Today, the average American eats 19 teaspoons of sugar per day. As people become accustomed to sugary foods, companies make new products even sweeter. It becomes a vicious cycle.
We may be born with a sweet tooth, but cultivating it can lead to long-term health problems. A high-calorie diet that can lead to excessive weight gain, also can result in more complicated problems, including diabetes, heart disease and arthritis.
Sugar is a good source of energy, but it provides few nutrients; therefore, processed sugars should only be a very small part of a balanced diet.
Try these alternatives to help to reduce the sugar in your diet:
1. Don't ban sugar altogether. Some sugar, judiciously added to wholesome foods, may make them more appetizing, such as a sprinkling of brown sugar on oatmeal or a teaspoon of maple syrup on winter squash.
2. Become a careful label reader. The sugar listed on the nutrition label is a combination of the naturally occurring sugar, as well as the added sugar. If you spot the ending "-ose" on a word, it is sugar in disguise! Other common ingredients that are sugar in hiding include syrup, honey, corn sweetener, corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, high-fructose corn syrup and invert sugar.
3. Save desserts for special treats. Don't make desserts a regular part of every meal. But do enjoy them on the weekend or on special occasions.
4. Reduce sugar when baking. Sugar can often be reduced by up to one-third with no change in the end product.
5. Consider the alternatives. Bagels, whole grain muffins or tortillas can take the place of donuts or coffecakes.
6. Top cereal with fresh fruit. Fresh fruit adds natural and healthy sweetness.
7. Serve fresh fruits for dessert. You'll be getting in an extra healthy serving of fruit while not ignoring your sweet tooth.
8. Use fresh fruit to sweeten plain yogurt. Pureed berries mixed with plain yogurt make a great afternoon snack.
9. Make your own frozen treats. Just add 100 percent pure juices.
10. Create a fruit smoothie. Use plain yogurt swirled in the blender with banana and your favorite fresh fruits and a little vanilla flavoring and ice.
11. Make your own soda. All you need is seltzer water and your choice of fruit juice.
12. Stock your cookbook library with a couple of these choices:
- "Super Snacks: Seasonal Sugarless Snacks," by Jean Warren and Glen Mulvey (Illustrator)
- "Get the Sugar Out: 501 Simple Ways to Cut the Sugar in Any Diet," by Ann Louise Gittleman and Anne L. Gittleman
- "Feeding the Whole Family: Whole Foods Recipes for Babies, Young Children and Their Parents," by Cynthia Lair and Annemarie Colbin
- "Sugar-Free Toddlers: Over 100 Recipes Plus Sugar Ratings for Store-Bought Foods," by Susan Watson, Loretta Trezzo (Illustrator), Susan Williamson (Editor) and Sara Sloan
- "Healthy Snacks for Kids" (Nitty Gritty Cookbooks), by Penny Warner