and use it on foods where it matters most. For most of us, that means desserts. Don’t waste it on dressings, spreads, breakfast cereals, and soda. Not only will this reduce your sugar intake in a day, but it will help you lose your sweet tooth. Sugar is incredibly addictive: The more you eat, the more addictive it becomes and the more it takes to satisfy you. The opposite is also true: Train your taste buds to become accustomed to less and you’ll be satisfied with less.
4. Establish rules about dessert. For instance, only have dessert after dinner, never lunch. Only eat dessert on odd days of the month, or only on weekends, or only at restaurants. If you have a long tradition of daily desserts, then make it your rule to have raw fruit at least half the time.
5. Similarly, establish rules about ice cream. A half gallon of ice cream in the freezer is temptation defined. A rule we recommend: No ice cream kept at home. Ice cream should always be a treat worth traveling for.