Although it is absolutely fine to enjoy some sugar in moderation, nowadays there is so much hidden sugar in popular foods that many people do not realise just how much they are eating on a daily basis.
Too much sugar in the diet is associated with many chronic health issues, from obesity to type 2 Diabetes, and overloading on it may also hold you back from reaching your goals.
Your sugar intake may just be the reason for the headaches, fatigue, lack of motivation and your sore, bloated stomach!
#1 Know your sugars
This point is in relation to reading your labels, but also being aware of the different titles that added sugar may be listed as amongst the ingredients.
Some of your favourite “healthier” foods might just be the worst culprits for hidden sugars – and possibly the reason you’ve hit a plateau!
Examples of sugars:
✓ Hydrolysed starch
✓ Corn syrup
✓ Fruit juice
✓ Inverted sugar
#2 Read Your Labels
Make a point of reading your labels carefully when you do your food shopping. There are often hidden sugars in foods that you may not expect to find them, from baked beans to pasta sauces and even certain yoghurts. It can be well worth comparing brands of different products too as sugar content may vary.
Generally the foods that are high in added sugars tend to be processed foods which also tend to have significantly lower nutritional value than whole foods.
#3 Choose complex carbohydrates
Complex carbohydrates are a great choice to make as they slowly release energy into the body which, not only helps you stay alert an focused but also keeps you fuller for longer – in addition to providing vitamins and minerals!
This prevents a crash later on in which many people often crave sugary foods (simple carbohydrates) as a pick me up to give them some fast energy. This is a no-go: simple carbohydrates lack the nutritional benefit of complex carbs and actually leads to further cravings.
Examples of complex carbohydrates are:
✓ Whole grains, oats
✓ Brown rice and pasta
Examples of simple carbohydrates include:
✘ White bread, white pasta
✘ Sweets/sugary snacks
#4 Consider using sweeteners
There are plenty of natural sweeteners on the market that work really well to help you transition to a lower sugar diet. Sweetners are best used in moderation, as an excess may cause unwanted side effects such as bloating and gas.
This can be especially useful for baking or if you are a tea drinker and consume a lot of sugar this way. You can also get lower sugar versions of common products like jam and chocolate if you fancy a treat.
#5 Prepare foods from scratch
Although this may seem like a drag for some, preparing your food from scratch – and in advance of a busy week, will actually benefit your hectic lifestyle!
By preparing as many meals as you can, you will take a huge leap in avoiding added sugars in your daily diet as you will control the ingredients that you put into your dish.
This will allow you to know exactly what you’re putting into your body whilst saving time and money, you’ll be avoiding these chances of jeopardising your goals.
Spend a few hours on a Sunday to prepare:
✓ Breakfasts: Try overnight oats for a quick and easy prep!
✓ Lunches: Make salads/meal prep for a few days at a time.
✓ Dinners: Try making a batch of your favourite curry and freezing it for the week.
#6 Avoid fizzy drinks
Fizzy drinks pack a huge amount of sugar into a tiny can. Diet versions tend to use sweeteners instead making them a better option than the full sugar versions, but you can make an even better swap and try some water with slices of lemon or even herbal teas instead!
Most herbal teas are also delicious chilled with added ice. Fruit juice is also a culprit for being a sugar laden beverage and should be consumed in moderation.
#7 Snack smart
A downfall for a lot of people! Whether you’re in work, school, college, university – there will be times in the day when hunger will take over and the vending machine is offering you exactly what you think you need. Don’t fall for the trap!
The ideal would be having snacks prepared at the ready for those peckish times! I make sure to carry around a selection of snacks like:
✓ Rice cakes
✓ Protein powder in a shaker (add water/milk and go!)
✓ Protein bars and snacks for ease (and a guilt-free sweet treat!)
Not only does this stop me from gorging on vending-machine foods – it help keeps my stomach satisfied and not crave additional junk food afterwards!
#8 Create easy, healthy breakfasts
Breakfast cereals can be a minefield for added sugar. Consider swapping your sugary cereal for some porridge oats. A scoop of protein powder can give it some extra flavour while increasing the nutritional punch of this healthy breakfast.
As a bonus, oats are a good source of fibre shown to aid digestive health and have also been shown to help lower cholesterol levels making them a great option for breakfast. They are also a complex carbohydrate which means that they will provide you with a steady release of energy through the day.
Take Home Message
Most people would benefit from reducing their sugar intake and also raising their awareness of the amount of sugar they are consuming on a daily basis.
By being cautious in your food choices, especially when shopping, you can make a huge difference to your sugar intake and your overall health.
Ensuring you do not have too high an intake of sugar will help you reach your goals faster!