Eating too much sugar is bad for your health. You've heard it before. Excessive consumption can increase your risk for obesity, heart disease and a host of other health complications.
The World Health Organization recommends the average adult consume no more than 25 grams of sugar a day, but exceeding this is all too easy. A single 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola, for instance, packs 39 grams of the stuff. And added sugar sneaks into unsuspecting edibles, like hamburgers and "healthy" Greek yogurts.
Cutting back on your sugar intake is a smart choice, but it's tough to know where to start. If you're looking to taper off, start with a few of the tweaks below. Introduce them to your everyday routine, and eventually they'll turn into a habit.
1. Make over your morning coffee.
The two sugars you routinely put into your cup of joe can add up. Try reducing the amount of sugar you use little by little, and rely on full-fat dairy to provide satisfaction. See if your taste buds respond well to cinnamon; the spice pairs perfectly with coffee's nutty hints, and is, above all, sugar free.
2. Quit your soda habit.
Diet or regular, drinking any kind of pop promotes weight gain and amplifies sugar cravings. We've mentioned that a standard can of Coke contains 39 grams of sugar, enough to fill a person's daily recommended intake and then some. And even though the diet kind has no sugar marked on its label, it won't do any good in the war against sugar. According to a study published in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, the artificial sweeteners in these drinks lead people to overeat, or overcompensate, for the lack of calories contained in the beverages. Artificial sweeteners don't offer the same hunger-dampening biological rewards that natural sweeteners do, causing the drinker to seek out something caloric. The sweetness in both diet and non-diet soda prompts side effects similar to addiction, making drinkers crave more sugar.
3. Snack on something healthy before food shopping.
Researchers from Cornell University found that snacking on something nutritious before supermarket shopping, like an apple, can actually encourage shoppers to purchase 25 percent more fruits and vegetables than they normally would. Fewer sugary items in your cart means there will be fewer sugary items at home, and fewer sugary items in your belly.
4. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store.
Now that you've had your apple, stick to the outer aisles of the supermarket, where conventional stores place the produce, meat and seafood departments -- the foods you should focus on. If you avoid the aisles that contain shelves of near-irresistible sugary sweets, you'll be less likely to buy them.
5. Find a new favorite condiment.
Ketchup is a miracle flavor, but one of the reasons we all love it so much could be because it contains a whole lot of sugar. The sad reality is that dousing your fries in the red stuff is comparable to pouring a couple sugar packets on top. If you're already eating fries, consider switching to a condiment with less sugar -- like mustard or vinegar -- instead.
6. Drink more water.
Are you sure you're hungry? Thirst and dehydration can often disguise themselves as hunger. To determine whether you're actually hungry or simply thirsty, drink a cup of water and wait a moment. If you're feeling good, your body was probably trying to tell you it was parched.
7. Eat the grape, not the raisin.
When given the choice, choose fresh over dried fruit. Dried fruit boasts many of the same benefits of its plumper counterparts, but removing a food's water content concentrates the amount of sugar and calories per serving. A cup of grapes, for instance, contains 15 grams of sugar and around 60 calories. A cup of raisins contains 98 grams of sugar and nearly 500 calories.
8. Make your own salad dressing.
Even if they taste savory, bottled salad dressings typically contain lots of sugar. Two tablespoons of Kraft's Tuscan House Italian dressing, for example, contains two grams. This seems pretty minuscule, but chances are you'll be dousing your greens in a serving way over two measly tablespoons. Making your own dressing at home is incredibly easy -- and cheap! -- and will help you control how much sugar you're ingesting when you're eating something as healthy-seeming as a salad.