Most Americans drink around 400 calories a day. Do you?!
Do you drink your calories? You may, if you drink a lot of sugar-sweetened beverages! The majority of sugars in typical American diets are sugars added to foods during processing, preparation, or at the table. Many foods that contain added sugars often supply calories, but few or no essential nutrients and no dietary fiber. Added sugars contribute an average of 16% of the total calories in American diets! Major sources of added sugars in our diets are soda, energy drinks and sports drinks, grain-based desserts, sugar-sweetened fruit drinks, dairy-based desserts, and candy.
Sugar is added to foods and drinks for several reasons including taste! But sugar is also added to:
- Give baked goods flavor, texture and color
- Help preserve foods, such as jellies and jam
- Fuel fermentation, which helps bread to rise
- Add bulk to baked goods and ice cream
- Balance the acidity of foods that contain vinegar and tomatoes
So why, if sugar is so helpful, are added sugars a problem? Well, a lot of added sugar gives you extra calories with not much nutritional value. And too much added sugar can lead to other health problems.
Poor nutrition – choosing sugar-laden foods instead of nutrient-dense foods can make you miss out on important vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients.
Weight gain – Added sugar can contribute to becoming overweight or obese. Adding sugar to foods and beverages adds calories, and those extra calories can add up quickly especially when they taste so good that you don’t stop.
Triglycerides – Triglycerides are a type of fat in the bloodstream and fat tissue. Added sugars can increase your triglyceride levels, which can increase your risk for heart disease.
Tooth decay - You may worry about this more with kids, but it’s true for anyone! All forms of sugar promote teeth decay by allowing bacteria to multiply and grow. The more often and the longer you snack on foods with added sugars, the more likely you are to develop cavities.
But diet beverages and anything “sugar-free” is fine, right? Not necessarily. There are some research studies that suggest that diet soft drinks may lead to other health concerns. Drinking diet sodas frequently might cause you to crave more sweets (like sweet snacks and more diet soda), which could lead to overindulgence of sweet foods. And, “sugar-free” sounds good, but read the labels. Sometimes that sugar free means more fat and calories.
If you struggle with added sugars in snacks and beverages, here are 10 tips to help you get away from the sneaky sugars! Make these switches to create healthier habits in your life.
- Drink water instead of sugary drinks. Sodas, energy or sports drinks, and even lemonade drinks contain a lot of calories from added sugars and few nutrients. And, it’s easy on the wallet!
- Family-friendly drink zone – Make water, low-fat or fat-free milk, or 100% juice an easy option in your home. Have ready-to-go containers available in the refrigerator or refillable water bottles. Kids can drink ½ to 1 cup of 100% fruit or vegetable juice a day. Adults can drink up to 1 cup of 100% juice. Kids need between 2-3 cups of milk a day, and adults need 3 cups of milk a day. Set a good example by drinking YOUR milk with dinner!
- Enjoy your beverages. When water just won’t do – enjoy the beverage of your choice, but just cut back. Do you really need the supersize, or can the smaller size be enough?
- Check the Facts. Use the Nutrition Facts label to choose beverages and snacks at the grocery store. The food label and ingredients list contain information about added sugar, saturated fat, sodium, and calories to help you make better choices.
- Manage your calories. Drink water with and between your meals. Adults and children take in about 400 calories per day as beverages – so drinking water can really help you manage your calories!
- Serve small portions. Show your family that a small amount of treats can go a long way. Use smaller bowls and plates for these foods and serve them in bite-size portions – for your kids AND yourself!
- Choose not to offer sweets as rewards. By offering food as a reward for good behavior, children learn to think that some foods are better than other foods. Reward your family with kind works and comforting hugs, or give them non-food items, like stickers or a massage, to make them feel special.
- Make fruit the first choice. Offer a variety of fruits in different ways. Make fruit kabobs using cantaloupe, bananas, and strawberries or offer whole fruits such as pears, clementines, or apples.
- Make treats “treats,” not everyday foods. Treats are okay once in a while. Just don’t make treat foods an everyday thing. Limit sweet treats to special occasions.
- If you don’t eat your meal, you don’t need sweet “extras.” Keep in mind that candy or cookies should not replace foods that are not eaten at meal time.
Head on over to my Facebook page and let me know how you combat that sneaky sugar!
If you need a little help with your beverage choices, check out this eye-opening video!