I love food! And really who doesn’t? What I do not like about food is grocery shopping and wedding thru food items that manufacturers are trying to sell as healthy when I do actually partake in a grocery shopping trip. I enjoy preparing food at home when I have ample time to do it in a manner that does not seem like I am just doing it to fuel myself (AKA rushing to put the healthiest thing together in the quickest amount of time) and obviously I enjoy eating food!
First things first, the BEST thing to happen too Rutland, VT is the Hannaford To Go service. Being able to order my groceries online from the comfort of my home with the ability to check the fridge and pantry to assure I do not over look something is as AMAZING as it is to walk into Hannaford and get great customer service at the HTG check out area when I pick up my groceries. Lets face it, most of the challenge of eating well is in the plan and prepare phase. Hannaford has lightened the load in part of that process. The only redeeming aspect of physically doing the grocery shopping now is seeing any new products on the shelves that I may not have seen in the online grocery store BUT similarly the same thing happens when I shop online at Hannaford, I see things I may not have found walking around the store. Truly this is not meant to be a manifesto about HTG but it has been a game changer in my weekly schedule for over 2 years now!
In August I reflected on how 30 days of no alcohol made a difference in my life so in September I went on another nutritional journey and eliminated as much added sugar from my diet as I could. Added and processed sugar is a huge issue in the Standard American Diet (SAD). According to the American Heart Association (2009) Men & Women over 19 years of age average 18-25 teaspoons of added sugar per day. The recommended daily amount if no more than 9 teaspoons (36 grams) for men and 6 (25 grams) for women. Given that data was from 10 years ago, there could be some changes but they would not be improving numbers. If you read nutrition labels at all when you are shopping, you may see an added sugar total on some labels under the total sugar number. As of January 2020 this will be mandatory on a majority of food items with the date being expanded for others. So depending on your nutritional knowledge base, just because something says it has sugar, does not always mean it is added sugar, some are naturally occurring in the food product such as some dairy and some grains. It can be confusing. I have a relatively healthy diet but it is not perfect and a month of looking a bit more carefully at this particular ingredient further enhanced the quality of my diet and overall health.
As I started my month of no added sugar the first two changes I made were that I only bought plain greek yogurt which was already a staple but I would allow a flavored yogurt as a snack (and I could write an entire post on the spectrum of bad to good flavored yogurts). I also stopped using maple syrup. Shhhh, do not tell my husband. Although maple syrup is all natural it is still sweet so I wanted to go entirely plain on my yogurt which is the only place I use syrup (aside from the occasional pancake, french toast or vanilla ice cream). These changes were relatively simple because what I found as I continued this process is that I really don’t have a diet high in added sugar so the flavor changes were not huge for my palette. I did minimize bread intake which again I was doing anyway but even more so in September. I have a weird weakness for toast but months earlier I had switched from regular bread (cue the Klingers Jewish Rye) for whole wheat sandwich thins which have less than 3 g of sugar. One of my biggest learning came from my affinity for Cabot Cottage Cheese (great source of protein for snack). I had no idea some of the sugar was added sugar. No more cottage cheese which meant more fruit and plain yogurt. Next up was my love of lattes on any given day of the week and when one certain coffee shop in Rutland starts selling pumpkin lattes in September, the challenge is on. Thankfully THESE pumpkin latte’s are made with REAL pumpkin, not that flavored sugar syrup of many coffee shops so I was in the clear especially since I prefer oat milk from Planet Oat which is low in sugar from the oats and no added sugar. Otherwise the challenge was in condiments which are not huge for me but when my husband does the cooking he is more likely to use BBQ sauce if grilling chicken and just loves sauce in general. AND of course, salad dressings. Unless you make your own salad dressing, you are accumulating added sugar even from locally made dressings. So I did some research when I was shopping (online of course) and ended up going back to an old favorite, Briana’s French Vinaigrette. Any food not mentioned is because it is fresh protein with only fresh herb flavoring, fresh fruits and fresh or frozen vegetables so sugar was not an issue at most lunch or dinners. Moreover, staying away from things like ice cream and other sweets was quite easy. Now that October has rolled around, I got a bit more lax the first week but have stuck with most small changes I needed to make and the box of chocolates I just received are hidden and unopened!
Another area that I was unsure about was oatmeal but I was pleasantly surprised that I was in the clear here. So overall I was reassured the my diet was above average with no plan to change anything!
So if I have piqued your interest as to what are some big offenders when it comes to added sugar (aside from the obvious), here is a list of things that I talk about regularly when coaching & advising nutrition to clients:
-Boxed/Shelf Stable food items including boxed meals
-Processed food items from the shelf, frozen, food section, in the dairy section AND in the “healthy food section”
-Condiments (Salad dressings, BBQ Sauces, Ketchup etc)
-Flavored foods (like frozen veggies with added sauce, or frozen prepared foods, or canned goods with additives).
-Flavored Coffee Creamers
This is not an exhaustive list by any means, just some items that always shock people where other high sugar items are obvious including alcohol & most everything you can buy at a convenience store. The best strategy when trying to reduce sugar in your diet is to get things as plain and natural as possible and then added your own flavoring via fresh or dried herbs, prepare your own foods as straight forward as possible (AKA not from a box and with fresh or plain frozen veggies).
Source: American Heart Association, Scientific Statement on Dietary Sugars Intake & Cardiovascular Health (2009)