One of the keys for me in my journey to finding a way of eating that worked best for me, which in turn led to me discovering my ideal weight and developing a healthy body imagine, was cutting out sugar. Prior to this revelation, I thought I ate pretty well. I exercised fairly rigorously pretty much daily and counted my calories. I even tried the Weight Watchers thing. But there was one thing I really struggled with, sugar. Baked goods, breads, muffins, doughnuts, ice cream. You name it, I loved it and had a really hard time saying no to it. And when I ate it, I just couldn’t stop. This cycle left me feeling helpless and angry at myself for being weak over and over again.
Then one day a friend recommended I cut out processed foods, quit calorie counting, and use vegetables as the basis for all of my meals. She also introduced me to Sarah Wilson, a blogger, cookbook author and leader in the sugar-free movement in Australia (check out her I Quit Sugar website here!). So I decided to quit sugar. It wasn’t easy, but I stuck to my guns and boy was it worth it. I was happier, felt healthier than I had in years, was leaner and my yoga practice improved.
For a long time I was hesitant to even touch sugar. I was scared that I would topple back into the old me and all of my hard work would be for naught. But a life without a little sugar isn’t too fun and for those who know me, I like to have fun… 🙂
So I found a balance. I discovered the amount of sugar that is right for me, that still keeps me feeling great, but also satisfied at the same time.
How did I do it? I developed an understanding of the hidden sugars in our food supply. These are the sugars that aren’t obvious. That you may have no idea you are even eating, but they impact your health and waistline nonetheless. And they are everywhere….
Sugar is in about 80% of the foods we eat today.
And to top it all off, recent studies have shown that it is 8 times more addictive than cocaine. No wonder we all have a problem putting down the candy bars and ice cream.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that for optimal health, we should consume no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar a day. How does that translate to what we see on a food label? Four grams of sugar is equal to 1 teaspoon. So if we do the math right, 6 teaspoons a day is equal to 24 grams of sugar.
Remember this magic number -> 24 grams
Recently I went to my favorite local food market and went on a hunt for hidden sugars in foods that would be considered reasonably healthy. I focused on these main areas: condiments, juices/drinks, dairy, supplements, snack foods and main meal items. Here’s the low down on a couple of gems I found in each category.
- Marzetti’s sweet italian salad dressing – 7 grams of sugar in 2 tbsp
- Annie’s organic balsamic vinaigrette dressing – 2 grams of sugar in 2 tbsp
- Prego heart smart traditional tomato sauce – 10 grams of sugar in 1/2 cup (This product was American Heart Association certified according to the label…)
- Agave – 16 grams of sugar in 1 tbsp
- Organic low sodium tomato juice – 8 grams per 8 oz serving
- Mega green juice – 25 grams per 8 oz serving (Just because it’s green it must be healthy right? Not so much…)
- Organic apple juice – 30 grams of sugar in 1 cup (Definitely not kid friendly.)
- Naked Juice Kale Blazer – 18 grams of sugar per 8 oz serving (This one is my favorite, especially since the front of the package says 100% juice and no sugar added. Sorry friends, this puppy has got lots of it, mainly in the form of fruit juice concentrate.)
- Chobani raspberry greek yogurt – 16 grams of sugar per container
- Prenatal gummy vitamins – 3 grams of sugar for 2 vitamins (Sugar for pregnant mommies? I have no words.)
- Women’s One a Day multivitamin – 3 grams of sugar for 2 gummy vitamins
- Soy protein powder – 8 grams of sugar for 1 scoop
- Clif Bar – 22 grams of sugar for 1 bar
- Gluten free bagel chips – 3 grams of sugar for 7 chips
- Organic canned peaches – 11 grams of sugar for 1/2 cup
- Martins 100% whole wheat potato bread (a fav from my childhood) – 3 grams of sugar per slice
- Quaker Oats Lower Sugar flavored instant oatmeal – 4-6 grams per packet (Sorry guys, not low sugar.)
- Healthy Choice All Natural tomato basil soup – 11 grams of sugar per cup
Pretty astounding if I do say so myself. Below I’ve drawn up a hypothetical day’s worth of meals that seems pretty healthy on the outside, but is packed with some of the hidden sugars I’ve discussed above.
A Day of Healthy(?) Meals
Breakfast: 2 slices of 100% whole wheat toast with butter, 1 container of Chobani flavored yogurt (approximately 22 grams of sugar)
Lunch: 1 spinach salad with balsamic vinaigrette dressing and gluten free chips (approx. 5 grams of sugar)
Afternoon snack: Clif bar (approx. 22 grams of sugar)
Dinner: whole wheat spaghetti with tomato sauce, steamed green beans (approx. 10 grams of sugar)
Dessert: canned peaches (approx. 11 grams of sugar)
Seems like a pretty healthy day of eating right? Total calories may even be under the daily recommended limit. But the total grams of sugar consumed? 70 grams or 17.5 teaspoons. That is 11.5 grams over the daily amount recommended by the WHO. May not seem like that much but if you eat like this every day? It adds up over time.
What does excess sugar intake lead to? As discussed in some of my previous Sugar Series posts (see here, here and here), it can lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s, and cancer. I recently found a great article about a man who consumed 40 teaspoons of sugar a day to see what it would do to him. Check it out what happened to him and what he learned here.
The goal of this post is to not overwhelm you with the dangers of sugar in our food supply and how we are all doomed. It is simply to inform you so that you can make the best decisions about what to put in your body that works for you. Be a conscious consumer. Know what you are buying and eating. Know what you are feeding your kids.
Some things I have started doing that have helped me on this journey?
- I make my own salad dressing (and ask restaurants to put it on the side)
- I have plain yogurt and add fresh fruit or frozen fruit
- I make my own granola (see the recipe here!)
- I stick to the perimeter of the grocery store (which is where all the natural, unprocessed food is) and rarely go down the aisles
- If I want to use a condiment, it will be mustard
- I use olive oil and sliced tomatoes on pasta instead of tomato sauce
- I make my own juices and smoothies (see the recipe for my Banana, Almond Butter and Maca Smoothie here!)
- My afternoon snacks do not come in a sealed package (try hummus and carrots, apple and peanut butter or rice cakes and avocado)
- During the winter I make my own soups and stews
- I get my vitamins from eating every color of the rainbow (in vegetable form, not Fruit Loops form!)
Peace, love and conscious eating,