Did you know sugary, high-carb foods and drinks break down the protective enamel on your teeth? This can cause tooth decay over time. As a simple carb, sugar lacks nutrients and is often high in calories, which can cause weight gain.
UPMC states the average American consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugar each day — that’s 130 pounds a year and 3,550 pounds over the course of a lifetime.
Why do we eat and drink so much sugar? Studies have found that sugar is as addictive as cocaine because it releases opioids and dopamine in our bodies. For all of these reasons (and more not listed here), cutting back on sugar and fighting sugar cravings is something we all should strive for. Here’s how.
Choose Sparkling Water or Fruit-Infused Water Over Sodas
Can’t give up that carbonated beverage? You’re not alone. Soda and other high-sugar foods provide a greater dopamine release than whole foods. It can be hard to kick soda cravings, but one way to start is to opt for sparkling water — you still get the carbonation without the added sugars. Another option for a sweet drink is to add fruits like lemon, oranges or berries to water.
Choose Foods with Natural Sugars
Sugar isn’t all bad — natural sugar is always the healthier option compared to added sugars. Check the nutrition labels on your foods and stay away from items that have too much added sugars (usually listed under carbohydrates), such as:
- Fruit Drinks (fruitades and fruit punch)
- Dairy desserts and milk products (ice cream, sweetened yogurt, and sweetened milk)
- Grains (cinnamon toast and honey-nut waffles)
Eat Fruit for Dessert
It’s OK to have a sweet tooth and want to enjoy dessert at the end of a meal, but make smart choices. Instead of reaching for a piece of pie or a bowl of ice cream, have a bowl of watermelon or strawberries. Choosing fruit still satisfies your craving for something sweet without a bunch of high calorie, added sugars.
Pack Your Lunch
When you eat at a restaurant or grab fast food for lunch, you don’t always know how much sugar is in your meal. But when you make your own food at home and pack your lunch, you know what’s in it. That’s a surefire way to cut back on added sugars on a daily basis. Another bonus: It saves you money!
Choose Sugar-Free Gum
Love chewing gum? Do you use it to avoid munching on junk food or indulging in unnecessary calories? No problem — just opt for sugar-free gum. You can still enjoy the minty freshness of a pack of gum without the sugars that come in candy and other types of gum.
Drink Tap Water
Water is the perfect, healthy drink. Not only can it help with weight loss, skin hydration, digestive health and much more — it’s also good for your teeth! Tap water contains higher amounts of fluoride than bottled water, and fluoride helps strengthen tooth enamel. When you get a craving for something sugary, wait. Drink a glass of water first and see how you feel.
Eat More Protein
Fill up on foods that take longer to digest and make you feel fuller longer. That’ll help you fight the cravings that make you want to eat sugar-loaded foods. It’s always better to get your daily calories from foods that contain nutrients and minerals (like high-protein foods) compared to empty calories (like high-sugar foods).
It’s tricky kicking sugar to the curb, but it’s possible. Use the above daily tips to do your body (and teeth) a favor by cutting back on high-sugar foods and drinks. It’ll benefit your whole self in the long run.