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12 Months to a Better You: Getting Rid of Added Sugars (and Alcohol)

By Sara Butler

A Healthier You in One Year

This year is going by in a blur! With so much going on in the world and at home, it’s important to devote a little time to yourself. That’s why The Joint Chiropractic is taking time each month in 2022 -- but it could be any year -- to help you make small changes that can add up to big rewards by the end of December in terms of your health and wellness.

This month we’re focusing on how to cut down on added sugar -- and even alcohol -- as a way to improve your overall health. Don’t worry, this isn’t another one of those “sugar is bad so avoid it at all costs” articles. We’re nothing if not realists here at The Joint and we recognize that sugar -- and for some, alcohol -- is something that can be enjoyed from time to time.

The magic word this month is moderation. Here are a few simple tips that can help you consume less sugar in your diet and maybe even cut back on some calorie-loaded alcohol while you’re at it.

Sugar: How Much Is Too Much?

There’s no doubt about it, Americans love their sugar. The amount of sugar the average American eats per day far exceeds the daily recommendations. Some of this is because of hidden sugar (which we’ll get to) but a lot of it comes down to habits.

The average American eats between 55 and 92 grams of sugar per day. That’s 13 to 22 teaspoons of sweet stuff each day. According to dietary guidelines, sugars should only make up about 10 percent of your total calories for the day, but most people are instead getting upwards of 16 percent.

It can be really difficult to cut down on the amount of sugar you eat each day, but implementing a few easy tips can help. Remember, it’s all about slow changes over time to form new habits; you don’t have to get up tomorrow morning and decide you never want a grain of sugar to pass through your lips again.

Tips to Cut Down on Sugar

A few very simple things you can do to reduce the amount of added sugar in your diet is to:

  • Reduce sugary drinks - An ice-cold soda from time to time won’t ruin your health, but if you drink really sugary drinks every day such as soda (or even smoothies), fruit juice, and fancy coffee drinks, then you need to take a second look. Instead of sugary drinks, consider drinking water, sparkling water, herbal tea, black coffee, or even green tea.
  • Avoid dessert - Some meals call for a sweet ending but remember that sugar doesn’t really have any nutritional value and that your daily calories are better spent on other, more nutritious food. Instead of a big thick slice of chocolate cake or cherry pie after a meal, treat yourself with some fresh fruit, Greek yogurt with fruit or cinnamon, or even some dark chocolate that is at least 70 percent cocoa.
  • Watch the condiments - Sugar is used in a lot of food items that are prepackaged. Some things, like baked goods, are obvious sources of sugar, but some things are sneakier. Condiments such as ketchup, spaghetti sauce, and barbecue sauce are usually high in sugar, so make sure to look at the label to see what you’re really eating and use spices and herbs to liven up your meals instead.
  • Go full fat - This may go against the health advice you’ve received your entire life, but if you have to choose between low-fat and full fat, you should choose full fat. When food producers take the fat out of items that should have it, like yogurt, they have to replace it with something to improve the taste. More often than not, that something is sugar, so you’re better off with a lower sugar version that has full fat.
  • Read all labels - At the end of the day, one way to truly control how much sugar you eat is through the reading of nutrition labels on your favorite foods. Added sugars are required to be on food labels so you can easily see how much is in something you want to eat under the total carbohydrates section of the label.

Cutting Back on Alcohol

Another way to cut out excess sugar in your diet is to control how much alcohol you drink. Many drinks have added sugars from fruit juices or have sugar that just naturally occurs in them due to what they’re made of. Drinking regularly adds a lot of added sugar to your diet so cutting back will have a positive impact on your overall health and wellness.

Whether the alcohol has sugar or not, it also adds calories. In fact, a 5-ounce glass of wine has 123 calories, and 1.5-ounce shots of 80 proof vodka, rum, or gin has 97 calories. By comparison, a 12-ounce can of Pepsi has 150 calories (about the same as 12 ounces of beer), and a 16-ounce Red Bull Energy Drink has 212. Ounce for ounce, alcohol is loaded with calories that will find their way to your waistline

To cut back on alcohol, you should try to:

  • Pace yourself - When you go out with friends, count how many drinks you are having. This way you can try to keep tabs on it and not go overboard.
  • Don’t keep alcohol at home - Make alcohol something you save for a special occasion. If you don’t have it in your house, then it won’t be as much of a temptation.
  • Slow down - When you do drink, sip slowly and have a glass of water between alcoholic drinks if you have more than one.

Getting healthy is something that doesn’t simply happen overnight. You have to be intentional and think about it, but don’t go so far that you feel overwhelmed. Start out by taking one or two things from this list to cut back on sugar and alcohol in your diet for a day, a week, two weeks, a month, two months, three months. You don’t have to go without sugar for a week, start off by cutting back for a day -- and then the next day. Take it one day at a time, one week at a time. When you have those one or two things down pat, pick a new tip to try to further reduce your sugar intake. You’ll be well on your way to a healthier you in no time!

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