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For decades, we were told that limiting fat intake was the best way to take care of our health. However, we should be paying attention to our sugar intake, too. While eating diets low in fat, we have (unknowingly) consumed more and more sugar, and sugar is linked to a host of problems.
How Sugar Hurts Us
Moms are aware that too much sugar is harmful. We offer our children treats in moderation. We balance desserts with colorful greens. We know to swap the soda for a cup of green tea, but some days you may find yourself tired, overworked, and reaching for the instant energy rush found in sweets. Those midday pick-me-ups are linked to risks beyond empty calorie consumption and tooth decay.
To protect ourselves against heart disease, the leading killer of mothers, we must uncover the truth behind some of our favorite foods: Many of them, even those marketed as “healthy,” are just as sugar-laden as a slice of cake.
The Hidden Threat of Sugar
Our best efforts for health are being sabotaged. From canned soups to whole wheat bread, dried fruits to granola bars, sugar is called by many different names and is in more places than we might think.
The Chobani Blueberry Yogurt cup we enjoy for breakfast? 15 grams of sugar.
Our lifesaving morning Starbucks run? A Grande Vanilla Latte has a whopping 35 grams.
Those healthy zucchini noodles tossed in marinara for lunch? 8 grams of sugar per one cup of sauce.
Dinner of grilled BBQ chicken breast with a simple salad? 13 grams of sugar in 2 tablespoons of BBQ sauce, and 5 grams hidden in our salad dressing.
You would have consumed 76 grams of sugar in one day, 51 grams higher than what is recommended by the American Heart Association.
On average, moms are eating 6935 teaspoons of sugar a year, most of which aren’t even derived from delicious indulgences.
What We Can Do to Watch our Sugar Intake
Pay attention to nutrition labels
Advocate for your health by checking the sugar content on everything – even foods that don’t necessarily taste sweet. Every 4 grams of sugar equals one teaspoon.
Know the sugar lingo
Remember, even if a sweetener is marketed as a “healthy alternative,” your body will break down the sugars just the same. White sugar, raw turbinado sugar, maple and organic agave syrup, and calorie-free options like Splenda or stevia, all lead to the same blood sugar spikes.
Swap the sugary coffee rush
Nix the flavored creamers and try low-sugar coconut or almond milk in your coffee, instead. If you find yourself stirring in one to two teaspoons of sugar, try cutting back and adding in cinnamon and nutmeg, or a pumpkin spice blend. Experiment until you find a flavor that you love.
Satisfy cravings naturally
When your sweet tooth calls, reach for nature’s candy. Keep a variety of fruits washed and readily available. Though it might take time, your taste buds will begin to adjust, and even thank you.
For an evening treat, try a tart, green apple sliced and topped with almond butter, with only 1 gram of sugar per serving, and sprinkled with a bit of shredded coconut and dark chocolate chips.
Opt for whole foods
Eating a diet rich in whole foods can minimize unwanted sugars. Fill your pantry with foods that support clean eating. When you shop, try to stick to the fresh produce and meat aisles and limit boxed and ready-made snacks.
Making your own dressings and condiments, pasta sauces, oatmeal and granola also allows you to control just how much sugar is being added in.
Allow some flexibility
A mom can protect her health without being rigid. Knowing to look for hidden sugars, and doing our best to limit them, allows us more freedom to enjoy birthday cake and a latte every now and again. Remember, one day of indulgence won’t compromise your overall efforts.