A Year of Health: Battling with sugar

A Year of Health: Battling with sugar

Easter is one of my favorite times of the year.

And not just because of the amazing miracle that Jesus rose from the dead or that the holiday is one of the first signs that spring has arrived.

No, Easter brings joy to my life because I know that when I go the grocery store there will be aisles filled with my favorite sugar-laden treat: Peeps.

For me, nothing is better than marshmallow-shaped bunnies or chicks rolled in pink, blue, green or yellow sugar, neatly lined side by side in cardboard trays and wrapped with bright plastic for freshness. It’s a sugar-on-sugar feeding frenzy when these treats hit store shelves.

And to make things even better, they are cheap. A package of Peeps costs about $1.25, allowing me to get a lot of bang for my buck.

However, with my goal to lose 60 pounds this year, I’ve had to make some tough choices when it comes to my Peep-eating habits. This year when I entered a store I immediately turned in the opposite direction of where I know Peeps are housed.

I don’t even go near the aisle because it is just too easy to throw a pack or two or three, or 80, into my cart and tootle along on my merry way. This avoidance tactic has worked pretty well for me so far, and with Easter quickly approaching, the threat of Peeps jumping in my cart will soon be gone.

I’m not going to say I haven’t gone the entire Easter season without enjoying a Peep or two. This year I purchased a single package. Instead of eating all of them in one day, or one sitting, I had a couple and then wrapped up the package to enjoy the remaining treats throughout the following week.

And while Peeps will soon be cleared from grocery store shelves until next year, the fight isn’t over.

“That Sugar Film” follows one man’s journey to eat only foods with added sugar. The 2014 film provides a lot of interesting information on sugar and how it affects our body and health. (Photo courtesy “That Sugar Film”)

Sugar has always been my downfall.

In addition to Peeps, I love a good icy cold soda, specifically Coke. Before I started my health journey, I was drinking a minimum of five Cokes per day. Instead of starting my morning with coffee or tea, I downed a Coke. Then when I felt the sugar rush diminishing, I had another one. Then another, and another, and another, and — well, you get the gist. I drank A LOT of Cokes.

According to the American Heart Association, the daily-recommended intake of sugar is no more than 9 teaspoons for men and no more than 6 teaspoons for women.

With 39 grams of sugar in a 12-ounce can of Coke, I was consuming nearly 200 grams of sugar a day just in soda. Yikes.

As a matter of fact, I was over my allotted 6 teaspoons as soon as I raised that can to my lips in the morning. Double yikes.

The thing that makes sugar intake a slippery slope is that nearly 80% of the foods in grocery stores contain sugar. Things like salad dressings, spaghetti sauce, bread, whole-grain breakfast bars, low-fat yogurt and cans of soup all typically contain added sugar.

I recently watched a 2015 documentary “That Sugar Film” that follows a man’s journey to only eat sugar-laden food for an entire 60 days. What happened to his body and health was nothing short of shocking.

I’m not naïve, I absolutely know that sugar isn’t good for my body, but the information I learned from this movie made me much more aware of my food choices.

One thing the movie pointed out was that if you look at a food label, there is no amount listed under “daily value” for sugar. Whereas other nutrients including fiber, cholesterol and sodium all have percentages recorded.

So why doesn’t sugar have anything listed? With the daily recommended amount of sugar intake being 6 or 9 teaspoons, many products go well over this amount, which could cause consumers to take pause on purchasing certain products.

Surprisingly, sugar is in many foods other than treats like these cupcakes. (Greeley Tribune file photo)

Wanting to see if this was true, I started looking at food labels as I strolled the aisles of the store. The food label on the can of enchilada sauce listed the product as having 1 gram of sugar but nothing was listed in the daily value section. The same thing with a can of beans — no daily percentage amount listed on the label.

The more labels I looked at, the more added sugar I found in products with no daily values listed.

Experts also advise consumers to not be fooled by the different names companies use for sugar such as corn syrup, dextrose, coconut sugar, turbinado sugar and others. While these may all be different types of sugar, your body doesn’t discern the difference. Sugar is sugar, and the body treats all sugars the same way. Take a look at the food labels on cans and boxes you have in your cupboard and you will notice there is nothing listed for daily values when it comes to added sugars.

So how do we stay within the recommended sugar intake limits when so many foods contain added sugar?

The first step is to avoid processed and packaged foods such as sauces, pastas, canned soups and things of this nature. Limit your shopping to the perimeter of the store where fruits, vegetables and meats are featured. Basically, if it comes in a can, box or bag, avoid it.

I know, this is so much easier said than done and in reality, some packaged products are needed — such as barbecue sauce or spaghetti sauce —for preparation of meals. But things like soda and snacks with added sugar are easier to avoid, and this is where most people will have success in limiting their sugar intake.

Since beginning my weight loss journey I have been able to cut a lot of sugar out of my diet just by avoiding packaged and processed foods and sticking with meats, whole grains and vegetables.

I do use things like barbecue sauce, salad dressings and ketchup, but I have been more mindful about how much I use and cut my usage down.

While these tricks have helped, I am pretty sure I am nowhere near consuming only 6 teaspoons of sugar a day. However, I do feel better and more alert after cutting a large amount of sugar out of my diet.

Like anything, it’s a work in progress, and I am continually striving to do better.

For more information on “That Sugar Film,” go to bit.ly/GTThatSugarFilm.

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