Sweet step to a healthier new year

With all the hype about New Year resolutions, many of us are resolving to change how or what we eat. Not to be a downer here, but research shows that very few of us will be successful in keeping those resolutions beyond mid-January. Is there something — a small but meaningful change — that we might be successful in maintaining over the long run?

Dietary advice is confusing and changes by the minute, but one thing that virtually every dietician, physician, researcher, nutritionist, and public health expert agree on is that we eat too much sugar, and it’s hurting us.

Added sugars are any type of sugar that doesn’t occur naturally in the foods we eat. The highest amounts of added sugars are found in sodas and juice drinks, candy, cakes, cookies, pies, dairy desserts and milk products like ice cream, sweetened yogurt and flavored milk; and many grain products like cereals, waffles, and some breads. It’s also in frozen meals, ketchup, salad dressing, and dozens of other places you wouldn’t think to look.

Thanks to a change in food label rules, you now see “Added Sugars” listed on labels in grams and as a percent Daily Value (%DV) on the label. Added sugars should make up no more than 10% of daily calories. American Heart Association suggests no more than about 6 teaspoons of sugar for women and about 9 teaspoon’s worth for men. That’s not much.

While there is much to be said for eliminating added sugars and kicking the sugar habit completely, most of us are probably not ready to do that. Success breeds success, so could you find a way to cut just a little every day? This would be an important step toward better health, and it is doable!

Beverages are among the easiest way to cut back. Do you drink a few cups of coffee a day with flavored creamers? At about one teaspoon of sugar in each tablespoon of creamer, using half your normal amount of creamer could add up to over three five-pound sacks of sugar over a year. Think about that: 15 pounds less sugar in a year, just by cutting back on flavored creamer.

Cutting out just two sugary drinks like sodas, sweetened iced teas, juice drinks, sport drinks, or energy drinks per week could mean about four fewer five-pound sacks of sugar per year. Flavored milk has an intense amount of added sugar, as do specialty coffee drinks, frozen drinks, and many alcoholic drinks that use mixes.

Get in the habit of reading those food labels to find the sources of added sugars in your own diet, then think about what might work for you. You could swap for something with less sugar, go for smaller serving sizes, or eliminate that food from your diet all together. The point is to find just one or two small, simple changes you will be able to stick with, and watch the sugar savings add up.

CHQ250 is an initiative of the Chautauqua Health Action Team (CHAT), encouraging you to take action to be one of at least 250 strokes, heart attacks, or related deaths prevented in Chautauqua County in the coming year. This column is written by CHAT members to share information to help you to do your part to live a life free of stroke or heart disease; it is not intended to replace advice provided by your healthcare team. Please direct questions or comments to: activecounty@co.chautauqua.ny.us.


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