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Healthy Habits: How-Tos

Cut Back on Added Sugar

Sneaky sources of sugar could be the reason your scale won’t budge

The average American eats 22 teaspoons of sugar a day, far more than the 6 teaspoons recommended by the American Heart Association. That's 330 calories a day that we don't need. "As it is, we have a problem in this country with obesity. And with that comes diabetes, high blood pressure and arthritis," says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RD, author of Read It Before You Eat It. Cutting back can help shrink your waistline and reduce your risk of diseases. Here’s how to scale back.

It’s OK to eat naturally occurring sugar in fruit, milk and starchy vegetables. But watch out for sweeteners that get added to processed foods or your morning cup of coffee. According to Taub-Dix, sugar is a master of disguise. Read food labels and be on the lookout for these sweet pseudonyms: corn syrup, dextrin, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, honey, lactose, mannitol, molasses, sorghum, sucrose, sorbitol and xylitol.

There's no point in padding your waistline with liquid calories, says Barbara Rolls, author of The Ultimate Volumetrics Diet. Nearly 50 percent of our added sugars come from sweetened beverages like soda, sports drinks and coffee. Because beverages don't dull the appetite, it's easy to drink 300 calories and then turn around and devour half a pizza. Opt for seltzer with a splash of fruit juice, or water infused with mint, cucumber or lemon.
According to Taub-Dix, when you're used to eating a lot of sugar, it leads to wanting even more. Luckily, the opposite is also true: You can train your taste buds to crave fewer sweets. One strategy, she says, is to skip dessert. "I don’t believe in dessert every night. That is not a good habit. You’re already full, you don't need more calories, but your body is expecting something sweet," she explains. Leave dessert for special occasions. 

Processed foods are one of the worst culprits for sneaky sources of sugar. Cereal, pasta sauce and yogurt can all contain more than half of your daily needs. Your best bet is to choose unsweetened varieties, like plain yogurt or all-natural peanut butter. To keep your taste buds from balking, Taub-Dix recommends doing half and half. Mix your usual brand or flavor with the less-sweetened variety until you’ve weaned yourself off it completely.

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