I know this isn’t news to anyone nowadays, but sugar is bad stuff. It causes inflammation, feeds the bad bacteria and yeast in our guts (which lead to more sugar cravings), and it’s addictive.

Eating sugar and substances that act like sugar (like refined flours) sets you and your kids up for a blood sugar roller coaster that can lead to behavior concerns, focus problems, and all kinds of uncomfortable symptoms like headaches, body aches, and fatigue.

So kicking sugar to the curb, though uncomfortable, can be life changing and a huge step toward better health. It can also help you retrain your taste buds to want to eat/drink things that are not as sweet, and can push you and your kids beyond your comfort zone to eat real whole foods instead of packaged, processed, or sugary junk.

How much sugar is okay? 25 grams per day. Maybe 30 grams for someone who is perfectly healthy otherwise.

To put it in perspective:

  • One can of soda has 39-42 grams.
  • A medium mocha blended coffee drink at your favorite coffee place has over 60 grams!
  • In case cold blended coffee drinks aren’t your thing, know that a medium vanilla latte has 35 grams.
  • Flavored yogurt can have over 20 grams
  • Flavored instant oatmeal has about 10 grams
  • Tomato sauce has 6-9 grams per ½ cup serving
  • 1 cup of typical cereal marketed to kids (without milk) has 12-15 grams
  • Breakfast bars or granola bars have 10-15 grams
  • 1 package of fruit gummy snacks (even organic) has 10-12 grams
  • 2 tbsp. salad dressing – 2-14 grams depending on brand and flavor
  • One cup of chocolate milk has 22-27 grams (and most containers have more than the 1 cup serving)
  • A bottle of green juice from the store has upwards of 40 grams!
  • A 16-oz fruit smoothie from a fast food place has around 50-55 grams!
  • A 24-oz fruit smoothie from a juice place has up to 90 grams!

As you can see from the list above, sugar is hidden everywhere, even in foods or drinks that many people think are healthy. For this reason, you need to become a sugar detective if you’re going to cut down on or eliminate sugar.

Now that you’re motivated to get this done, here are some steps you can take to help you kick sugar to the curb:

Read every label. First look at the Nutrition Info box for the number of grams of sugar, but then also take a look at the ingredients list. Any food that has sugar (see below for the many names of sugar) listed as any of the first 3 ingredients is just a craving-satisfier and not a nutritionally sound food.

Kick out the high-sugar foods. Now go through your pantry/fridge and keeping in mind the 25 gram per day maximum, identify some high-sugar foods that need to be kicked to the curb. For each item, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does it have more than 3-4 grams of sugar per serving?
  • Is the serving size reasonable? Would you end up wanting to eat 3-4 servings because one serving equals a tiny square of food? If so, take that sugar content and multiply by 3-4.
  • Is sugar in any form one of the first 3 ingredients?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, then you’ll likely be better off donating it.

For your reference, here’s a partial list of all the different names of sugar:

  • sucrose
  • fructose
  • glucose
  • dextrose
  • galactose
  • lactose
  • maltose
  • invert sugar
  • raw sugar
  • turbinado sugar
  • cane sugar
  • cane syrup
  • brown sugar
  • confectioner’s sugar
  • granulated sugar
  • corn syrup
  • high-fructose corn syrup
  • corn sweetener
  • agave nectar
  • agave syrup
  • honey
  • maple syrup
  • molasses

Restock the kitchen. Next hit the stores and ask yourself the same 3 questions as you did when raiding your kitchen to decide if something is worthy of entering your shopping cart.

To replace some of your prior go-to sugary treats and snacks, stock up on the following:

  • All vegetables
  • Whole fruit (not canned or dried)
  • All nuts and seeds (read the ingredients because these often have added sugar!)
  • All meat, fish and eggs. Look for grass fed, pasture-raised or wild-caught.
  • Healthy fats: coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil, grass-fed butter, ghee, and animal fats like lard and tallow.
  • Drinks: Unsweetened almond milk or coconut milk, black coffee, unsweetened tea, water, sparkling water.
  • Homemade condiments and dressings that don’t include sugars.

Before you buy, eat, or offer a food to your kids, ask yourself, “is this food going to improve our health or work against it?”

Real, whole foods beat processed sugary food any day when it comes to nutritional value and health-promoting benefits. Making changes like this can obviously be overwhelming at first so just take it one meal at a time and I know you’ll succeed.

Dr. Jamilet Alegria, M.D., joined the CentreSpring MD team of providers in the fall of 2016 after spending years as a Pediatric Hospitalist at both CHOC Children’s in Orange County and at the Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center Inpatient Pediatrics Unit in Southern California.

Email appointments@centrespringmd.com to schedule a visit with Dr. Jamilet Alegria, M.D..

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Categories: Health Tips, Mindfulness, Pediatric Wellness