Contrary to the popular saying “you are what you eat,” sugar does not make you sweeter. It actually can leave you looking withered and dry, according to dieticians Tammy Lakatos Shames and Lyssie Lakatos, otherwise known as The Nutrition Twins. “If you’re filling up on sugary foods, you’re likely crowding out nutrient- and antioxidant-rich foods that are hydrating and protect skin against damage and aging,” say the sisters. We’ll take collagen-rich skin over cupcakes any day so we asked the sisters for some easy steps to cut out the not-so-sweet substance.
Get Real, Not “Healthy”
Arguably the simplest way to cut your sugar intake is choosing “real,” whole foods (think: fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains) over processed foods. “If you focus on getting more real foods instead of processed foods, you’ll automatically get less sugar,” say the twins, adding that a “healthy” label on a packaged food is not a nutritional guarantee. Many “health foods” like granola, greek yogurt, energy bars, and low fat or low sodium soups are often high in sugar. Consider that whole foods, like fruits and vegetables, don’t come labeled with words like all natural and low fat. It’s pretty standard practice that if a food needs to tell you it’s healthy, it probably isn’t.
Read the Label
When you can’t be perfectly whole (because life happens!), an occasional processed substitute is totally fine as long as you read that nutrition label. “Women should only consume 6 teaspoons of sugar a day,” say the twins. “The average American consumes 19 teaspoons per day.” Scan the label for the sugar content, but don’t forget the ingredients list. Just because you don’t see the word “sugar” in the list doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. According to the twins, sugar has many aliases like high fructose corn syrup, maltodextrin, glucose, maltose (basically any word that ends in -ose), rice syrup, and evaporated cane juice to name a few.
Focus on Fiber and Protein
If your goal is to feel satisfied and experience less cravings, this is a winning combination. “Together, fiber and protein help to keep blood sugar on an even keel to stave off energy crashes that can lead to sugar cravings and binges,” say the twins. The dynamic duo is especially important when it comes to snacking, or the time of day when we tend to make our most mindless food choices, say the twins. If you’re craving salt, the twins suggest swapping potato chips and pretzels for fiber-rich and protein-heavy pistachios (30 nuts = 100 calories!). If you’re sweet tooth won’t quit, choose dates rolled in cocoa over a chocolate bar. “The texture is really satisfying, something you can sink your teeth into.”
Sleep On It
Ever noticed that your pizza and cake cravings are stronger than usual the day after a sleepless night? “When your brain or body craves energy like after a night out or a late night at work, it seeks the quickest pick-me-up it can find: sugar,” say the twins. If you think giving into those crazy cravings will wake you up, think again. “The sugar causes a spike in blood sugar and the body responds by kicking out insulin which leads a sugar crash,” add the twins. A dreaded crash can cause moodiness and exhaustion leading to more sugar cravings; a vicious cycle begins. Try to get adequate hours of shut eye as often as possible and, when you can’t, avoid giving into cravings and choose nutrient-dense, fiber and protein-filled meals.