St. Joseph’s/Candler dietitian offers tips to reduce sugar in your diet
Trying to eliminate sugar from your diet? Here’s a tip: Don’t do it cold turkey.
“When you cold turkey cut something out, there is no behavior change. You’ve only relied on willpower and that’s not sustainable,” says Chloe Paddison, RDN, LD, registered dietitian and education specialist at St. Joseph’s/Candler. “When you start to phase things out or work on that behavior change, then you start to lose the temptations you had with that food.”
Paddison believes it is about gaining control and awareness over our food behaviors, not simply labeling foods as bad vs. good. That’s why she tells patients there’s no such thing as good sugar vs. bad sugar.
Sugar comes in many forms and is found in many foods – from that candy you are snacking on to a piece of fruit to many of the beverages you drink.
Sugar does have some benefits including:
- Provides texture to baked goods
- Helps prevent spoilage
- Provides nourishment for yeast to help bread rise
- Balances sweet, sour and spicy flavors
- Creates the Maillard reaction – browning on the surface of baked goods
- Provides whipping aid to stabilize egg foam
What’s important, says Paddison, is what the sugar is riding with into your body.
“Sugar is sugar. Sugar responds the same way no matter if it’s a natural source of an added source,” Paddison says. “The difference is what else is coming with it and what portion.”
Take for example fruit. Fruit has natural sugar and it does affect blood sugar, but it also has fiber, vitamins and minerals. It’s more satisfying to chew and it’s filling. There are a lot of benefits that come with sugar from fruit, Paddison says.
But take soda, for the opposite example. There is no nutritional benefit and many have an additional higher concentration of sugar. Plus, the body doesn’t need to spend time digesting liquids, so drinking a soda is like drinking liquid sugar that is immediately absorbed by the body.
Start with cutting back on sugary beverages
Beverages are one of the first areas Paddison likes to focus on with patients trying to manage their sugar, whether it’s someone who has diabetes or someone working on weight management. She doesn’t tell patients to cold turkey cut out soda, teas and lemonades. It starts with baby steps.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Drink half and half unsweet and sweet tea
- Drink half and half regular soda and diet
- Choose a diet or zero-calorie soda over a regular one
- Drink sparkling waters or add fruit or sugar-free flavorings to water
- Don’t order whipped cream on your coffee drink
- Order a small instead of a large
“People are really hesitant towards the diet stuff or infusing water, but you can work towards that. It’s taking steps,” Paddison says.
Paddison does acknowledge that diet sodas aren’t healthy, but if someone feels they need a soda, diet is a better option than the concentrated added sugar found in regular soda that causes blood sugar spikes.
“I simply say diet sodas are not healthy for you because what benefit do they bring? Nothing. But, on the occasion you need something, it’s better than a blood sugar spike.
“There are people drinking three glasses of soda or tea a day and having extreme blood sugar fluctuations. In these cases, maybe we use diet soda to wean them off regular soda or from time to time when they need something different than water – because we are all human.”
Interested in nutritional counseling? For more information or to schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian, call 912-819-6146.
Attention City of Savannah Employees: Your insurance allows for up to four hours of FREE dietary counseling sessions per year. Call 912-819-6146 for more details.