Ask Sofia: How can I curb my sugar addiction?
From more obvious examples such as cookies and cakes to hidden sugars in foods such as ketchup and yogurt, we are a nation addicted to sweets: The average American consumes about 150 pounds of sugar each year. If you struggle to get through the day without a sugar fix, this time of year can be particularly challenging, with baked goods, holiday parties and temptations around every corner.
“In natural form, sugar is not a villain. I encourage my clients not to worry so much about foods without labels – such as fresh fruit – and to focus more on packaged foods, which can have surprising amounts of hidden sugar in them,” said Physician Assistant Allie Nowak. She recommends limiting sugar to 25 grams a day or less.
Generally, Nowak promotes being more conscious about the food we consume and balancing carbs with healthy protein and healthy fats. A plain apple, for example, can be more satisfying and provide more stable energy when it’s topped with a tablespoon of almond butter. A breakfast smoothie will be more filling and enjoyable when it has a good balance of carbs (fresh berries or spinach, for example) plus protein (protein powder or plain yogurt) and healthy fats (such as avocado). A balanced diet can reduce spikes in blood sugar and quell cravings.
“When people are well-nourished, they are less likely to crave sugar or overindulge in unhealthy foods. Unfortunately, we sometimes get in a vicious cycle where we are eating sugar regularly and it’s all we crave,” Nowak added. She encourages clients to cut sugar out for at least a week to reduce cravings.
Good replacements can include sour flavors, such as lemon water, which also supports better hydration, as well as cinnamon and vanilla, which can easily be added to plain yogurt. Some people enjoy salty foods, like roasted nuts, in place of sweeter options. While honey and maple syrup have some nutritional value, Nowak still recommends removing them from the diet for a week or more to curb cravings.