According to the American Heart Association, the maximum amount of added sugar you are recommended to eat in a day is:
- 150 calories (37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons) for men.
- 100 calories (25 grams or 6 teaspoons) for women.
Keep in mind this is the maximum amount, not the ideal amount. In general, the less added sugar you eat the better off you will be.
If you are lean, healthy, have a good metabolism, tolerate carbohydrates well and have a good level of insulin sensitivity then you can easily get away with a bit of sugar in your diet, even if it’s not ideal. Our advice is if you are going to consume something sugary and carbohydrate-dense, the best time to do so is after a workout (earn your carbs!).
On the other hand, if you are overweight or obese and find yourself wanting to or struggling to lose weight, addicted to carbohydrate-dense and sugary foods, and are insulin resistant (heading for Diabetes) then it would probably be in your best interest to avoid added sugar as much as possible.
This is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment – but it is a push in the right direction and something that you should discuss with your medical or healthcare professional should you be concerned by your sugar-consumption or if you are considering making any dramatic changes to your diet while dealing with an existing medical condition.
Just like how sugar addiction is a real thing, so is sugar withdrawal.
You might find that removing added sugar from your diet to be an incredibly difficult thing to do, and it’s easier to work on slowly reducing your intake and replacing it with healthier alternatives (like fruit).
Whereas others find that they absolutely have to quit cold turkey and weather the storm of a few really bad days until you get over the withdrawal process (check out our Sleekgeek 30-Day Sugar-Free Challenge).
A few tips to make this process easier include:
1. Skip “diet” and “low-fat” foods.
It’s important to understand that most “diet” or “low-fat” foods are almost always very high in sugar. This includes things like those healthy cereals, whole-grain breads, granola and trail mixes, low-fat yogurts, salad dressings, fruit juice, and other buzz-word foods such as “gluten-free”.
2. Eat nutrient-dense foods.
These are things that are not processed into “food-products” and typically do not even have a food label or more than 1 ingredient. They are rich in beneficial micronutrients and will reduce your sugar consumption naturally by method of substitution. The more of them you eat, the less of something else you are likely to eat.
3. Read food labels.
Knowledge is power – learn to read food labels and identify the many different types of sugar so that you can make an informed decision about what you are putting into your body. Not knowing that something contains an enormous amount of sugar is not an excuse.
4. Eat protein and veggies with each meal.
This is a very effective strategy to keep you full, satiated, and help minimize micronutrient deficiencies which can contribute to sugar cravings.
5. Swap out the sauces.
Cut down on all the “extras” and “nice-to-haves” such as sauces, salad dressings, sodas, and alcohols – or find healthier alternatives. Take a look at just how much sugar is in some of our most popular drinks (yes, that’s 44 grams of sugar in just 1 can) and likewise how much sugar is in our favourite sauces (that chutney is dangerous stuff!). Some sparkling water with lemon juice is great for when you want something fizzy and try some olive oil and balsamic vinegar with your next salad instead of ranch dressing or mayonnaise.
6. Eat some fruit.
While fruit contains sugar in the form of fructose, it also contains fiber and beneficial vitamins and minerals. Eating some fruit can help keep your cravings at bay and is always a healthier alternative to foods with added sugars. However, keep in mind that the more sweet stuff you eat, the more you will typically want to eat. Likewise, the less sweet stuff you eat, the less you will crave it. Fruit is a great alternative and very health, but it can also be over consumed so be mindful of how much you eat.
7. Get enough sleep.
Research shows sleep deprivation is linked to junk food cravings, especially ones that are sugary and high in calories.
8. Manage your stress levels.
Stress is a huge contributing factor to causing people to overeat and crave junk food, especially when it comes to sugar and high calorie foods. James Clear has some excellent and innovative ways to help you reduce and manage stress.
9. Exercise regularly.
This (among many other benefits) releases endorphins which contribute towards feeling good and euphoric, providing a replacement for craved sugary highs. If all else, just go for a walk when a craving hits to change your environment, provide stimulation, distance yourself from unhealthy food, and reap the many benefits of walking.
10. Play a very visual computer or mobile game.
I bet you weren’t expecting this were you? Something called the Elaborated Intrusion Theory (EI) suggests that cravings are very visual and imagery-based. Think about a time when you sat the whole day craving something sweet. You most likely had a specific food or sweet in mind. The more you pictured and thought about it, the stronger your craving got to the point of driving you to distraction. Certain games like Tetris that are very vivid and visual increase visuospatial working memory load and lead to a decrease in strength, vividness, and intrusiveness of cravings. Playing games can have many other benefits too, provided it is done in the correct manner.
11. Avoid your triggers.
For many people, cravings or unhealthy habits are very much linked to specific triggers. This could be certain actions, certain people, certain places, or a variety of other things. Be mindful of your cravings and identify what your triggers are.
12. Make a commitment.
Whether you plan to slowly reduce sugar such as only drinking 1 soda a day or to cut it out completely by not eating anything that has added sugar, you need to make the commitment to yourself. We suggest checking out our 30-Day Sugar-Free Challenge where you make a commitment not to consume any sugar for the next 30 days. To help you along the way, when you sign up you will also receive an email from Sleekgeek every single day for 30 days.