Effective diets don’t ban sugar all together because doing so unreasonable and not necessary. It is a lofty goal, but I don’t know anyone who can do so on a long term basis.   

I’ve had many clients come to me to lose weight and want to totally “go off sugar.” While added sugar is certainly something to cut down on in anyone’s diet, I usually advise against this strategy.

Let me tell you why. Many of us, myself included, have a sweet tooth. Research supports the theory that we are born with a sweet tooth. But, there are ways to indulge in sweet tastes other than enjoying too many baked goods and candies.

Eliminating all added sugar is too extreme. What are you going to do on your birthday when someone bakes a cake for you? Are you really going to be able to not touch any holiday treats?

Despite all the negative news about how bad sugar is for our health, there’s an equal amount of scientific research to suggest that much of the claims of sugar destroying your health are overblown. Popular zero-sugar diets like Keto and Whole 30 are unsustainable for the most of us.

Why Effective Diets Do Not Prohibit All Added Sugars

Here’s why effective diets don’t endorse sugar bans. Now, there’s good evidence that shows trying to eliminate sugar from your diet will likely backfire and leads to binging on even more of the sweet stuff.

What’s important to understand is that not all sugars are created equal. Your total diet, lifestyle and genes increase – or decrease – your risk. In fact, recent studies suggest that eating small amounts of some types of sugar that’s strategically timed can be enjoyed without worrying about your waistline.

For example, a study conducted by researchers at Lund University in Sweden reported an increased risk for premature death among individuals who ate the most and the least amounts of added sugars. In contrast, those who consumed modest amounts of the sweet stuff had reduced risk. Experts contend a better approach is to give in to your cravings with appropriate portions of satisfying sweets that are strategically timed.

Natural sugars present in fruit, veggies and dairy are not considered a health threat, while added sugars present in baked goods and most processed foods should be limited. 

How much added sugar is too much? An effective diet aims to minimize added sugars, since most of us consume too much. The American Heart Association and most other public health organizations recommend women reduce added sugars to about 100 calories per day (about 6 teaspoons), and men should get no more than 150 calories per day (about 9 teaspoons) of added sugars.

Here are some ideas from Julie Upton, RD and communications expert specializing in food, nutrition and health, about how to keep a sweet tooth under control:

Seven Ways to Temper a Sweet Tooth

1. Read labels. More than 70% of packaged foods and beverages have at least one added sugar. Look for the amount of added sugars on the nutrition facts panel. Choose products with the lower added sugar counts.

2. Enjoy your sweet treat at the end of a meal. Eating sugar-rich foods after eating foods with protein, fat and fiber will blunt the blood-sugar response of eating simple carbs. A recent study reported in the British Medical Journal found that the carb-last eating pattern reduced blood sugar response among individuals with type 2 diabetes by some 54%.

3. Grab your spoonIce cream is one of those can’t-live-without foods for many who love sweets. Opt for a creamy low-sugar pick like Halo Top or Edy’s/Dryer’s No Sugar Added.

4. Try the 5:2 approach. This strategy has you focus on eating minimal sweets and treats for five days a week and then allowing yourself to be less restrictive for two days when you can enjoy some cookies, a delicious dessert or some candy. This approach is more sustainable rather than swearing off sweets for good.

5. Spice up your sweets. Many herbs and spices bring out the natural sweetness of foods, like fruit and veggies and in baked goods. Vanilla or almond extract, ginger, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice are some of the best options. In one study, researchers reported that participants preferred an apple crisp recipe that reduced the sugar by 37% while upping the spices, compared to the traditional fruit crisp recipe.

6. Low-sugar chocolate fixes. Another one of my need-it-now treats is chocolate. Instead of a chocolate candy bar, opt for a Kind Dark Chocolate Mocha Almond bar or Blue Diamond’s Cocoa Dusted Almonds. Another idea to conquer chocolate cravings is to dip fresh fruit like bananas and strawberries into a light chocolate syrup.

7. Pick petites. If you love cookies or brownies, look for the mini options like Two-Bite Brownies Two-Bite Scone.

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