Sugar Sugar

Today we’re talking about the sweet stuff.  A Facebook friend recently posted the above TedEd video, which the nerd in me found quite interesting.

It’s a new year.  I know so many of you might be trying to “detox” or “eat clean” or “eat sugar-free,” whatever those terms might mean to you.  The world of sweeteners is vast; I could write on book on it.  However, in this post I want to stick to some basics to keep you educated.

Sugar can either be naturally occurring or added.  For example, fructose naturally occurs in fruit; lactose naturally occurs in milk.  Added sugars are exactly that – sugar that is added to a food or products during processing or at your table (ex. adding sugar to your coffee).

Common sources of added sugars may be soda, baked goods, candy, and desserts.  But did you know added sugar can be hiding in some more unexpected foods?  Ketchup, deli meats, salad dressing, crackers, yogurt, smoothies… These are just a few foods that may contain added sugar.

Also, sugar isn’t always called “sugar” when you’re reading the food label.  Some other names you might see can include: brown sugar, corn syrup, powdered sugar, honey, invert sugar, high fructose corn syrup, malt sugar, molasses, raw sugar, syrup, and the “-oses” (dextrose, fructose, lactose, maltose, sucrose).

You might be getting more sugar than you realize!  But fret not.  There are some ways to cut back.

Read the labels.  Be aware of what you’re buying.  Make comparisons between products to make the best decision.

Taper.  Let’s say you add 2 tablespoons of sugar to your morning cup of coffee.  Try cutting back to 1 tablespoons, then 1/2, and so on.  If you’re determined to go cold turkey, right on!  But many people may need something a little more gentle.  Tapering allows you to retrain your taste buds to get used to less sweet foods (you can do the same with salt!).  Stick with it for a while and soon that 2 tablespoons of sugar may seems outrageously sweet to you.

Make your own.  Salad dressings, condiments, baked goods, FOOD… With some things, sugar is necessary for structure and overall balance of flavor.  When you make your favorite foods and condiments from scratch, you get complete control over how much of this or that you add.

Swap it out.  Instead of fruit-flavored yogurt, try plain yogurt and add your own fresh fruit.  Same with cereal – add fresh fruit to a low-sugar cereal instead of sprinkling on sugar or buying the excessively sweetened stuff.  Instead of fruit juice, eat the whole fruit or drink some infused water.  Look for unsweetened alternatives of items (ex. unsweetened applesauce or no sugar added dried fruit).

Buy one instead of all.  If cookies are your downfall, grab one cookie from a specialty bakery or bakery section of the grocery stores (not the ones the size of your face, please) instead of grabbing an entire package in the snack food aisle.  If you have to buy a package, keep a couple for yourself and give the rest away!  On that same note…

Share.  Split a dessert with someone.  Eat half and save the rest for another day.  Maybe you’re a baker extraordinaire and cakes, pies, and cookies are a common fixture in your life.  Share that wealth!  Not only will it help in terms of your personal dietary intake, it might also make you the most popular lady/gentleman in town.

Do you have any tips or tricks for cutting down your sugar intake?

It’s impossible for me to NOT think of this song whenever I talk about sugar.