By Karla Walsh
Here’s some not-so-sweet news: The average American consumes 57 pounds of added sugar per year. Boil that down to daily consumption, and it’s about 17 teaspoons (more than ⅓ cup). The American Heart Association’s recommended daily cap? Just six teaspoons. Yikes.
“Most people are unaware of all the places sugar hides,” says Michele Promaulayko, author of Sugar-Free 3. “Sugar is nearly everywhere, even slipped into foods we don’t even think of as ‘sweet,’ like spaghetti sauce, ketchup, bread, crackers, salad dressings, and yogurt.”
These hidden sugars, and the fact that we consume so much sugar on the regular, is why Promaulayko decided to write Sugar-Free 3. Don’t be thrown off by the title: The three-week plan does not ask you to go completely without any sweet foods whatsoever.
“It’s not restrictive. There’s so much you can eat and there’s no calorie counting, so you’ll never be hungry,” Promaulayko says.
Follow the related OpenFit app and commit to eliminating added sugars, artificial sweeteners, and refined carbs for 21 days, “about the time it takes to form healthy new habits and to start experiencing significant results,” Promaulayko says.
At the same time, you’ll learn how to read a nutrition label to spot hidden sources of sugar. (Get a head start with the Nutritious Life guide to being more sugar savvy.)
You can still eat fruit, potatoes, and whole-grain pastas and breads, but by limiting excess sugar, research shows you’ll sleep better, experience less inflammation, and reduce your risk for chronic diseases including heart disease and some cancers.
“Ditching sugar—even just for three weeks, as a start—can be incredibly beneficial to overall health,” Promaulayko says. “And the longer you stay with it, the healthier you get, obviously. You’ll have more stable blood sugar, which controls hunger and energy, sleep more soundly, and have better digestion.”
Ready to cut sweets without going insane? Promaulayko shares three sugar-savvy steps.
3 Easy Ways to Cut Sugar Out of Your Diet
- Plan your meals in advance. “A little planning goes a long way to prevent you from falling prey to easy-to-grab processed foods when you’re hungry,” Promaulayko says. Our recipe database is jam-packed with low-sugar menu inspiration.
- Find sweet substitutes. When your sweet cravings just won’t quit, try herbal tea with a sweet note (like vanilla or cinnamon) or a piece of whole fruit. Since the sugars are natural and come along with fiber, they won’t increase your blood sugar the same way a store-bought cake spiked with high fructose corn syrup would.
- Team up. “Enlist a friend, spouse or a group of coworkers to cut sugar with you,” Promaulayko says. “You can help hold each other accountable.” Sweet!
(Featured photo: Shutterstock)