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6 steps to reducing your sugar intake and reaching your fitness goals

Making healthy lifestyles sustainable.


Recently there has been a lot of press about how bad sugar is, such as¬†this one. Sugar has been linked to diabetes, cancer, and just about every other bad thing that has ever happened to you. [Remember that hang-nail? It was sugar’s fault.] While I’m not disputing these facts, I feel it’s mostly counter-productive. First, it’s just blanket statements that it’s bad. Not a lot of focus on what you’re suppose to have. Second, no one likes being told they are bad, or doing something bad. Let’s get something straight, sugar is bad. You are not.

The USDA and American Heart Association both recommend 24 grams of sugar for women, and 36 grams for men. So just how much is that? Or better put, how little is that? Now keep in mind, I understand this as additive sugar-not natural sugars like what is found in fruit or milk. Here are what I consider the best and simplest ways to reduce your additive sugar intake for a more healthy lifestyle.

1. Be Aware

This is #1 for a reason. You don’t know what you don’t know. After learning of the recommended amount of sugar/day I started looking at food labels. I was feeding my 16 month old son some Yoplait yogurt and it had 33 grams of sugar!! Yogurt was suppose to be healthy! As you start looking you’ll realize we sneak sugar into everything from pasta sauce to peanut butter. Once you are mindful of this, you can start finding better alternatives.

2. Budget

So many life lessons can be gleaned from the financial world. As in calories, I’ve had the most success personally and with clients when we budget out the sugar. For example, if you’re a female you could budget for a total of 8 grams each meal (3 meals/day). How do you know if the meal you’ll be eating will fit within budget? Practice! Analyze foods that you typically eat for each meal and do the math. Are you over-budget for that meal? Are there foods you can change or eliminate? Are there others that you wouldn’t mind eating instead? If you can automate this, it’s one less stressor to be dealing with, and you’ll have the confidence you are reaching your goals. I am rather boring, and can eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch every day for years. So I know that my breakfast and lunch are right on budget and I don’t have to think about it every time I put something into my mouth.

3. Be a Control Freak

If you’ve done the first step, you’re probably ready to throw in the towel and give up since EVERYTHING has a ton of sugar in it. Don’t despair. Instead, fight back and take control. If you make the meal, you are in control of how much sugar goes into the meal. If you grow it yourself, you don’t have to add sugar to it if you don’t want. Essentially, go “natural-ish”. Look back 50 years. Obesity wasn’t an issue. Look at the restaurant industry-it was small. People rarely went out to eat. Fast-forward to present day. The fast food industry is at an all-time high as is diabetes and obesity. I know that cooking your own meals is more time consuming, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that people were healthier when they cooked the majority of their meals instead of going out to eat-and I don’t believe it’s just the portion sizes (although that is a big issue).

4. Recognize what your body is REALLY telling you

Sugar is addictive. We often hear ourselves or others that we’re ‘craving’ this or that. Unfortunately, most of us misinterpret what our bodies are really telling us. Instead of thinking our bodies are craving that Snickers bar, our body is most likely telling us, A) we’re hungry and should eat something, or B) that we need some sugars-like carbohydrates-like fruits and veggies. So the next time you find yourself ‘craving’ sugar, evaluate what you really need. Feed with fruits first!

5. Eat protein

Carbs are good, carbs are bad. I’m not going to get into this argument here. I will state that carbs don’t make you feel full, which is why they are referred to as ’empty calories’. Protein however makes you feel satiated/full. We overeat as a society, because we eat too many carbs. Add a little more protein into your daily diet, and you’ll find that you aren’t as hungry and craving sugar.

6. Change your desserts

Let me go on record as being the world’s biggest sweet tooth. I love my cakes, cookies and other delicious baked goods from my wife. Apart from budgeting for those occasions, let’s adopt a different paradigm for desserts. Who says they have to be cookies? Many cultures serve fruit as desserts, and let me tell you nothing quite hits the spot like a chilled honeydew slice on a hot summers day. Start serving fruits as desserts, and you’ll not only be healthier but you’ll satisfy your cravings for sugar.

 Reducing our sugar intake is definitely a fitness goal worth striving to reach. Because sugar is SO addictive it will be hard work in changing your behavior. Try tracking your choices not individual foods for FREE with this tool or check out this article on creating a sustainable healthy habit or this one about creating successful fitness goals.