I have a bad sugar habit. Any tips for curbing my sweet tooth? –Anita B.

Sugar addiction, or an over-active sweet tooth, is very common as so many food products contain added sugars. The more sugar we eat, the more we crave. Like most foods, a small amount of sugar once in a while is no big deal, but when eating in excess, it can have negative effects such as weight gain, fat storage and increased fat levels in the blood.  

The first step to reducing a strong sugar craving is to determine which foods contain added sugar by reading the ingredient lists. There are many concealed names for added sugar, such as cane sugar, fructose, glucose, maltose, sucrose, molasses, malt syrup, fruit juice and corn syrup. By first finding which foods contain added sugar, you can start decreasing the amount of these foods you eat. Besides the obvious sweet treats, condiments are a big culprit for added sugars; salsa, salad dressing, ketchup, barbecue sauce and other dipping sauces usually contain hefty amounts of added sugar (up to a tablespoon per serving in some!). The American Heart Association recommends that we only consume 6-8 teaspoons of added sugar per day. To put “grams of sugar” into a more visual cue, every three grams of sugar on a label equals one sugar packet.  A 20-ounce cola, for example, contains 65 grams of sugar, or roughly 22 sugar packets! 

There are a couple of ways to go about decreasing sugar intake. You could try stopping cold turkey or just slowly decrease foods with added sugars and sweets. For sugar added to beverages (tea, coffee, etc.), try reducing the amount in half every week. For example, if you use two sugars in coffee, cut down to one, then one-half.  Your taste buds will slowly adapt and require less. Other tips include eating whole fruit instead of fruit juice, opting for plain yogurt, adding your own fruit and cinnamon instead of packets of sugar, and looking for condiments without sugar in the ingredient list. Over time, your strong cravings will decrease with small changes.

–Kristine Welch, Registered Dietitian and Certified Personal Trainer