Patients come in to see me every week who are trying to seek better paths for their nutrition and physical health, and there’s a new focus on cutting out sugar. This makes sense, especially when you consider that the suggested amount of sugar we’re supposed to eat every day is about 25 grams for women and 36 grams for men, but the average American consumes about 89 grams per day. That’s a lot, isn’t it?! In fact, most sodas contain about 39 grams of sugar. The question I hear the most regarding sugar is whether it’s better to cut sugar out completely or simply reduce the amount of it.
Is it Sustainable?
You’ve probably heard it a thousand times: “Diets” don’t work. And that sentiment is true because diets aren’t sustainable. People who adhere to a rigid eating routine tend to see good results at first, but those results eventually drop off – sometimes to the point where the person ends up gaining more weight than they lost. The same goes with cutting out sugar. Eliminating sugar completely isn’t a realistic expectation. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch your sugar intake and strive for that 25 or 36 grams per day – it just means that attempting to divorce yourself from sugar might leave you finding that you’ve set yourself up for failure.
Make Healthy Choices
Instead of drastic changes to your diet, start small. Look at the things you might be eating that are contributing the largest amount of sugar to your meals and try to swap them with healthier choices. Need a soda fix? Try switching to sparkling water. Need to replace ice cream? Try low-sugar frozen yogurt. Candy bars? Try strawberries, grapes or pineapple. Drinking lots of water can help curb cravings and adding large servings of vegetables to your diet adds vital nutrients and fiber that can help fill you up so you can avoid overindulging. At first, it might be difficult, but you’ll be surprised at how fast your taste buds adjust. Many people find that after switching unhealthy options for healthy options, not only do they find the choices satisfying, but it begins to get easier to continue making healthy choices as time progresses.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up
Slip-ups happen. Creating an unrealistic standard and then beating yourself up when you can’t maintain it isn’t going to help you accomplish your goals. Your health should be a priority, and while lowering your sugar intake is a good way to start a healthier path in your life, be easy on yourself. Don’t eat a piece of pie every day but do try to limit sodas as much as possible. If you’ve been watching your sugar intake and have a small slice of birthday cake at a party, you’ll be fine – don’t punish yourself for it. There’s a lot of truth to the old adage, “Everything in moderation.”
Remember, before you start any new eating routine, consult with your doctor. Depending on your personal health, your physician may have tips and recommendations to help determine the best course of action for you. Good luck with your new lifestyle!
Dr. Puja Sehgal is a board-certified Family Medicine physician at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic – Downtown at The Shops at 4 Houston Center. She works with patients to give them knowledge regarding prevention and management of illness. She develops relationships with her patients by customizing their treatment based on their beliefs and cultural practices.