Weight loss is difficult for many people. One culprit that often sabotages diet plans is sugar intake. This sweet substance is high in empty calories and low in nutrition. Sugar is also craved by many, making it difficult to enjoy eating without it. It’s not just the empty calories that are problematic. Sugar actually sets off several reactions in your body that can lead to weight gain. Sugar triggers insulin release, a hormone that signals your body to store energy from food, and in general terms, this energy is stored as fat. However, while many fruits and vegetables naturally contain sugar, they also have the necessary fiber to counteract the insulin response. Although you do not need to eliminate sugar completely, it is necessary to cut down on its consumption to help balance your insulin levels. The American Heart Association reports that men should have no more than 150 calories, or 9 teaspoons, of added sugar per day, and women should have no more than 100 calories or 6 teaspoons per day. 

Cut down on any added sugar gradually. For example, if you are used to putting a lot of sugar in your coffee, try to eliminate one teaspoon at a time. Swap cookies for fruits, vegetables, or low-fat string cheese. Reduce or eliminate intake of sweetened beverages such as soda, sweet teas, energy drinks, or fruit juice. The primary beverage you should be consuming is water.

Many processed and packaged foods contain a significant amount of sugar, so an effective way to cut your intake is to read nutrition labels, and avoid processed foods as much as possible. Buy the majority of your food from the perimeter of the grocery store where they usually have fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products. These foods should make up most of your diet if you are trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  It’s OK to save a little room for a small sugary treat, but limit yourself to no more than one per day! 

Remember to read nutrition labels, shop the perimeter of the store (all processed foods are in the aisles!), and eat fresh as often as possible!