Apple or cupcake

Take control of your sugar cravings and learn where hidden sugars may hide for optimal health.

Most Americans eat much more sugar than they should. The American Heart Association recommends a maximum of six teaspoons of added sugar per day for women and nine teaspoons for men. Despite these recommendations, the average American consumes 17 teaspoons of sugar added to foods or drinks daily, according to statistics from Health.gov.

Edward Bitok, DrPH, MS, RDN, assistant professor at Loma Linda University School of Allied Health Professions, talks about how to deal with sugar cravings and where hidden sugars may hide.

There are certain strategies people can use to curb cravings, Bitok says. “Avoid shopping while hungry,” he says. The sight and smell of food when hungry can make high-calorie foods more tempting than usual, according to research.

Exercise has also been shown to be beneficial in dealing with cravings, Bitok says. “Exercise is associated with a release of endorphins or ‘feel good’ chemicals in our brains, which cause us to experience almost the same effect as when we consume sugar or sugar-laden desserts,” he says.

Bitok also says it's crucial to practice mindful eating. Mindful eating encompasses things such as eating slowly, listening to your body when it’s full, eating meals with others, and eating foods that are healthful, Bitok says.

In addition to these craving-curbing approaches, Bitok also shares where added sugars may hide. "Hidden sugars are usually found in plain sight on the ingredient list — if you know what you’re trying to find," he says.

Traditionally, many people believe sugar-rich foods are primarily desserts and sugar-sweetened beverages. “Surprisingly, sugar can be disguised in many processed foods, and can appear in the form of one or more of the nearly 60 names for added sugar,” Bitok says. Added sugars can take names like sucrose, dextrose or fructose. Other sweeteners added to food include molasses, honey, agave, and nectar. Common foods with hidden sugars include breakfast cereals, condiments such as ketchup and BBQ sauce, teriyaki sauce, and granola bars — even the ones we think are healthy.

A person who is prone to eating more than the recommended amount of sugar may not even be aware of their habit. Don’t let excess sugar consumption go unnoticed. Bitok recommends documenting your food intake. “Record all the foods consumed for a few days,” he says. “This is a good way of getting to know what we are truly consuming, and helps form the basis for making dietary and behavior change.”

To learn more about the diet that may be best for you, consider a lifestyle visit consultation with one of our Lifestyle Medicine physicians at the Center for Health Promotion. They will work closely with your primary care physician to improve your overall health and wellbeing. Please call the Center for Health Promotion at 909-558-4594 to make your Lifestyle Consultation visit today. 

If you are interested in learning how to become a Registered Dietitian through Loma Linda University School of Allied Health Professions, you may contact  sahpadmissions@llu.edu or by calling  909-558-4599.