According to the American Heart Association, most Americans consume about 20 teaspoons of added sugar every day which is thrice than the recommended daily limit. The daily allowance for women is no more than 6 teaspoons per day and no more than 9 teaspoons per day for men. If we consume way too much sugar, it increases our risks to obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Adverse impacts on our health can range from dental problems to metabolic disorders. Unfortunately, the majority of the people do not know that the main culprit of added sugars in the diet are sugar-sweetened beverages. These sugary drinks refer to any beverage with added sugar or sweeteners like soda or sports drinks. For example, a 12-oz can of regular soda has about 10 teaspoons of added sugar.
With these products booming in the market, along with our fast-paced lives, what can we do to make healthier beverage choices? Below are tips on how you can reduce sugar in your beverage:
Know how to read nutrition labels
There are three major things you need to check when reaching your favorite drink from the store shelf – the ingredients, serving amount, and the health claim.
Food companies often use different names and forms of sugar on food labels that can be difficult to spot on. Common forms of added sugars are high-fructose corn syrup, sugar molecules such as fructose, sucrose, glucose, and dextrose; fruit syrups, fruit juice concentrate, molasses, and honey. Familiarize yourself with these names so you won’t be fooled next time.
As per serving amount, one container may be good for more than one serving. To get the right amount, you will need to multiply the amount of sugar in one serving by the number of servings indicated on the bottle. This affects the amount of sugar you’re getting because you might be consuming double the amount without you knowing.
Health claims on food products might also cause confusion and misunderstanding for some. For example, a label that says “sugar-free” actually means that a product has less than 0.5 grams of sugar per serving. This label does not always mean that it’s healthy and the beverage has entirely no sugar in it.
Control what you put in your drink
Start cutting back on your sugary drinks by taking control of what you put in your drink.
Just because we prefer convenient food and drinks doesn’t mean we do not have a say in what we put in our bodies. When ordering at the coffee shop, you can opt for fat-free or low-fat milk for your latte. To reduce calories, you can order the smallest size available. Tempting as it may be, skip the whip cream and flavor syrups. Go to coffee or milk tea shops that allow you to reduce the sugar level of your beverage. Experiment until you find the right amount of sweetness for your palate.
Make your own drinks
When you’re craving for a sweet beverage, and you have the time, make your own drink at home instead. Put natural flavors like mint, cinnamon or citrus on your tea and coffee instead of sugar or honey. Want a cold drink? Create a smoothie made from healthy ingredients instead of buying a ready-to-drink beverage. Blend frozen fruits and veggies available on your fridge, add with plain, low-fat yogurt, milk or water, then voila! you have a low calorie, budget-friendly drink in an instant.
Choose a better beverage – water!
Water is essential for kidneys and bodily functions. All cells and organs of our body needs water to function properly. Choosing water as your main beverage is not as difficult as you think. Be reminded of this habit by starting to carry a refillable water bottle wherever you go. If you prefer carbonated drinks, you can get sparkling water or seltzer instead. If you need a bit of flavor on your water, add slices of different fruit combinations like cucumber-lime, and strawberry-kiwi. Avoid the sweetened beverage section when grocery shopping. Challenge yourself by choosing water instead of sweetened drinks for a month. Your body will thank you later.
Sugars occur naturally in fruits, some vegetables, and milk. However, the artificial kind which manufacturers add through the processing to increase flavor and extend shelf like do not give much favor to our health in general. Moreover, sugary drinks do not make you feel full as they contain little to no essential nutrients – only sugar and calories. This is the reason why people who drink sugar-sweetened beverages gain more weight than those who don’t. One study shows that sugar increases belly fat accumulation which is linked to risks of diabetes and heart disease. Added sugars that sneak into the commercialized, sweetened beverages can be detrimental if not controlled. Thinking about your drink and reducing sugar in your diet is a small, but significant steps to improve your health. Hydration and health benefits of a well-thought beverage are the best reward you can give to your body.