We know from weight loss trials that just the simple act of tracking what we eat encourages healthy dietary changes. I often ask my patients to keep track of what they eat. Even for those patients who tell me that they eat the same thing every day, or they already know exactly what they eat, when they do keep a food diary, we are able to learn a lot. The same was certainly true for me. As I mentioned last week, I discovered that I eat a lot more added sugar than I thought. In all honesty, I probably was eating even more added sugar prior to keeping track of my diet because although I tried to keep my diet stable, I know that when I write down what I eat, I tend to reach for more fresh fruit and fewer cookies!
This week, I took my added sugar down from about 16 teaspoons per day to 11. I cut my overall chocolate habit down and switched to dark chocolate, which typically has less sugar. I had gotten in a habit of having hard candies after lunch, which I stopped. I also had gotten in the habit of having something sweet after almost every meal – even breakfast! This is something that I’ve noticed for awhile, but did not realize how much sugar I was really eating until I started writing it down. Again, I tried to eat more fruit and fewer cookies. This increased my vitamin, mineral, fiber intake and decreased my overall calorie, fat and added sugar intake. Some people worry about eating too much fruit, but from my professional and personal experience, I have not observed that whole fruit is a problem, unless of course someone has an allergy to the fruit! Fruit juice and fruit smoothies, on the other hand, can be a problem. It is quite easy to consume a couple hundred calories from juice or smoothies, while it is much harder to eat the same amount of calories from whole fruit.
I did not use sugar substitutes to cut down my added sugar intake. For myself, I wanted to make my diet healthier overall. While I have been focusing primarily on added sugars in light of the new proposed guidelines from the World Health Organization, I should mention that limiting added sugars is only one part of a healthy diet. A healthy diet consists of lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and plant proteins such as beans and nuts. Small to medium quantities of healthy, non processed oils and low fat dairy and lean meats can be incorporated as well. For the most part, added sugars, refined carbohydrates, full fat dairy products and processed meats should be limited. In no way are sugar substitutes needed for a healthy diet, and so with this in mind, I wanted to cut down on my added sugars while adding in foods that are known to be healthy.
Next week I will be adding some final thoughts about sugar. Please feel free to comment about your own experience with tracking what you eat, or any steps you may take to cut down on your added sugar intake!