Tag Archives: food labels

11 Ways to Cut Sugar Out of Your Life

teaspoon-of-sugar_01I know that I eat too much sugar. I want to cut back but it’s really hard. Sugar is so tasty!

The average American consumes about 32 teaspoons of sugar a day. The American Heart Association recommends women eat no more than six teaspoons of sugar per day.

You’re probably eating sugar throughout the day without even realizing it. Sugar is added to foods that don’t even taste that sweet, including breads, condiments, sauces and all kinds of processed foods and many low-fat products.

Cutting down on sugar can be one of the best ways to improve your health and your weight. Here are 11 ways you can lower your sugar intake and start feeling better:

Read food labels
You’ll soon realize how often sugar is added to foods when you look at the ingredients. Check the grams of sugar and choose products with the least sugar per serving. In addition, ingredients are listed in the order of how much exists in the product. If sugar is near the top, that’s a red flat that it’s loaded with sugar.

Learn sugar’s other names
When you read labels, you need to look for more than just the word sugar. It hides under many tricky names, such as high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, corn sugar, sucrose, dextrose, honey, cane sugar, cane crystals, maple syrup, molasses and brown sugar.

Buy unsweetened
Now that you know where sugar hides, you can choose to buy foods that are labeled “no added sugar” and “unsweetened.” You’ll find many unsweetened versions of common foods in most grocery stores. You can pick up sugar-free non-dairy milk, nut butters, applesauce, oatmeal and canned fruit.

Don’t go fake
When you start reducing your sugar intake, you may be tempted to switch to artificial sweeteners. These types of sweeteners can mess up your taste for sweet. Your body will be expecting to receive calories and nutrition, but artificial sugars won’t give your body these things. Studies have shown that fake sweeteners may actually lead to weight gain, not weight loss.

Incorporate more protein and fat
Unhealthy carbs are loaded with sugar and can cause blood sugar to rise rapidly. Then, it crashes only to leave you hungry again. To avoid these ups and downs, add more protein, healthy fats and fiber to your meals to slow down the release of blood sugar in your body.

Add spices
While you’re cutting down on sugar, swap it our for healthy spices in your foods. Coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and cardamon will naturally sweeten foods and reduce your cravings.

Eat real foods
The closer a food is to its original form, the less processed sugar it will contain. Foods in their natural form, including fruits and vegetables, usually present a more healthy option to added sugar.

Drink water
Sometimes drinking water can help with sugar cravings. It turns out, what we perceive as a food craving can actually be thirst. In addition, water offers many other health benefits.

Move your body
Exercise at the gym, do yoga or go for a walk. When you move, you will help reduce stress and tension, boost your energy and decrease your need for a sugar boost.

Get enough sleep
What does sleep have to do with cutting down on sugar? Several studies have found that sleep deprivation of two hours or more under the recommended seven to nine hours leads to overeating and junk food cravings. Getting the proper amount of sleep can help you curb cravings and cut down on your sugar intake over time.

Stick to it!
Cutting down on sugar may feel like an impossible task. But now you have the tools to reduce your sugar intake. Eventually, your taste buds will adjust. Overly sweet foods like ice cream and candy will start to taste too sweet. When you may have normally eaten a whole slice of cake, you’ll find that a few bites will be enough. And, you’ll notice that the natural sweetness of fruits and vegetables tastes better!

What’s Really in Your Food?

nutrition--trans-fat-panel-451029-mAs I strive to eat healthier, I am paying more attention to food labels. So much of the food my family eats comes from a box, bag or package. These foods are filled with dyes, chemicals, added sugar and salt.

Yet, even if you read the labels you may not realize some of the strange and bizarre things that are really in your food. Here are some of the gross and just plain weird ingredients that might be hidden in the food you buy:

Cochineal extract
Much of the red dye (Natural Red #4) used in red and pink colored foods – also known as carmine – is made by boiling cochineal beetles in ammonia or sodium carbonate and then crushing them up. However, the synthetic versions of this dye (known as Red #2 and Red #40) are made from petroleum products. If you don’t like the idea of eating bugs, it may be best to avoid foods that contain red dye.

You may buy bread that lists L-Cysteine as an ingredient. This chemical is used to prolong the shelf life of products, such as commercial bread. Most of the L-Cysteine used in food comes from human hair that is gathered from barbershops and hair salons in China. It can also be derived from duck feathers and cow horns. If you find those options a little disgusting, you can buy bread from the local baker or make your own bread.

Rodent hair
Industrial facilities that produce food are often housed in large warehouse spaces. These areas may be home to a few rodents. The US FDA allows a certain amount of rodent hairs in various foods based on “unavoidable defects.” If you buy chocolate, cinnamon and peanut butter, you may expect to ingest a few rodent hairs.

Animal tissue
The ingredient gelatin is used in many gummy products, such as fruit chews and marshmallows. Gelatin is a derivative of pork, which doesn’t sound too bad. However, it’s made by boiling animal connective tissue. You may want to pass on foods that contain gelatin.

Beaver anal glands
Castoreum is a “natural” flavor enhancer used in some varieties of ice cream. Castoreum comes from the castor sacs of male and female beavers. The FDA has approved this food additive and deems the extract to be safe.

Fish bladders
Isinglass helps give beer its lovely clear golden color. Isinglass is a gelatin-like substance that is produced from the swim bladder of a fish. It also has adhesive properties and can be found in glue. Traces of arsenic are also found in beer and wine due to the process of filtering the alcohol.

Wood pulp is used as a cheap filler in shredded cheese, salad dressing and ice cream to thicken it without adding calories or fat. It also appears in high fiber, “healthy” snacks and breakfast cereals. Sawdust keeps shredded cheese from sticking together which is why you may have noticed that organic shredded cheese is more clumpy.

Propylene glycol
A common preservative found in our foods in propylene glycol. It may be added to biscuits, cakes, sweets and other baked goods. Propylene glycol is also used to make antifreeze. Antifreeze is found in cosmetics, skin care products, pharmaceuticals and electronic cigarettes.

Brominated vegetable oil (BVO)
If you consume sports drinks to stay hydrated, you may be drinking brominated vegetable oil which is added to keep the ingredients from separating. BVO contains bromine and can also be found in flame retardants. While banned Europe and Japan, it is still used in the US.

Now that you’re afraid to eat anything you buy from the supermarket, what can you do to make healthier food choices?

Look for local food – If you can, shop at your local farmer’s market or participate in a food co-op.

Check for organic labels – Look for USDA Organic labels on foods. This is a legitimate claim that a product has been certified organic.

Read the labels – Check the ingredients on the label and if you can’t pronounce them, be wary of buying it.

Buy fresh ingredients – Shop for more unprocessed food ingredients and make your own meals rather than buying the prepackaged boxes and bags.

Plant a garden – Grow some of your own food and eat fresh from your own garden.

Food shopping can be confusing and foods that claim to be healthy may actually contain some strange ingredients. You can make healthier food choices. Take the time to read the labels and buy unprocessed food ingredients when you can.