It’s old news that America has a weight problem. The rising incidence of childhood obesity and its related health concerns has catapulted this issue into the national spot-light. How have we gotten here? Health experts point to an excess of dietary sugar as one of the reasons. If you’re like most Americans, you consume 22 teaspoons of sugar daily or 355 calories. Teens consume 34 teaspoons or 544 calories. How can we curb America’s sweet tooth? It won’t be easy as evidenced by the mixed reaction to NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s recent ban on sodas and other sugary beverages greater than 16 ounces. Today’s post is about the recommendations for added sugar, how to meet them and a creative way to share this information with kids!
Just how much sugar is too much? The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends no more than 6 teaspoons daily or 100 calories for women and no more than 9 teaspoons daily or 150 calories for men.
How can we cut as much as 16 teaspoons of sugar from our daily intake? Behavior change; yep, it’s time to learn how to swap healthy food and beverages for our current not so healthy ones. Here are the modifications I’ m recommending:
• Swap diet soda, or better yet sparking water for soda. Save 8 teaspoons of sugar ( 128 calories) for every 12 ounces.
• Swap black coffee for latte. One large latte has about 5 teaspoons of sugar or 90 calories.
• Swap unsweetened coffee/tea for sweet coffee/tea or limit the amount of sugar you add to every cup. For every teaspoon you eliminate, you save 16 calories. Experiment with alternative flavors. Before brewing coffee, add 1 tsp of cinnamon to coffee grounds. Fresh mint can infuse flavor by directly adding to your glass of iced tea.
• Swap breakfast cereals with 5 grams or less per serving for sugary cereals. Avoid cereals with sugar listed at the top of the ingredient list or have multiple types of sugar. Some breakfast cereals can have as much as 4 tsp of sugar (64 calories) of sugar per serving.
• Swap unprocessed foods for processed. Many processed foods have unnecessary amounts of sugar added. For example: a cup of spaghetti sauce can have as much as 6 tsp of sugar ( 96 calories). Make your own and control the amount of added sugar.
• Swap reduced sugar varieties for regular jam, jelly and syrup. For every tablespoon swapped, you eliminate about 1 teaspoon sugar.
• Swap fresh fruit or canned fruit packed in water (or juice) for canned fruit packed in syrup. Savings up to 6 teaspoons or 96 calories for 1 cup of fruit swapped.
• Swap fresh fruit for pie, cake, cookies and other sweet desserts. Yes, fruit does contain naturally occurring sugar but it also contains vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber that contribute to a healthy diet. Cakes, pies and cookies are high in added sugar and contribute little more than extra calories.
• Swap nuts, whole grain crackers, fruit, veggies, low fat/ low calorie yogurt for high sugar snacks like candy, cookies, cakes.
So you get it, but how are you going to broach the subject to your kids that some of their favorite foods are sugar landminds? Is there an app for that? As a matter of fact there is and it’s called Smash Your Food! This app is an interactive nutritional game the whole family can enjoy! Guess how much sugar, salt and oil are in some of your favorite junk foods. Then virtually smash the food to find out answers! You can view this app at Food N’ Me. For those of you (like myself) wanting it for your iPhone, you’ll have to wait until later this summer. It is currently available for the ipad for $2.99 and there is a free version available on itunes (contains only 5 foods).
Sugar does not need to be avoided completely, but should be included in your diet in moderate amounts. Try to prioritize which sugar containing foods you desire most and work them into your daily meal plan without exceeding recommended levels. If you need help with this, consult with a registered dietitian. Find one in your area at www.eatright.org.
Do your kids know that the American diet is not “healthy normal”? In what ways do you educate what “healthy normal” is?
Diane Boyd, MBA, RD, LDN