Sunday, November 18, 2012

Hey Sweetie, I'm Talkin' to YOU: America's Obsession with Sugar (part 3)

We are a sugar-obsessed society. It sneaks into our diets covertly through foods that we don’t often consider “sweets,” like jarred spaghetti sauce, and in more obvious ways, like through soda and snacks.
Why should we care? Because it is killing Americans – more than gun violence… more than terrorist attacks… more than drunk driving.

Yet unlike random accidents or being in the wrong place at the wrong time, this is a condition that we CAN do something about.

The primary line of defense lies with reading labels. Turn a product package around and look on the back of it – not just the front – where you can see the nutrition information label. Keep reading beyond the calorie count and number of fat grams to see the number of grams of sugar a particular product contains. You might be surprised.

4 grams of sugars = 1 teaspoon of sugar

Reading a container of Yoplait strawberry yogurt, I was surprised to see that a 6-ounce container contained 26 grams of sugar (that translates into 6 ½ teaspoons). A 24-ounce can of Mt. Dew contains 94 grams of sugar (that’s 23 ½ teaspoons). Comparing these two products, ounce per ounce, the yogurt actually has slightly MORE sugar than the Mt. Dew! I am in no way implying that Mt. Dew is a healthy option by any stretch of imagination, but it is curious that many times, people blindly think that a particular food is “healthy” based simply on the implications garnered from the front of the package.

It isn’t uncommon for soda drinkers to consume 24-ounces of soda in one meal, perhaps even multiple times per day, yet RARELY would these people knowingly add 23 ½ teaspoons of sugar to any other beverage, like coffee or iced tea, but since Mt. Dew comes packaged like this – sugar and all – we purchase it and drink it and gladly accept free refills at restaurants, and we blame “genetics” on our ever-increasing waistlines and growing type 2 diabetes rates…

When I have a client who simply cannot imagine life without soda, we dissect their cravings surrounding it. Are they drawn to the fizziness of it? If so, we try incorporating club soda into their daily beverage routine. Is it the icey-coldness? Try alternating ice water with other beverages. Is it the taste? Dilute their favorite soda with club soda, a little at first, then increasingly more club soda in the ratio, until they are having something more resembling a soda “spritzer.”

Plain yogurt in larger containers is MUCH cheaper than the small, sweetened “designer” yogurts that rarely contain many “live yogurt cultures.” Purchase some small “to go” containers, add plain yogurt and your own toppings: a drizzle of honey, a splash of REAL maple syrup, some frozen berries, some raw nuts and seeds. Odds are, you’d never need the more than 1 teaspoon of sugar per ounce that many yogurt products contain to get the taste up to par. You’ll save lots of money, too.

Review your daily diet staples and see if sugar is lurking in places you never imagined, in proportions you never considered.

If sweet cravings come at regular intervals every day, it could be your body’s way of seeking quick energy. Inadequate sleep or nutrient-low meals can often cause us to gravitate toward sugary foods as a prop for what is lacking: rest and nutrients. Sometimes, the walk down the hall to the vending machine is all we really need to get our blood flowing again. Investigate your cravings, look for patterns and seek to address your needs proactively with more sleep, nutrient-dense meals and a little more movement in your routine and see if you notice any positive changes.

We are wired to gravitate toward sweet tastes. That’s what’s kept us alive during our first few months of life for generations – satisfied by the sweet taste of mother’s milk. We continue to have that preference for sweets long after weaning, and if it’s not met through eating naturally sweet foods like fruit and sweet vegetables (like winter squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, and corn) our bodies will prompt us to seek it out wherever we can. By incorporating more naturally sweet foods into every meal, many people notice a drastic drop in their sugar cravings between meals.

By approaching your sugar in-take in a mindful, proactive way, you can begin to get to the root of why you eat/crave particular foods, and why you do (or don’t do) physical exercise. You begin to become more in tune with the natural rhythms and needs of your own body. This type of information does not come from a book or a video, but from taking the time to develop listening skills unique to you, as an individual. This can lay a foundation that can alter and improve your quality of life – not just for a few weeks or months, as most diet plans promise – but for the rest of your life.

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