Sugar is a powerful word and source of energy within our food, diet culture, and how we think about and support our weight management and health goals. Within Target100 program and courses, founder Liz Josefsberg and the coaches talk a lot with members about the distinction between added and natural sugars in our diets, the emotional connection and appeal of sugar-y, sweet foods, and how we don't need to fear sugar in order to achieve weight loss and wellness goals. Let's start at the beginning and clarify a few things about added sugars.
What are added sugars?
Whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy contain a plethora of nutrients including fiber, protein, and natural sugars. Processed foods such as packaged foods, baked goods, and sweetened beverages contain preservatives to extend shelf-life and added sugars to increase consumption. Some examples of added sugars include table sugar, cane sugar, syrups, and honey. The FDA updated the food label laws in 2018 to require food manufacturers to list added sugars separately. The distinction between natural sugars from an apple and added sugars in a soda helps consumers (you and us!) make better food choices.
Why should we limit them?
Processed foods raise blood sugar faster and increase insulin resistance resulting in weight gain. One reason they cause more weight gain is that processed foods contain less fiber compared to whole foods such as fruits and whole grains. Fiber helps to keep blood sugar stable and promotes the feeling of fullness. US guidelines recommend limiting added sugars to less than 10% of daily calorie intake. Specifically for women, it’s recommended to limit added sugars to less than 6 teaspoons (tsp) or 24 grams sugar per day. Many studies have shown that increased sugar intake increases the intensity and frequency of hot flashes, in addition to increased waist circumference, for women in peri-menopause.
The Target100 food pillar focuses on limiting added sugars by limiting the intake of carbohydrates to 100-ish grams per day. It also teaches you how to enjoy fiber-rich foods like potatoes and apples while honoring your body’s needs.
Here are a few tips to help reduce the intake of added sugars
Tip #1: Look at labels - opt for foods with 5% daily value or less of added sugar
- Limit foods with 20% daily value or more of added sugar
- For reference 1 can of soda contains = 140 calories with 39 grams of added sugars (78% daily value!)
Tip #2: Swap candy for fruits - they can satisfy your sweet tooth while providing your body with nutrients
- 1 chocolate candy bar = 200 calories with 26 grams of added sugar
- 1 cup strawberries with 1 piece of 70% dark chocolate = 120 calories with 3 grams of added sugar
Tip #3: Limit sugar cravings by having balanced meals and snacks
- Sugar cravings increase when blood sugar drops
- Pair fruits and grains with healthy fats and protein-rich foods to keep you feeling fuller longer
- Eat small meals throughout the day rather than skipping meals
Here’s a sweet and savory breakfast recipe that you can prep, freeze, and reheat during the week
Tip #4: Address stressors and emotional eating
- Practice breathing exercises and engage in regular physical activity to reduce stressors that can trigger cravings and emotional eating
Target100 dedicated a whole chapter and created a course on emotional eating. It’s more common than you may realize! Click on this link to find out more! Target 100
Nourishing our body is important at every life stage, especially as we get older and our bodies undergo hormonal changes. Limiting added sugars helps us feel better by reducing symptoms like hot flashes, anxiety, and depression. Many people start to see results on the scale and waistline too! You don’t have to be perfect to see improvements either! Learning to limit added sugars will add so much to your overall health at any stage in life.
This blog post was written by our amazing dietetic intern Carmelita Lombera.