Do you know how much sugar you eat and drink every day? I don’t just mean the spoonful’s you put in your coffee or tea in the morning or the soda you drink at lunch and dinner. I’m talking about “hidden” added sugars. One teaspoon of sugar equals sixteen calories, which might not seem like a lot, but most cans of soda have nearly ten teaspoons of sugar! Excess sugar in your diet could cause weight gain, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and lower immune function. Are you up for a challenge – an at-home sugar challenge?
On your mark, get set…
So, are you ready to take the At Home Sugar Challenge? You will need to gather a few things before you begin. First, you will need a large, clear jar with a tight-fitting lid. Secondly, you will need a teaspoon. Third, you will need a bag of sugar. (This might seem odd, but you’ll understand in the next paragraph – I promise!) Finally, you will need to familiarize yourself with how to read a nutrition label. Fortunately, today’s new labels now include “Added Sugars”. That is important because the At Home Sugar Challenge allows you to visualize how much added sugar you consume in a week.
At the start, you won’t change any of your eating or drinking habits. Simply have your empty jar, teaspoon, and bag of sugar handy. In the morning, if you drink juice with “added sugars”, simply put that same amount of sugar in your sugar jar. If you are drinking coffee with two teaspoons of sugar, put two teaspoons in your coffee and two teaspoons in your sugar jar. Will you be eating a cinnamon pop-tart with your coffee? According to Kellogg’s website, two pastries contain 29 grams of sugar. There are 4 grams of sugar per teaspoon, so now add 7 ¼ teaspoons of sugar to your jar. Don’t forget to add your sugars when you eat lunch, have any snacks, and eat dinner. Basically, if you’re going to eat it or drink it, add those “added sugars” to your sugar jar. At the end of the week, take note of how much sugar is in the jar. Carefully measure how much sugar you consumed and write this amount down.
Now that you know…
The real challenge begins after you have done the hard work of recording how much sugar you consumed. Now its time to try to lessen your sugar consumption. For example, in your coffee, you could use one teaspoon of sugar instead of two. Or, to cure a soda craving, make your own fizzy drink by combining a 1-to-1 ratio of seltzer water and your favorite juice. Conduct your own research on naturally sweet substitutes. For instance, cinnamon is naturally sweet and can be used to replace brown sugar on your baked sweet potato. When you go shopping, read the nutrition labels before placing items in your grocery cart. Buy more fruits and vegetables and less sweetened drinks. You can keep recording your sugar intake during this week and compare your results with the first week. Also, reflect on any differences you feel between the weeks, such as moods, fit of clothes, energy, etc.
What to watch out for. You will realize quickly that soda has a lot of added sugar and 100% juice has no added sugar. Obviously, juice is the better choice, due to its vitamins and minerals, but there is a recommended limit for youth and adults. Keep in mind that a calorie is a calorie and honey, agave nectar, and coconut sugar have calories, too. Remember that your sugar intake should match your level of activity, so let’s go enjoy nature’s treats.