THE PERFECT RECIPE FOR WEIGHT GAIN: SUGAR!

Sorry sweet tooth, sugar is probably the single worst ingredient in our diets. The harmful effects of eating too much sugar are not only terrible for your body, but the harm goes way beyond empty calories.

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Added sugar should never be on your plate, but the average American consumes more than twice the recommended maximum amount of added sugar every single day: 17 teaspoons instead of the upper daily limit of no more than 6 teaspoons. Scary and gross!

Now, I’m not talking about the wonderfully natural sugar found in fruits and vegetables and contains healthy vitamins and minerals. This type of sugar has little effect on your blood sugar.

Added sugar from processed foods a sure way to gain weight, harmfully affect your metabolism, and contribute to negative health risks. It has been shown to contribute to our ever-growing obesity epidemic, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and yucky teeth problems.

It’s not as hard as you think to kick that sugar addiction once and for all by following these 4 simple steps:

1. STEP AWAY FROM THE DONUT

Desserts, such as ice cream, cakes, candy and cookies, are filled with harmful amounts of sugar and provide little to no nutrition. Desserts can cause your blood sugar levels to spike, which oftentimes leave us feeling tired, hungry and actually craving yet more sugar.

If you’re really craving something sweet, make the switch to fresh or baked fruit to reduce your sugar intake and increase your fiber, vitamin and mineral intake.

Try these satisfying alternative options:

  • Fresh fruit: Tastes like sweet, natural sugars, but full of good-for-you fiber, vitamins and minerals.

  • Dark chocolate: Opt for a chocolate with a higher % cocoa content for less sugar and limit yourself to a square.

  • 4-5 dates: Deliciously nutritious.

2. DITCH THE NOT-SO-HEALTHY “HEALTHY” SNACKS

Don’t be tricked by the "healthy" messaging on so many to-go snacks you see at the supermarket. Unfortunately, some snacks like healthy looking granola bars, cereals and protein bars can contain as much, if not more, sugar than the foods we assume are loaded with sugars like candy and chocolate bars. Many healthy-hyped granola and protein bars can contain huge amounts of hidden added sugar. This means you need to be that much more prepared with low-sugar snacks options.

Here are a few healthy ideas:

  • 1/4 cup of salt-free nuts: Packed with protein, good-for-you fats and healthy calories.

  • Plain popcorn: Full of protein and low calories.

  • Hard-boiled egg: Easy, keeps you full, high in protein, vitamins and minerals.

  • Fresh fruit: Sweet tasting, healthy sugars, vitamins and minerals.

  • Trail mix: Make sure there are no added sugars and keep it to 1/4-1/2 cup.

3. SUGAR IS NOT THE BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS

We’ve all enjoyed a big bowl of cereal before - a family staple in most homes. Unfortunately, breakfast cereals are among the worst offenders for added sugar – up there with pancakes, waffles, muffins and scones. Some cereals contain over 12 teaspoons per a cup serving – eek! Even granola, one of my personal craving and often mistaken for being ultra-healthy, can actually have even more sugar than a typical sugary cereal.

Remember, the adult female should be getting 6 teaspoons of added sugar at the very most in an entire day.

It’s time to switch your family’s sugar-filled breakfast to a few of these awesome options:

  • Eggs: Scrambled, boiled, poached, or as a veggie-filled omelet.

  • Hot oatmeal: Add some cinnamon, nuts and fruit.

  • Greek yogurt: Add fruit, nuts and seeds.

  • Avocado: Serve on whole-wheat toast.

  • Nut butter: Serve on whole-wheat toast with sliced bananas.

Choosing a smart, low-sugar, nutrient dense, high protein and fiber-filled breakfast will help you feel full and energetic till lunch.

4. DON’T CHEERS WITH A POISONOUS DRINK

Put the glass down! Avoiding sugary drinks, such as sodas, so-called energy drinks, sports drinks and many barely-real fruit drinks will not only reduce your sugar intake, but could actually help you lose weight.

In a few, unsatisfying gulps, you could be taking down hundreds of empty calories and heaps of added sugar. What’s most alarming and so easily changeable is that these sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks and fruit drinks supply an overwhelming 44% of the added sugar in the American diet. Even so-called "healthy" drinks such as smoothies can contain disturbing amounts of unhealthy sugars.

Drinks do not create the same kind of satiety that foods do. They simply don't make us feel as full, so we end up drinking lots of calories from drinks that do not aid in helping us eat less.

Reducing your intake of these sugary drinks can help with weight loss. Here are some better drink options that you can confidently cheers to:

  • Water: Amazing for your body, free and calorie-free.

  • Infused water: Add lemon or mint or cucumber if you don’t love plain water.

  • Sparkling water: Squeeze in fresh lemon or lime – delish.

  • Herbal teas: Hot or cold.

  • Coffee or tea: Unsweetened tea/black coffee.

THE TAKE AWAY GIFT:

Sugar is empty calories. It’s addictive. It makes you fat. It’s void of vitamins and nutrients. It’s harmful to your health. Nothing good can come from your relationship with sugar. It’s time to run far and fast from added sugars as if your life depended on it. Because…maybe it does.

Karina Heinrich