Food: Alternatives to sugar

According to the American Heart Association, 200 years ago, people consumed 22 teaspoons of sugar per year.

Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that Americans consume 22-30 teaspoons per day.

That is going from five pounds of sugar consumed in a year to an average of 152 pounds per year.

Sugar is a popular ingredient added to foods for sweetening and preserving for long periods of time. Unfortunately, it also is an addictive substance that is the culprit of many diseases, like cancer.

I must be transparent and admit that I love sugar — particularly ice cream and cookies. I believe in enjoying dessert after meals and ice cream as a bedtime snack. However, my body doesn’t do well with it since my scale and cholesterol levels have increased.

In the past years, I have made it a mission to decrease my sugar intake but not give up sweet treats entirely. By being intentional and creative, I have found dessert options without the extra sugar.

When I cut out added sugar from my diet, I was amazed at how good other foods tasted. I learned how delicious grapefruit tasted without adding sugar. It is wonderfully sweet on its own.

I also noticed that I could breathe easier. At times, I found myself yawning to get a full, deep breath. Without sugar inflaming my airways, my lungs can inflate fully without yawning.

The reasons are obvious as to why we should not over-indulge in sugar, but the process of purging this excess of sweetness from our diet is a struggle. Instead of avoiding all things sweet, I have found healthy substitutes to curb my cravings.

Homemade peanut or almond butter

Blend 3 cups of peanuts or almonds, and you will have a sugar-free spread ready for any snack.

Vegetables

The USDA recommends that we eat 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. When prepared right, they will satisfy your sweet urge. Combine fruits and vegetables by creating “ants on a log” with raisins, celery and peanut butter.

Fruit

The natural sugar in fruit is a healthier option. Stock up on your favorite fruit while it is in season. Freeze your favorites so that they are ready for you during the off-season.

My latest favorite fruit is gold kiwi. Green kiwi can be very tart, but gold kiwi is full of vitamin C, plus has a sweeter flavor. It’s the perfect dessert alongside fresh-picked berries.

Fresh fruits and veggies also are great additions to flavor your water. Add watermelon, cucumbers, berries or citrus fruits for an extra tang to your daily glasses of hydration. (Note: I don’t recommend eating the fruit or veggies after they soak in your water. The extra water makes the food very soggy and unappetizing.)

Dark chocolate

Like everything, even chocolate is good in moderation. Choose organic dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao and sea salt for the perfect treat. Make it savory by adding cacao chips to your yogurt parfaits or frozen yogurt.

I have decided that my diet will not always be perfect. I choose to indulge in ice cream creations periodically. It’s the conscious awareness of the quality and quantity of my treats that is more important. I am improving my health by choosing a treat once per week, rather than nightly.

With the remaining days of summer, I challenge you to identify something you could consume less of — maybe that’s sugar, alcohol or snacking. There is no pill or quick fix that can change our sugar intake. It will take intentional habit shifts in the foods we choose.

Kathie Rotz is an executive leadership coach and speaker with Unity Consulting and the author of “You Have Superpowers” online learning program.

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