With Halloween in the rear view mirror and a few weeks left till Thanksgiving pies and treats it is the perfect time to challenge you to really evaluate your sugar intake for one seven-day period to get it in check.
I work hard with my clients to help them to understand nutrition labels and encourage them to turn absolutely everything over to investigate what is going on in the products they enjoy. In this day and age, food is being manipulated in so many ways, but the one place where things are spelled out for you is on the labels. It can be overwhelming to look at too many numbers at once, so I often encourage short, seven-day periods where we focus on one line of the nutrition label. For this challenge I want to begin with perhaps the most controversial, insidious and dangerous line of all. SUGAR!
The recommended daily intake for the average person is just 25 grams of added sugar a day. That works out to be just about 100 calories. In several studies it has been shown that people consume more like 75-100 grams of added sugar a day on average. Those extra sugar grams provide no nutritional value to the body whatsoever and in fact lead to obesity, Type II Diabetes and heart disease.
I challenge you to embark on a seven-day experiment. I want you to begin to track just how much added sugar you are taking in each day. You don’t have to track everything you are eating, just the added sugars. I additionally want you to try to remain at or below the recommended 25 grams of extra sugar in a day. I keep mentioning “added” sugars and want to make sure that we are all aware that these would be sugars “added” to foods. You find these in processed foods in packages, baked goods, table sugars, soda and sports drinks (yes, sports drinks are loaded with sugar). Foods that have sugar naturally occurring in them like fruits that contain both fiber and water and healthy nutrients that support the health of your body do not count. Beware additionally of foods that are “low-fat” or “diet” foods. They often have been injected with extra sugar to make up for the lack of fats.
My clients are usually blown away by the amount of sugar they find hidden in the foods they NEVER thought they would find sugar in. For instance, most breads and pasta sauces, BBQ sauces, ketchup, flavored yogurts, instant flavored oatmeal, protein bars and dried fruits are culprits. Just 2 tablespoons of BBQ sauce and a teaspoon or two of sugar in coffee has you over your daily allotment.
That’s why I call this a CHALLENGE. It will require really examining food labels and looking into your daily choices. I like the seven-day period because it is not impossibly long, but will get you through an entire work week and a weekend to see where the sugar creeps in. A couple of glasses of wine on the weekend will push you right over that limit so watch out.
The Challenge Guidelines
- Pick a day to begin a seven-day period.
- Declare to friends and family on social media that you are doing the sugar challenge and invite them to join. Having support always helps.
- Download a calorie tracking app like Lose it! Or My Fitness Pal for ease of tracking and looking up amounts of added sugars in foods. You can also easily google foods to find out how much sugar is in them or search out nutrition labels online.
- Keep track in a notebook, the notes section on your phone or your calorie tracking app and stay at or below 25 grams of sugar for seven days.
- Track your mood and energy levels throughout the week. Don’t be surprised if you have a little sugar withdrawal in those first few days and feel a little crabby!
- At the end of the seven-day period see which changes you are willing to keep as permanent shifts.