If you read The Cave’s blog, you probably are much healthier than the average Joe or Josephine. You also probably wouldn’t be caught in an emergency shelter drinking anything like the three beverages pictured at left, which show the frightening amount of sugar hidden in the alluring fizz or enticing hues of the average commercial thirst quencher. Most likely, if you’re reading this, you don’t touch the stuff. But, you may not be aware how much hidden sugar you are consuming each day, and if you don’t keep count, I invite you to spend the next couple of days reading labels, tallying the numbers, and taking a sweet tooth inventory.
The USDA recommends limiting refined sugar to under 40 grams (12 teaspoons) per day, per 2000 calories. See where you land. Wherever it is, if it’s above zero, try and reasonably challenge yourself to cut back wherever you can.
Here are a dozen ideas to help:
1. Set a mindful intention to reduce sugar. (If you have a birthday coming up, blow out candles and wish for less cake.)
2. Read labels. Don’t buy anything for which you could get a lower or zero sugar version.
3. Knowledge is power. Identify where processed sugar enters your diet.
4. Know yourself. When are you most likely to reach for something sugary? After dinner? After a workout? When you’re hungry? Late at night? And where? At home? In the car? At the office?
5. Seek Alternatives. For times when sugar beckons irresistibly, knowing alternatives ahead of time is invaluable. Take a few minutes to make a list of substitutes. Chai or a flavorful herb tea? Fresh fruit and/or whole nuts? A healthy, salty snack? Or satisfying the need for a sweet experience from another sense door such as kinesthetic activity from a refreshing walk, asking a loved one for a hug, smelling something fragrant in your garden. Whatever alternatives could work for you, memorize them and make sure they are easily accessible when you need them.
6. Cut back a little at a time. Set a goal of reducing processed sugar by even just a few grams per day on a weekly basis. For example, if you average 40 grams per day, try cutting back to 35 a day for a week, then 30 the next week, etc.
7. Get inspired. Google search, “Why is processed sugar bad?”
8. Seek support. Get together with a friend or two or three and share lowering your sugar goals together. Or involve your whole family in a discussion about reducing sugar consumption.
9. Mindset change. If you think of sugar as a reward, stop that right now! Find replacement rewards. Even if you swap sugar for shoe shopping you’ll live longer!
10. Experiment. Try spices as alternatives to sugar, like cardamom or cinnamon. They have far more flavor and are great in coffee.
11. Toss it! Don’t feel guilty about throwing away what’s left of the Girl Scout cookies, or draining soda down the sink.
12. New recipes. Here’s probably the world’s easiest-to-make cookies that are moist, chewy, and completely unrefine-edly sweet:
- 1 yellow-about-to-turn-black medium to large plantain
- 1 cup almond butter (make sure there’s no added sugar)
- optional (depending on your level of sugar dependency or if making for kids): 1/4 cup raisins or currants
Preheat oven to 350°.
In a food processor or powerful blender, combine peeled plantain and almond butter. Mix until smooth and then a minute or two more until creamy.
If using raisins, fold into batter at this point.
Drop batter by rounded spoonfuls onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.
Bake for 15 minutes.
Remove from oven, cool, and enjoy a naturally sweet, high-protein, high-potassium dessert. Store in fridge; will get sticky – but still delicious – after a few days.