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Simple Ways to Cut Back on Sugar in Your Diet

Americans consume between 100-125 pounds of sugar each year. That's roughly a quarter of a pound every day. It's no wonder that diseases such as obesity and diabetes run rampant.

Cutting back on sweets can help protect you from these serious health conditions and may help you lose weight. Even if you have a sweet tooth, these tips will make it easy to eat healthier.

Understand the Reasons for Cutting Back on Sugar

1. Learn the new guidelines. The American Heart Association (AHA) recently released guidelines for healthy sugar intake. While the average American is now eating about 22 teaspoons of sugar a day, AHA suggests cutting back to 5 for women, 9 for men, and 3 for kids.

2. Avoid empty calories. The population started getting heavier at the same time we began eating increased amounts of refined sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. It's hard to maintain a healthy weight if soft drinks and donuts are crowding out the broccoli and whole grains.

3. Know the research concerning other health risks. Experts agree that sugar causes tooth decay and contributes to weight problems. These weight problems lead to diseases like diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, and cancer.

Easy Ways to Reduce Your Sugar Consumption:

1. Avoid soda. Soft drinks are the worst offenders by far. A typical 12-ounce soda contains at least 8 teaspoons of added sugar, which alone is more than the daily recommendation for women and kids. Drink more water.

2. Limit processed foods. Candy, cakes, and cookies account for a significant amount of our sugar intake, but so do some foods you might not suspect. Sugar is added to everything from whole wheat bread to peanut butter.

3. Read labels. If the first ingredients listed are added sweeteners like sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, you may want to find something more nutritious to eat. Check the total grams of sugar, but keep in mind that will include both added sugars and the less worrisome naturally occurring sugars.

4. Make healthy substitutions. You can eat delicious meals if you make smart substitutions. Switch to a breakfast cereal that's unsweetened or lightly sweetened. Add a little vanilla extract to plain yogurt and skip the fake raspberry flavors.

5. Prepare more foods from scratch. Using fresh ingredients gives you more control over hidden sugars. Make your own salad dressing with olive oil, vinegar and garlic. It will also taste better and cost less than the sweetened supermarket brands.

6. Proceed gradually. It's easy to get conditioned to sugar. Wean yourself in baby steps. Put half as much sugar in your coffee or switch to a natural product like stevia that has no calories.

7. Prioritize. If you're a woman, figure out how you want to use your recommended 5 teaspoons of sugar a day. The sugar you eliminate from your peanut butter may help enable you to eat a small bowl of ice cream or a couple of cookies after dinner.

8. Reduce portion sizes. Moderation is the key. You can still enjoy your favorite desserts as long as you savor a sliver of cake or a few squares of a deluxe chocolate bar.

9. Address emotional eating. You might sometimes reach for sweets when you're feeling stressed because they help you feel better by boosting your serotonin levels. If emotional eating is an issue for you, seek more constructive ways to relax, like meditating or listening to music.

10. Exercise more. On the other side of the equation, you can afford to eat more if you burn more calories. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise on most days.

Replace the empty calories from sugar with healthier treats and a more nutritious diet. You may be pleasantly surprised at how easy it becomes to reduce the amount of sugar in your diet.

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