Let’s face it – Americans consume too much sugar. We all love food that tastes good, but that extra spoon of sugar can come with a wealth of consequences to your health.
Added sugar has inadvertently become a dietary staple. It’s lurking everywhere, and many people are experiencing the unwanted effects of excessive sugar consumption.
Sugar may be impossible to quit entirely, but taking the steps to reduce your family’s sugar intake is a step in the right direction. If you’re looking to avoid hidden sugar, here’s what you need to know about what’s lurking in your pantry.
Is Sugar Bad For You?
Sugar is tricky. There’s the sugar that naturally occurs in whole foods like fruit and the processed white sugar that’s added to many of the things we eat and drink. You might be surprised to learn that your body regards all sugar as sugar.
Your body can’t tell the difference between the sugar content in a strawberry and the sugar in a cookie. The most important distinction is the quantity of sugar and whether or not that form of sugar could be avoided.
When you eat whole fruit, you consume vitamins, minerals, fiber, and trace nutrients your body needs to stay healthy. The naturally occurring sugar isn’t the focus of the food. It just so happens to be there.
When you’re drinking soda, the scenario completely changes. There’s absolutely nothing in soda that benefits your body. Soda contains a wealth of added sugar (usually in the form of high fructose corn syrup) and boasts no nutritional benefits. Sugar adds empty calories to your diet, likely contributing to weight gain or other indicators of poor dietary choices.
Simply put – sugar is bad for you when it makes its way into places where nature didn’t intend it to be. However, if sugar naturally occurs in whole food, the nutritional benefits make it worth eating.
Is Sugar Addictive?
The idea of quitting sugar can feel daunting if you’re concerned about sugar addiction.
Sugar addiction is real, but it doesn’t have the same symptoms as drug addiction. Eating sugar can cause your body to release feel-good hormones like dopamine, lighting up your brain’s reward centers. It feels good, and it’s technically possible to become addicted to anything that makes your brain feel good.
Sugar addiction is similar to a video game addiction or a gambling addiction. Sugar withdrawal symptoms solely affect your mood and cravings. They aren’t dangerous, and they don’t pose a threat to your life. If you feel like you might be addicted to sugar, the safest and most effective way is to ignore your cravings and quit cold turkey.
What Happens When You Quit Sugar?
Quitting sugar is an excellent step in promoting your family’s health. However, it’s only one of many steps you’ll need to take. Eliminating sugar is undoubtedly a great idea, but it isn’t a miracle solution. It’s one piece of a much larger nutritional puzzle you need to assemble for your household.
If you cut out the sugar but keep the rest of the junk food, you’re unlikely to experience meaningful changes. You’re removing some empty calories from your family’s diet by eliminating or significantly reducing added sugar. You need to replace junk food with whole foods to experience a full return to health.
When your family eats better, they’ll feel the benefits. Over time, you may see a reduction in excess weight, better energy levels, healthier skin, and even improved moods.
These changes won’t happen overnight. They require consistency, and they need to be combined with other lifestyle changes like an increase in physical activity. After a few weeks, you may not miss sugar as much as you initially thought.
What Are Sugar-Free Foods?
Plenty of whole foods are naturally sugar-free. When you see a prepared food package labeled “sugar-free,” the product is still sweetened with sugar alternatives.
“Sugar-free” foods don’t contain the empty calories of refined sugar, but they’re still sweet as a result of an alternative sweetener. These sweeteners can come from a natural source, like monk fruit.
While artificial sweeteners like sucralose and aspartame are generally considered safe, some people avoid them. There are plenty of naturally derived sugar alternatives, and people tend to feel more comfortable with the idea of using a sweetener that comes from a plant.
Some people avoid sugar-free foods completely because artificial sweeteners upset their digestive systems. Things like sugar-free gummy candies made with artificial sweeteners, like sugar alcohols, can have a strong laxative effect for some people. This digestive discomfort takes all the fun out of enjoying sweet snacks.
Make sure to read the ingredients list and look for warnings on the packaging before you buy sugar-free sweets.
How To Phase Sugar Out of Your Home
You could raid your pantry and discard everything that looks like it might contain sugar, but a scorched earth approach might be a little aggressive. Start by taking an inventory of the foods your family consumes every week. Once you know where the sugar is coming from, it’s easier to phase out. Then, work on incorporating better alternatives into your daily diet and meal plan.
Look for Hidden Sugar
Sugar hides in almost everything your family eats and drinks, even in things that appear to be healthy. Brands often put a health halo on sugar-laden snacks.
Foods like juice and fruit snacks may display whole fruits on the packaging, leading you to believe they’re nutritionally similar to whole fruits. However, the “added sugars” section of the nutrition facts may tell a different story.
Sugar lurks where you least expect it, including in your child’s multivitamins. You guessed correctly if you thought it was too good to be true that they looked like gummy candy and your kids loved them. They often contain as much added sugar as any other gummy treat.
Suppose you’re solo and committed to quitting sugar. In that case, you can throw away or donate most of the food containing added sugar if you feel comfortable doing so.
If you’re taking steps to help your whole family quit sugar, it may help to take a less forceful approach.
Children like their sugary snacks and don’t understand why these sugar snacks are not healthy choices. If you run around and toss out all their favorite snacks, you may create a lot of friction in your household.
Your children may feel like they’re being punished and may view sugary snacks as a form of rebellion. As a result, this can damage your relationship with your children and set them up for failure with their healthy eating habits.
Instead, make a reminder for things you shouldn’t repurchase when you run out. Limit your child’s consumption of the sugary snacks they have left until they’re all gone. If your child asks for more, tell your child the truth. Be patient and explain that added sugar is bad for their body and that they’ll be healthier if they choose snacks that help them grow and thrive.
Incorporate Better Alternatives
Your family still needs to enjoy the things they eat and drink. Finding alternatives to foods loaded with added sugar may take a little bit of trial and error. Most families swap soda for sparkling water with fruit essence.
Sparkling water counts toward your family’s daily water intake, and it’s safe for kids to drink. If your child goes through four cans of sparkling water daily, they’re doing their bodies a favor. They’re also avoiding about 160 grams of added sugar that would have been in four cans of soda.
Bring in some new snacks. Air-popped popcorn is a healthy, whole-grain snack. As long as you don’t load it up with salt and butter, popcorn can be a part of a well-balanced diet. If you’re looking for a sweet treat, whole fruits with low-fat yogurt are a suitable replacement for sweet treats like ice pops or ice cream.
Condiments, dips, and sauces are a huge source of added sugar. Children love to dip everything, and the dips they choose, like ketchup and honey mustard, are packed with refined sugar. Try swapping dips for more wholesome alternatives, like hummus or guacamole.
Quitting Sugar Is Worth the Effort
Quitting sugar is sure to shake up your family’s routine, but in the end, you’ll grow better at it. Just keep an eye out for hidden added sugars, which often lurk in the places where you least expect them.
If you’re committed to making your family healthier, Hiya has the solution. Our children’s chewable multivitamin is naturally sweetened with monk fruit. It doesn’t contain any added sugars or gummy junk.
If your child’s pediatrician agrees that a multivitamin is a brilliant addition to their wellness routine, choose Hiya.