Life is sweeter with less sugar: Tips to help cut back

Serve baked apples instead of a high-sugar dessert.
Serve baked apples instead of a high-sugar dessert. Belleville News-Democrat

High sugar intake is linked to everything from dental cavities and obesity to Type 2 diabetes. Added sugars sweeten food and although they add calories, they offer virtually no nutritional value.

Reducing your sugar intake could help with:

Weight management: Cutting your sugar habit could help you drop pounds. Now that’s sweet!

Memory and concentration: Diets high in sugar have been shown to hinder learning.

Diabetes prevention: Eating added sugars promotes fatty deposits that contribute to insulin resistance, which normally stalls the production of insulin. Therefore, raising your risk for Type 2 Diabetes.

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines recommends Americans limit added sugars to no more than 10 percent of their daily calorie needs. That's about 12 teaspoons (48 grams of sugar) on a 2,000-calorie diet. But for kids, who may only need 1,200 to 1,400 calories per day — it's even less.

But rather than obsessing over grams and teaspoons, here are some tips to help decrease added sugars:

Use fruits and vegetables that are naturally sweet when baking or cooking. For example adding a mashed banana to oatmeal for added sweetness.

Sip smarter: Soda and other sugary drinks contain a lot of sugar. Instead choose water, 100 percent juice or fat-free milk.

Choose not to offer sweet as rewards: By offering food as a reward we learn to think some foods are better than others. Instead reward your family with non-food items to make them feel special.

Make fruit the everyday dessert: Serve baked apples, pears or serve frozen 100 percent juice bars instead of high-calorie desserts.

Serve small portions: It’s impossible to get rid of all sweets and desserts. A small amount of treats can go a long way. Use smaller bowls and plates for these foods. You can share a candy bar or split a cupcake.

Play detective at the grocery store: This is a great opportunity to show kids how to read labels. Challenge them to compare cereals or other foods and select the one with the lowest amount of sugar.

Overall, the goal is to make a healthy relationship with food instead of having a completely sugar-free diet. Focus on making positive associations with foods such as fruits and veggies and save the sweet stuff for special occasions.

Ellie Lopez is a health information consultant at Sutter Gould Medical Foundation’s Health Education Department.